How to Please Patrons on Their Lunch Hour

Note to Restaurants: This post is for you. And your waitstaff.

Susan says:

We eat out for lunch nearly every day. We used to try to organize certain days that we would stay in and bring a packed lunch from home. We could never pack on Mondays beause Phil doesn’t go Krogering on the weekend and he would have nothing to bring. We wanted to celebrate T.G.I.F. so we wouldn’t pack on Fridays. Being hump day and all, Wednesday seemed like a good day to go out. Invariably on a Tuesday or Thursday someone woud forget their packed lunch and the rest of us, solely in an effort to make sure this individual did not starve to death, would volunteer to go out somewhere. So the packed lunch days faded into history. We all needed a break from being in the building anyway, right? Going out for lunch was a needed form of stress management. Colleagues would always bust in and ask Phil questions while he was taking a bite of his sandwich. And then we started this blog – and a renewed sense of purpose came into play with our midday outings.

We not only want to provide informative and entertaining posts about the menus, food quality, service, value and atmosphere of local eateries in order to help the local diner make an educated decision concerning where they spend their hard-earned dining dollars. We also can provide helpful tips to restaurant owners and staffs on how to “Strive for Five”.

Lunch Hour. There is an important hint right in the name of this routinely practiced ritual among the working class. That would be the word “hour”. Webster’s dictionary defines “hour” as “the 24th part of a day; 60 minutes”. Customarily, the hour begins when you leave your workplace. Not everyone has a parking spot right beside the door of the building, either. There’s travel time involved in the lunch hour process and I don’t just mean the travel on 4 wheels….there is also the part on two feet. Generally, it takes us 15 – 20 minutes just in travel time to arrive at a lunch destination and back to our offices. That cuts actual time spent in the restaurant to 40-45 minutes. The math might be getting a little complicated, so let’s review: 1) Hour = 60 minutes; 2) travel time = 20 minutes; 3) therefore, 60 (hour) – 20 (travel time) = 40 minutes to spend in your restaurant.

Identifying People on Lunch Hour. If you see a table of people consisting of boys and girls, dressed in suits, ties, and skirts with heels, you can bet they are on their lunch hour. (The people wearing the ties should not also be wearing the skirts and heels, or we have a whole other situation.) Especially if these people are in your restaurant on a weekday between the hours of 11:30 and 1:30. Double-especially if they look just like the avatars on this site. Duh.

Here’s a dead giveaway: someone wearing an ID card, with a photo of themselves, hanging from a lanyard around their neck or clipped to their belt. People don’t wear those things on their days off. You could also look for people carrying briefcases, wearing conference nametags, or people with a writing implement tucked behind their ear.

How do You Know Someone is NOT on Lunch Hour? Well, there are some telltale signs of non-lunch hour people also. For example:

  • People whose hair is so gray it has turned blue are probably not on lunch hour.
  • People with children in tow probably aren’t on lunch hour.
  • People dressed in business attire but drinking an alcoholic beverage are likely on a Business Lunch, which is completely different from Lunch Hour. The Business Lunch is long and drawn out on purpose to provide more time to shmooze the person being treated to a meal. It often involves adult beverages and these guests are likely to order dessert. If “The Boss” is at the table, who knows how long it could last. Days, perhaps.

Lunch Hour Procedures. Now that you have identified the Lunch Hour patrons in your establishment, Lunch Hour Procedures should go into effect. This is much like the department stores announcing “Code Adam” over the loudspeaker. Well, it might be like that. I don’t really know what “Code Adam” means, but I like to imagine it is something very exciting. When enacting Lunch Hour Procedures, you could holler out (that’s Appalachian for announce) “Code Pinstripe, table 11”.

Code Pinstripe. One important aspect of Code Pinstripe is to be attentive to your patrons. It’s not a game of hide-and-go-seek. You know, when the server runs and hides after taking the drink orders? Remember there are only 40 minutes left to spend inside the restaurant. If you waste time playing childhood games, the patrons may have to wrap their soup in a napkin and eat it on the way back to work.

The Check(s). it would really help move things along if you could bring the checks, already separated when you bring the entrees. I know what you are going to say, you overly optomistic restaurateurs: “But what about dessert?” I hate to break it to ya, but Code Pinstripe rarely involves dessert. Unless the pinstripes were $2000 and handmade in Italy. If, by chance, someone desires a sweet ending, you can always revise that one check. But 99% of the time, they won’t.

The checks should be separate in a Code Pinstripe situation. If Robert is going to buy Peter’s lunch, let’s say, he can take care of that in the payment process very easily. The flip side of that situation, though…not so easy. If the server brings the check and it has everyone’s lunches grouped together, even a table of accountants won’t be able to figure out who owes what. I know this from experience – I am an accountant. The reasons we can’t figure it out do not include that we are “below grade level” on our mathematics skills. But rather, 1) we are on our lunch hour so we are trying to relax, not wow the crowd with the complex equations we can solve in our heads; and 2) we do not have our 10-key with us. So, help us out and bring separate checks when you bring the food, please.

Extras. It would be really nice to implement some new ideas into your restaurant with the Pinstripers in mind. Some suggestions are:

  • A jar where you put your business card and you are entered into a weekly drawing to win a free lunch. If you are already doing this, thank you and please draw my name. The rising gas prices are putting a squeeze on my eating-out budget.
  • An alarm that would sound if your boss walks in so you will know to quit talking about him/her immediately lest he/she find out how you really feel about him/her. I saw this on a commercial. I could have used it the other day at a local sandwich shop, which Dan chose, btw. Thanks, Dan. I wanted to go to Chin’s.
  • Give the working people a discount. Recently during lunch at Murad’s, I noticed the ticker sign affixed to the ceiling in the middle of the dining room. This was a new addition to the decor since my previous hamburger there. I was mesmerized, watching the neon red letters scroll by while Dan droned on about how much he loves ice cream, when my brain registered a red neon sentence that was an outrage to me: they give hospital employees a 10% discount. The reason I was outraged, obviously, is that I am not a hospital employee. That is outright discrimination if I ever witnessed it. It is also completely unfair. Think about it. Doctors are hospital employees. I think most people would agree that doctors tend to make pretty good money. Why, then, should doctors be given a 10% discount at Murad’s and other people, like…say…truck drivers and retail clerks have to pay full price for their fried corn fritters? Discounts for working people are a great idea but let’s be fair about it and give it to everyone.
  • Validate the City of Charleston User Fee. Let me explain: You know how you might want to eat at a place but you have to pay for parking to go there and so there will be a sign that says they will “validate” your parking inside the restaurant? That means they give you a coupon or stamp something so the parking attendent will know when you leave that you don’t owe any money for parking that day. Well, along those same lines, how about if Charleston restaurants validate the $2/week user fee with a paid meal? I bring my pay stub in and you take $2 off my bill, subject to a limit of one validation per week. Isn’t the idea behind the user fee that we workers use city services yet we don’t pay for them? I would like to admit into evidence my credit card receipts for the countless lunches and dinners within the city limits whereby I have pumped also countless (well not countless, I could count them up, if I had my 10-key, of course) dollars into the local economy.

How to Identify People With a Half-Hour Lunch. This one’s even easier. They are at their desks with a brown bag.

3 responses to “How to Please Patrons on Their Lunch Hour

  1. The Vegetarian Wife

    Susan- I love this. It is a fabulous instruction manual. I hope they read it! I am anxious to see you publish “How to Please Patrons — in a General Sense” as well.

    As a hospital employee, I wanted to help rationalize why there’s a 10% discount at the place you mentioned above and make you feel better about it… Unlike the Five, I RARELY leave the workplace for lunch unless one of the Five swings by and picks me up at the door (HINT). In hospital employee world, the commute/eating formula is reversed. We spend 40 minutes on travel time, which means only 20 left to eat. And, since most hospital employees only get the 30 minute half-hour-lunch hour to start with, that means a negative 10 minutes in which to eat, which translates into getting in trouble for failing to return to the worksite on time after the designated meal period.

    So, the 10% off discount, though it sounds impressive, probably only coaxes a couple of people a week to head that way (on foot of course) and accomplishes the goal of making the business look sympathetic to the local workers.

    BTW, does it say that 10% off is only on lunches? They might be getting off easy with that offer! But then, if dinner is up for grabs….

  2. $2,000.00 pinstripes are also made in Charleston!

    I love this site!


  3. I’m the gal in my short shorts with my two kids in tow… I get rushed out! These people need to learn who is in a hurry and who could stay for an eternity. Plus, you forgot to figure in your return time, so that makes the lunch “hour” (haha – my husband gets 1/2 hour) even shorter.

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