For many people, the weekend signals a time to take a break from cooking and get something to eat at a nice restaurant. You get free refills, you don’t have to get up, and you don’t need to do any dishes.
But if you’re one of those people who want to start your week off with a visit to the service industry, you’re often out of luck. A lot of independently owned restaurants greet potential customers with a “Closed” sign on Mondays. This was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic rearranged business practices. Why would a restaurant shutter their doors?
Simply put, opening on Monday doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.
In the restaurant business, Monday has traditionally been the slowest day of the week. While no one’s done an extensive survey, the reason is likely attributable to people indulging themselves from Thursday through Sunday and using the weekend as a cut-off point for the kind of rich foods and expensive wine that a trip to a nice restaurant (or delivery) brings.
It wasn’t always this way. Depending on the era or region, a restaurant would—and still might—stay open on Mondays to make a small profit margin as well as avoid any talk of doing poorly. Other restaurants might try to strategize and run events like art exhibitions or bring-your-own-wine specials to boost business.
While there are ways to nudge toward profitability on Mondays, it’s not the only reason restaurateurs close up shop. Most locally-owned establishments have a small staff, so remaining closed on a slow day allows everyone a chance to decompress. It also saves costs in owners hiring more part-time staff to cover more time spent open.
Chain restaurants, which have a larger staff, don’t need to worry about that kind of thing and are usually open seven days a week. These businesses are also often dependent on shareholders that demand maximized profitability. Small business owners don't typically have that worry.
There may be some inadvertent benefit for the customer for eateries to close at the beginning of the week. Many restaurants may not get fresh food deliveries on weekends, meaning items served on a Monday could have been made from ingredients carried over from the previous Friday. The late chef Anthony Bourdain famously implored people not to order fish on Mondays, as it stood a greater chance of being leftover from the previous week, though he later walked it back, saying the restaurant business had evolved since he first delivered the advice in 1999.
But there’s additional cause to skip Mondays even if your favorite place is open. Some restaurants may use the slowest day of the week to break in new managers, waitstaff, or chefs. Customers may not necessarily be getting a restaurant’s best service when occupied tables are few and far between.
In the end, having a well-respected and admired restaurant gives owners some leeway. Granted, a customer might be annoyed to find a locked door on Monday. But if the food is good, they’ll probably be back on Tuesday.