Last Friday, Doug and I decided to have a date-night. We went back and forth on the location -- do we eat closer to his office or closer to home? I headed out for a run that took me past a restaurant in our neighborhood that we had been talking about for months. That made our decision easy and I hoped online to make the reservation.
We live in an area that is full of young professionals and young families so it's often lively at all times of the day. The earlier times are filled with families and times later in the evening reserved for the young professionals, who have the next two days off and are ready to hit the town. We don't fall into either of those -- we don't have children and we're certainly not in our 20's. But we did both agree to the 5:30pm dinner time. It wasn't because it was the only one available -- there were later reservations -- but, it was when we wanted to go.
Most often, I feel like an old soul. I enjoy eating dinner around 6-6:30pm, maybe 7pm on weekends, and I like getting into bed around 10 (sometimes earlier) so I think nothing of the 5:30 dinner time. But when I shared this with friends, they laughed and found it quite funny that we were home from our date night at 7:30pm, instead of just sitting down for it.
Other than the fact that we simply enjoy being at home watching a movie, there are other benefits to eating an early dinner.
- If you enjoy food and interested in trying a hot, new restaurant, the earlier reservation could get you into dinner that week, rather than waiting for a the popular later-in-the-evening reservation which could have you waiting a week or more.
- Restaurants are adding specialty items to their menu during the earlier time slots to entice diners and to prevent them from feeling like they are there for the "early bird special."
- Prix Fixe: Some restaurants offer a "tasting menu" to guests who dine between 5:30-7pm, with items from their standard menu, but available in a supper sized portion and at a fraction of the cost.
- Online reservation services, such as Open Table, offer 1,000 points to diners who select the earlier reservations (compared to their normal 100 points offered during the more popular time frames).
- Restaurants who normally won't take reservations will make bookings available to the 5:30-7pm time frame only, making it easier for the consumer and cuts wait time completely.
- You might not be as rushed to finish your meal and leave, as would you are during the later times when there are often a stream of other diners wanting your table.
I like eating early, because, well, frankly I just prefer eating earlier in the evening. But for restaurant owners, they are happy to offer incentives and fill their dining area during times previously unoccupied. On the flip side, when eating establishments offer discounts, their regular customers don't like hearing that someone ate the same meal, a few hours before them, at a discounted rate. And in the long run, continuous discounts can weaken the brand. Either way, for me and others who like to eat early it's truly a win-win. And there is NO SHAME in eating at 5:30!
Do you like the earlier time slots or would you consider going earlier in the evening?