Open for Business? What’s Going On With Restaurant Operating Hours?

You may have noticed your local bagel shop doesn’t open as early or stay open as late as it used to. No longer can you pop into the corner store and treat yourself to a late-night snack. But you aren’t alone in your observation. Hundreds of thousands of restaurants across the U.S. are shifting or have already shifted their operating hours.

This change in hours can be largely found as a result of the global pandemic, whose long-term effects include staffing and resource shortages. Barbara Castiglia of Modern Restaurant Management stated, “You know, everything that’s been affecting us, it will still be affecting us.”

A recent study conducted by Datassential investigated whether the operating hours of hundreds of thousands of restaurants across the U.S. were actually changing. The study examined two time periods across the same month, one in October 2019 and one in October 2022.

“What they found was that something you may have noticed just from being out there, that restaurants aren’t open as long as they used to be,” explained Castiglia, “They also found that 58.6% of restaurants have reduced their operating hours since 2019 while just 19.8% have increased them.”

While this study was more confirmational than it is shocking, the decline of operation hours by 7.5% in 2022 as compared to 2019 means that there are fewer options for consumers at irregular hours. It also means that restaurants are having to make more sales throughout a shorter timeframe. This change in operation isn’t just affecting independent restaurants, but chains across the country, including Denny’s, Texas Roadhouse, and Einstein Bros.

Why is this happening? Castiglia explained, “So, some of the same economic factors that were present during the pandemic are still at work here. Staffing for this is, you know, obviously the main thing: you have the cost of staffing, the cost of keeping things open for much longer periods of time when maybe people aren’t going to be there.” And while the holiday season might elongate these hours for a brief time, Castiglia believes shortened hours for the whole of the industry are here to stay.


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