Early-bird dining gains appeal in New York City restaurant scene

Dinner at 8 p.m. is a popular time at Harvest Kitchen on the Upper West Side. But dinner at 6 p.m. or even earlier is becoming even more popular. Restaurateur Jeremy Wladis describes the growing phenomenon as early-bird dining.  

"Believe it or not, it is a thing," he said. "This particular restaurant, Harvest Kitchen, we have people come consistently throughout the day."

Robert Guarino, co-owner of Marseille in Hell's Kitchen, believes early-bird dining is the product of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety restrictions that were put in place on restaurant hours and capacities.

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"The pandemic has changed so much of people's behavior," he said, "and one of the trends we've seen throughout this crazy year is definitely people getting out and getting into the restaurants earlier."

Though with early-bird dining comes the possibility that some diners may want to get in early and then not leave, which can prevent a table from being ready for the later diners. Wladis told FOX 5 NY that most diners take it in stride. 

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"You can say nicely to the people, 'Hey I got a table that's got a reservation — they've been waiting if you don't mind,'" Wladis said. "Most people are understanding particularly after covid we're all in this together."

"I think we all still have a long way to go especially in areas that rely on theater and tourism have been hit the hardest," Guarino added. "But we're on the way back and the city's on the way back."

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New Yorker Sarah Chavez, who normally eats later, said early-bird dining does have its appeal. 

"I think a lot of people are changing their routines and the times of day that they enjoy their meals," she said. "So it doesn't surprise me too much."