To be Open or Not Open on Christmas?

Posted on December 26, 2011


Almost every business closes its doors on Christmas Day.  Beyond businesses that normally close for the holidays, many restaurants and retail stores close as well, except for a few.  For those that decide to stay open, it is a judgment call.  There is business out there, and there is more than one reason people will eat out on Christmas Day.

I decided to write a little bit about my day on this Christmas, because the decision to eat out or go out came up at three turns.  Part of that was because we visited family twice on Christmas Eve.

We considered eating out twice.  Once regarding lunch and the other about dinner.  Lunch was iffy, we needed to travel a little bit and were unsure of whether we should eat or wait until later.

So we cruised around knowing that something would be open, but we did not know what.  It’s easy to spot the places that are open.  We knew the China Buffet was open as soon as we drove by.  There it was, a full parking lot that jumped out and punched us in the eye.  The cars stand out because of all the adjacent empty lots.   IHOP was also open.  And between China Buffet and IHOP was a Walgreens, also open.  We stopped into the Walgreens, opting for a holdover snack in lieu of a full meal.

When we returned home, we were deciding on dinner.  There was nothing in the house.   We had already had our big meals the day before.  We were in the market for something open at the very least, but some place nice would be even better.

We called Bombay Palace.  Aside for being our favorite Indian restaurant in Nashville, we had Indian one year on Thanksgiving.  Upon calling, they picked up and gave us the hours for dinner.  It was going to work out.   We were prime for a nice evening out on Christmas.

When we arrived, the place was packed.  There were a empty few tables reserved, marked by black plastic plaques.  All of the booths were full, except for two small ones near the door.  They sat us at a table in the middle of the restaurant.  We would have preferred a booth, but beggars cannot be choosers.

The meal was great as usual.  The food took a little bit longer, but they were unusually busy.  I noticed the usually cool dining room manager moving around very quickly, under a bit of duress.  My wife noticed a number of people picking up to-go orders.  I mentioned that they couldn’t be sure what to expect.  There’s a market for people eating out on Christmas Day, but it is extremely small next to a normal calendar day.

Nobody managing a restaurant can ever be certain what to expect.  However, some days are easier to predict than others.  Mondays are slow.  Friday lunches and Friday nights are busy.  Those are some predictable days for most places.

Other days are less predictable.  Even with an established business, where the flow of customers is well understood, you can be surprised.  Having a look at last year’s numbers may not tell you what to expect either.   As for a holiday, who knows.

I won’t say the people here were caught off guard, but pleasantly surprised.   The restaurant was full to capacity when we left, with people waiting at the door and waiting on to-go orders.   It would be worse to open on Christmas and be empty and keep your staff their for nothing.  For this restaurant, being open was likely to pay off.

Aside from this, Christmas fell on an NFL Sunday and the first day of the NBA season.  As such, I was scouting around for a place to watch the NBA games.  With the lockout this year, the season was starting today.  Since they almost didn’t have a season, and because last year was especially exciting, I was very excited about the NBA season starting this year.   And this was the day.

With no cable or league pass at the house — a topic for another blog — and without hitting up a friend, I was combing through the possible places open for the game.  I didn’t strike out completely.  Two places were open, but only one of them would be open after 8pm.  The place that was open wouldn’t have sound, which for me is a turn off.  The place closing at 8pm was even more unappealing, as I had my eye on the late game, the Clippers-Warriors.

Neither place was my first choice anyway.  I called two other places, but nobody picked up at either place.  I’m not shocked.  I would rather watch the game at home, that is, if I could.  Plus, it’s an unusual year with day one of the NBA season on Christmas.  I decided to let this one go.

During my day, I contemplated going out 3 times.  I wonder how many others went out or wanted to go out on the holiday.  If every place out there was open, business would be slow.  Even if half the businesses out there were open it still would be slow.  But I went out.  And there were others out and places open for us to go to.  I would hate to be a restauranteur making my staff work the holiday.  That said, they at least have some reason to open their doors.

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