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Can Fine Dining Survive Without Weekends? Canlis Will Find Out

white ceramic plate on brown wooden table

With all those 9-to-5ers off for the weekend, it just makes sense that restaurants – especially fine dining establishments – do the most business on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday.

But Canlis, a fine-dining establishment in Seattle, plans to buck the common wisdom and close on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day in an experiment to see if having weekends off will make for a happier, more dedicated staff.

“From a financial standpoint, this is a risky move, no matter how high-end the restaurant is,” Ann Martin, director of operations at CreditDonkey, told The Food Institute. “Restaurants operate on a very tight budget and most have to keep their doors open seven days a week to even begin to turn a profit.

“Weekends are always the busiest times for restaurants, as that’s when the world is off work and able to enjoy a night out. Closing your doors during the days when you’re set to make the most profit doesn’t seem reasonable.”

Canlis is a family-owned operation and employs 118 people. Co-owner Mark Canlis told Restaurant Business (April 1) that rather than thinking of the decision as closing for the weekend, it’s more a shifting of the weekend: The restaurant currently is closed on Sundays and Mondays, a schedule that began after the pandemic.

“There’s a big difference between having a Sunday/Monday off and having a Saturday/Sunday,” Canlis said. “There’s the weekend, and there’s the weekend everyone else has. No one wants to go camping with you on a Monday. Or no one wants to go out on the boat on a Monday, they were all out on Saturday. No one gets married on Mondays.”

The idea was suggested a year ago by the restaurant’s maître d’, and Canlis initially rejected it out of hand, calling it “suicide.” The change was announced on Instagram.

The restaurant is an outlier in another way: no tipping. Instead, staff are paid what Canlis said is a high hourly wage. The change in schedules will not affect salaries.