Guests go out to eat earlier in the evening. (Practically afternoon.) And Boston is here for that.

The Boston Globe

Across the region, chefs report their establishments being busy as early as 3pm and peaking around 5:30pm or 6pm. And that was beneficial for almost everyone involved.

Douglass Williams, chef and owner of Mida, at the restaurant's new location in East Boston.

Douglass Williams, chef and owner of Mida, at the restaurant’s new location in East Boston. JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

When Douglass Williams, chef and owner of Mida restaurant, first came to Boston to work in the chic Financial District radius in the early 2000s, the complaint was that Boston was it so lame because nothing was open until late at night. There were requests for later meal times and a very brief trip on an MBTA Night Owl bus, but the hand-wringing that Boston was the sluggish sister of vibrant New York City continued.

Williams remembers those days. But now all of its restaurants — the original Mida in the South End, Mida in Newton and the newest Mida on the East Boston waterfront — open at 4pm. “We’re finding that people want to eat earlier,” says Williams.

He’s not the only one who’s noticed that early eating isn’t just for the elderly anymore. In fact, recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere suggest that guests are jostling for 5:30 p.m. reservations and throwing dinner parties at 6:00 p.m. Is 5pm the new 8pm?

Post-pandemic lifestyle changes can be clues. But restaurateurs also find that the change in opening hours is helpful for both customers and employees. The Mida restaurants in Newton and East Boston serve lunch or brunch daily, and Williams says opening earlier “keeps the momentum and energy for the staff.” “For us, energy is the biggest component.”

Also, Williams says, people who now routinely work from home often have a different attitude towards meal times. Workday hours could be more flexible and fewer people need to schedule time to commute and change clothes before going out for dinner. Also, he adds, there’s nothing more repulsive than looking into a restaurant that’s locked but still has people finishing their lunch. “Telling people no is not something we want to do.”

Jacky Robert of Ma Maison on Beacon Hill shares this, having witnessed decades of eating habits in Boston and elsewhere. “When I worked at Ernie’s in San Francisco, we were open for dinner until 11 p.m., and there were a lot of late dinners.” That kept the staff busy days and nights, he added.

Jacky Robert, chef and owner of Ma Maison on Cambridge Street in Boston, says meal times have shifted earlier and restaurants are adjusting. JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Now his Beacon Hill restaurant is open for lunch and serves afternoon through evening. “We’re very busy at 5 p.m.,” he says. Dinner starts at 4 p.m., the rush is at 6 p.m. “We didn’t have that before.” Ma Maison has many regular customers, and some of them eat dinner at 3pm, says Robert, as their main meal of the day. And even if diners start earlier, they still seem to be ordering good wines and enjoying a full dining experience. He himself has changed his habits: he eats his main meal at 6 or 7 a.m. and goes to bed earlier. “I feel good and sleep better,” he says.

The importance of sleep has been emphasized in recent years, says Rebecca Robbins, a sleep scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “I hope that together we will realize the importance of sleep.” While there are people who function better at night and those who are morning people, Robbins says, “When we take time to sleep, creativity and productivity drop .” She suggests that sleep quality might improve if there’s a two to three hour interval between eating and bedtime.

Nevertheless, opinions differ about the earlier meal. Korean Reynoldswho became Boston’s director of nightlife business last spring, says, “The city is working to support and increase the number of businesses looking to stay open later across Boston.” are critical to supporting the city’s workforce and “showcasing Boston’s vibrancy.”

Corean Reynolds, Boston’s new director of nightlife economics, clinked glasses with The Pearl owner Luther Pinckney while visiting the South Bay restaurant. ERIN CLARK/GLOBE STAFF

In the past, an early meal might have been followed by a trip to the cinema or the theater, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case these days. “We are by far the busiest at 5:30 p.m.,” says Alexandra Caruso, managing director and operations manager Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn. Since the restaurant is nowhere near theaters, guests don’t grab a bite before other entertainment options are on offer. And early guests are often more adventurous, she says of those who pop into the popular restaurant, which offers 7- to 14-course tasting menus. Caruso, who has worked in beverage management at Boston restaurants from the Beehive in the South End to Fox & The Knife in south Boston, says that “early customers are no less engaged.” Even when cancellations allow for later reservations, “you don’t ask for them “.

For Back Bay resident Madeline Segal, 6:15 a.m. is the perfect time to eat, especially on weekdays. Vito Politano, a yoga teacher who lives in the North End, says he used to book early because it was easier to get reservations, but he also prefers to eat “earlier than later.” However, he says that he’s noticed lately that the places where he and his friend dine fill up around 6pm or 6:30pm. That doesn’t really count in North End restaurants, though, he says. “You’re busy all the time.”

Rhod Sharp, a former BBC Scottish broadcaster who now has a podcast, says of North Shore, where he lives: “It’s really hard to get a reservation at 6am.” His wife used to say that by 8pm: 3pm “should be eating when the Queen is having dinner,” but now they’re trending toward earlier hours. For young parents like Charlestown’s Meredith Hedin, dinner with their preschoolers is five years old or younger. But even if she and her husband have a date night, Hedin says it’s still early in the evening. “I’ve always liked getting up early,” she says.

Rachel Miller and Alexandra Caruso at the Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn, which fills up at 5:30pm CRAIG F.WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Boston’s early dining scene can also be a boon to restaurant workers. “For many years, the hospitality industry has been a challenging culture,” says Robbins, the sleep researcher, because late nights can affect health and sleep in particular. Mida’s Williams says the long nights before the pandemic sometimes “damaged our employees.” The early eating trend has also cracked the code to turn the tables. Now there are guests from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, then another group from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, and after that a third until closing. “Employees can earn more money and come home earlier.”

How about a meal in Boston now? Reynolds, the tsarina of nightlife, says she gets a reservation whenever she can, be it at 5:30 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. Caruso of Nightshade in Lynn says she believes Boston-area food is “on the brink of becoming a world-class restaurant.” Class scene.” Perhaps as early-bird dining picks up momentum, the country will realize that “lame” Boston has always had the edge.

Tom Vazquez

Tom Vazquez is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Tom Vazquez joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Tom Vazquez by emailing

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