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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Daylight Savings Time

November 7, 2018

I “fell back” yesterday.

I didn’t hurt myself. No neck brace, stitches, or crutches were needed. I fell back in the sense that I didn’t spring forward. I set my clocks back one hour.

Years ago, the physical act of changing the time wasn’t a hard thing to do. These days it takes someone with a degree in computer science to change anything on the clock radio in my truck. Actually, I am so old, I still use the term “clock radio.”

Everything seems more complicated these days. Whenever we build a new restaurant or add new air conditioning units, I ask for the old-school thermostats. I want that mercury filled unit that has an on and off switch, an auto adjustment, and a dial that I can use to set the temperature. I don’t need to remotely control it from an off-site location. I don’t need a calendar that I can set by the month. I need air conditioning, and I need heat, and that is all. The more wires and circuits it has, the greater chance it is going to break, and the higher the tab is going to be when the guy with the Master’s Degree in computer science comes to fix it.

So, what do thermostats and clock radios have to do with daylight saving time? Nothing.

I don’t know how I feel about daylight saving time. I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, but I do like the fact that it stays light longer in the summertime. And I kind of like that it gets light earlier in the morning in the winter. Apparently, I just want it to be light all of the time. Alaska is out of the question, though.

Actually, until five minutes ago, I spent 57 years calling it daylight savings time. I thought there was an “s” in there.

Though if I’m running the show—and basing things purely on purely from a business standpoint—I wouldn’t set the clocks forward in the spring.

In the summertime, when it stays light longer, sometimes it’s still light out at 8:30 p.m. People don’t like to eat dinner when it’s still light outside. That gives a restaurateur a small window with which to serve the dinner meal period.

Also, now that we’ve opened a new breakfast restaurant, we’re not unlocking the doors for the day’s first customers, while it’s still dark outside. That’s one thing I never anticipated with the time change. We opened the restaurant at the end of July. The breakfast and donut crews were getting to work at 4:00 a.m. It was dark then, and it’s dark now. But when the first customers arrived at 7:00 a.m., it was pitch black. Now that we have “fallen back,” it’s light outside when the customers arrive.

In my 37-year restaurant career (31 as an owner), I had only worked in a breakfast place once. It was in Omaha back in 1983. The place was called Drake’s Salad Bar and they were only opened for breakfast and lunch. I rode the bus downtown and was on the opening crew at 6:00 a.m. Breakfast eventually morphed into lunch, and by 2:00 p.m. our work day at Drake’s was over. That was a stark departure from the bars and restaurants I had been working in and pulling the late shift. But I had recently started living clean and sober, and it was the perfect environment for me at that time.

From the moment I started working in the restaurant business in 1981, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I set my sights on opening a restaurant one day, and in 1987, that dream was realized. But back in the days of Drake’s Salad Bar, I became interested in a place that only served breakfast and lunch. It took over 35 years to make it happen, but if I’ve proven anything over the course of my life, it’s that a mixture of passion, determination, ignorance, and time—not necessarily in that order—can make things happen.

I love the restaurant business—breakfast, lunch, and dinner— no matter what time it gets light or dark outside.

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