It’s Getting Harder and Harder to Find an All-Night Restaurant

It's another way the pandemic changed the dining landscape

Diners still abound, but fewer of them are open 24-7.
Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM via Getty Images

In the four years since the pandemic shuttered businesses all over the country, plenty of long-running establishments have returned to full operation — but what that means in 2024 is often different from what it meant in 2019. In 2022, a New York Times articled noted that people were often eating dinner at restaurants earlier than they did before the pandemic.

There are plenty of reasons for that; some businesses may have decided that being open later isn’t worth the expense, while customers who are working from home might be more prone to dining earlier in the evening than they would have had they commuted. But there’s another permutation to this shift in eateries’ hours — specifically, that the number of all-night dining options appears to have dwindled.

As someone who grew up in New Jersey and spent a lot of his formative years in 24-hour diners, I’ve noticed this myself when visiting my home state. Establishments that used to be lit up 24-7 now seem to keep more traditional hours. This isn’t confined to the Garden State; on a road trip earlier this year, I encountered a few restaurants once known for their round-the-clock service that were no longer open at all hours.

In a new article at VinePair, Olivia White explored some data and revealed that this shift goes way beyond anecdotal evidence. White points to data from Yelp indicating that the number of restaurants across the nation offering round-the-clock service dropped 18% between 2020 and 2024.

The article cites a number of additional factors, including the current labor market — which is to say, finding people to cover an overnight shift at a restaurant is never easy, and is particularly challenging right now. To the extent that all-night restaurants have rebounded, White cites chains like IHOP and Waffle House as the most resilient. As someone with nostalgic feelings about spending time in diners in the small hours, it’s surreal to see these changes to the dining landscape — one more way that the pandemic’s impact is felt in an unexpected manner.


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