If you’re looking for lunch out, lunchtime is not the best time to do it. Because the shops that sell lunch close for lunch. Yes you heard right. The spa, the boulangerie, the bakery, the places that sell your quiche and pie and a bit of cake – all the things you want most at lunchtime out of all the other times of day – are closed so the staff can have their own lunches. Because it’s lunchtime. This absolute rigid refusal to change centuries of tradition and give in to the demands of the market, whatever state your business might be in, is another characteristic of the French.
Outside town there are two biggish supermarkets – one is a big chain that does stay open all day, the other smaller one doesn’t. It loses out on a lot of custom because of this and may soon have to close. But it will close before it bows to pressure from lunchtime consumers. They should be sitting having lunch at lunchtime, lunchtime is not the time to buy lunch, is their attitude. Restaurants and cafes will only serve lunch between 12 and 1. If you leave it til after 2 to look for lunch you’ll go hungry.
Some people find this whole thing frustrating. In England we have 24 hour shopping and expect to be able to get our hands on something we need at any time of the day or night we need it. Some people respect the French desire to slow things down, keep meal times sacred family occasions and remember that life’s not all about work. Some people just want a bloody sandwich because the one they had in the fridge went off.
4 thoughts on “The Lunchtime Catch 22”
If I had a cafe in France I’d open ONLY during lunch and then close at all other times 😉
That would seem sensible!
Love your blog and all of your observations on French living,
I own a café in the Loire valley we have been open for almost five years and we serve food all day for the very reasons you have pointed out.i am still astonished when people call to reserve at lunch time with a very apologetic tone that they won’t be able to get to us before 1.15pm and will it be ok to eat then.my opinion is and has always been if you are a restaurant and you have a customer who comes in and wants to eat .feed them that’s your job and they are hungry.
So if your passing le lude and find that for what ever reason you haven’t managed to eat between 12.00 -12.50pm call to café cake we will be very happy to serve you something nice x
Hi Lindsay, thanks so much for your lovely comment! The attitude to lunchtimes is probably the thing that surprised me most on moving here – you think it’s a funny out-of-date cliche until you get here! haha. Not a bad thing to demand a work/life balance though – but for a restaurant that serves lunch I think your attitude is the right one! Your cafe sounds like exactly my kind of place, I will certainly drop in if passing 🙂