Time to Clock It

When you enter many of the brasseries in France you’ll be faced with a clock. A big, old clock. Think about it…. How many American restaurants are expected to have a clock included in their décor?

When Brasserie L’Oustau was in the planning stages and the interior design was developing, owner Michel pointed out it MUST have a clock or else it wouldn’t have the complete ambiance of a brasserie. We needed to find the right clock and then place it in the right location. All of the Americans on the team looked quizzically at one another, and then began to do the homework necessary to find and place a Brasserie L’Oustau clock in the design plan.

But really, why must there be a clock in a brasserie at all?

The first brasseries in rural France hundreds of years ago might have needed a clock for the lunch customers to know it was time to return to labor. Or in the evening, as the beer began to affect the customers’ motivation to go home, the clock could have been a reminder that the brasserie would close. We can only suppose why, or even if, there might have been a clock in a brasserie so long ago.

However, the quick food and service style of the French brasseries permitted them to succeed in the developing towns and cities where the pace of life restricted meal time. Patrons would need to see the time and how much of it they had before they should be somewhere else, and so a clock was installed by the proprietors as a courtesy to their customers. You might find a Parisian brasserie nearby a train or Metro station, and the clock is easily seen from every seat.

Brasseries came about well before anyone could see the time on their wrist watch or cell phone, and that’s why there is a clock in our brasserie and most others. Perhaps we can thank the watch and cell phone for allowing us to place the clock in the entry to Brasserie L’Oustau where customers can’t see it while they’re dining.