When Kate Hayes showed up recently at a Chicago restaurant, she was surprised to learn that the wine-pairing dinner came with a 90-minute limit. Though it was a weekday and there were plenty of empty tables, the meal felt more like “Beat the Clock” than a leisurely catch-up.

“I thought, OK, I’ve got to suck this one down before the next wine arrives,” says Ms. Hayes, the 33-year-old co-founder of a gifting company.

To survive the pandemic, some restaurants are taking an unusual approach to hospitality: showing diners the door. They are limiting meals to 90 minutes or two hours to stay afloat amid capacity limits due to the virus.


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