Restaurant Break Times in Korea

Don’t get surprised by restaurant break times in Korea! Restaurants across the country provide their workers with time to rest between lunch and dinner. This is a very healthy habit for taking care of front-line workers but inconvenient for customers who don’t know it exists. Let’s talk about how break times may impact you and how to overcome the struggle.

Common Restaurant Breaktimes

Many restaurants have a break time between 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm. We have found 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm to be a common break time in many areas. However, Korea has no standard practice and each restaurant makes a plan for what works best for them. Many restaurants may post break time information on their Instagram or their Naver Maps listing.

Break Times Make Lunch Complicated

Finding lunch can feel almost like a competitive sport because of restaurant break times in Korea. Especially if you want to eat at a popular or famous restaurant. Big restaurants, small restaurants, family-owned restaurants, and franchise restaurants may choose to have a break between lunch and dinner service.

Understanding how break times work and how they may impact your life and schedule may help you better plan your life in South Korea.

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Restaurants stop Seating New Guests 1 hr Before Breaktime

Many restaurants (if not most) may require you to be seated at least 1 hour before break time starts. That means if their break time is 2:30 pm you need to be in your chair by 1:30 pm and not still on the waiting list. They will be kicking everyone out and closing the doors when break time hits. Respect their time and be ready to go.

Lunch Service Times Are Short

Since many lunch restaurants open between 11:00 am – 12:00 pm and you need to be seated an hour before break time, you only have about a 1-2 hour window to have lunch. Not only that, but you are in competition with all the other Koreans who also saw that cool spot online. You can’t mess around with picking a lunch spot and getting seated.

Popular Restaurants May Sell Out

Sometimes popular lunch spots completely sell out before break times start. Since they are about to go on break, they will not run out and re-stock. Once they are out of ingredients the restaurant will close until dinner time or for the day.

Avoiding Break Time Frustrations

In order to survive the hustle of restaurant break times in Korea try a few of these tips. All of the tips revolve around staying very aware of time and making sure you plan ahead.

Look Up Restaurant Break Times

Many restaurants will post their break times on their Instagram and Naver Maps listings. You may need to use Papago to translate the information from a screenshot. Breaktimes might be called 브레이크타임 or 휴식. Other variations may occur as well and usually contain 휴 as part of the phrase. You can always use Papago or Google Translate.

(Please note that our bloggers use Naver Maps in Korean. Your Naver Maps information should be in English if your phone is in English.)

Breaktimes may be noted in different ways so read carefully.
Compare the same restaurant’s Instagram on the left to their Naver Maps info on the right. When you compare, you see the restaurant posted their break times on their Instagram but not on their Naver Maps.

If you can’t find the break times on Naver Maps or Instagram, you can also contact 1330 to ask about break times at a specific restaurant. South of Seoul has a blog to help you learn about the free help from 1330.

Eat Early

Plan on eating lunch at 11:00 am or 11:30 am right when the restaurants open. This helps to ensure you get a table and they aren’t sold out.

Make a Reservation

If you have the money and help with translation, make a reservation at a fancy restaurant that takes reservations. Then you know where, when, and what you will eat. Of course, not everywhere does reservations and you might need help making a reservation.

Avoid Instagram Favorites

Any business in Seoul popular on Instagram will be a hustle. That’s why we avoid these locations. Additionally, such locations tend to be big on hype and low on quality.

Have a List of Options

Don’t get your heart pinned on one spot. Have a list of 3 options within a few blocks of each other.

Have a Backup Plan

When in doubt, go to a corner mart and grab a meal. This can save your life on a Saturday when every place in the neighborhood is packed.

Pay Attention to the Time

Don’t let your day get away from you. Keep in mind that break times exist and make sure that your plans allow for you to grab lunch earlier in the day.

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