Restaurants that thrive by dishing out luncheons and dinners to friends and coworkers of the 100,000 feds who retire yearly are going to be hit with an end-of-month reservation crunch thanks to a new law.

The legislation, part of the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, makes it financially unattractive for federal workers to retire anytime but the last few days of the month.

Previously, the annuities of federal workers began the day after they retired. If you retired on the 15th, for example, your annuity started the next day.

But Congress has changed that. The new order is that annuities do not commence until the first day of the month after an employe retires. So if you leave on the 15th of the month, your paycheck stops that day and your annuity doesn't kick in until the first day of the next month.

Most workers apparently are unaware of the change. Once they learn of it, government officials expect that most employes will defer their retirement until the last working day of the month to get maximum pay and retirement benefits.

The new law applies to workers who are retiring voluntarily or who are being forced to retire as the result of a rif.

It does not apply to workers who are retiring because of disability, or to the starting date of a survivor annuity. Those still will begin the day after retirement, or the day after after the death of the spouse who provided a survivor annuity.

Congress made the change hoping to save some money by deferring the start of annuities until the month after retirement. "But once people become aware of the change," an OPM official said, "we expect that most people will simply wait until the last day of the month to retire." That could create a paperwork logjam for some federal agencies, and booking problems for watering holes that do a booming business serving the last meal to longtime civil servants.