Sometimes life is tough, and you can’t get into your restaurant of choice! I’m only kidding here, as yes, there are more important things in life than chowing down on the hottest new clam pizza. However, what can you do and what are you willing to do to get into Keith McNally or Mario Batali’s newest haunts without having to sell your soul? Here are some useful tools to help you score that reservation without feeling like a loser:
- Keep up with the restaurant news. Most people don’t know the exact date a new restaurant opens, but if you read Eater, Grub Street, and Zagat they will tell you and you can get a head start. Opening night can be the slowest so sneak on in and score a table.
- Look up. Restaurants open and close every hour (at least it seems). Keep your head up and look around you. If you live by a spot with brown paper in the windows and signage coming up fast, go on inside and introduce yourself to the people hustling. Chances are they are a manager, chef, owner and if you welcome them to the neighborhood, grab their email and hit them up for a res.
- Email. If OpenTable or Resy are out of commission, grab the general email off the restaurant website and drop them a line. Tell them you are a fan and have been dying to check out the spot (old or new) and ask if there is anything they can do to help you out. They will most likely be able to squeeze you in somewhere or tell you when they are opening reservations for specific weeks next.
- Show Your Face. Walk into the restaurant and talk to the manager or chef. Ask what the best way is to get a reservation at their restaurant and see when you should come back. They can either look at the reservation book right then or there or they will give you their personal email and ask you to write them a note. BOOM. You now have a contact there and are a real human instead of a bot who uses Opentable that no one knows.
- Call. The reservation services online do not accumulate all of the tables in an establishment. If you don’t see something available, go ahead and give the restaurant a call. You never know what they have up their sleeve. This also works for when you want to extend the number of people in your party. For example, I have a reservation at Indochine in a couple weeks and needed to increase the party size by 4. No availability showed up online, but when I called they were able to increase it immediately.
- Plan in Advance. It might not be spontaneous enough for you, but reservation books usually open up one month to the day (or 30 days) in advance. Call or book on Opentable a month in advance and you can pretty much score prime time seating. The worst that could happen if you make a reservation that far in advance and then other plans come up is to just cancel it.
- LinkedIn. I’ve never tried this, but I can only imagine that it could work some of the time since it is for connecting. Maybe look for the chef, owner, or assistant of the place and message him saying you’ve been trying to get in but can’t and is there any advice he has or can he do you a solid?
- Monday or Sunday Nights. These are the slow nights. Go early on a Sunday at 5 or 6 p.m. and your golden.
Some of these options may be too much effort for the lazy one, but if you really want to eat somewhere, one of these “free” options is bound to work.