I was recently chatting with a friend about my experience dining at Sexy Fish, the latest London hot spot, and she immediately exclaimed “how did you get in!?” She went on to tell me that she had tried concierge service, even explaining that it was for a special occasion, but no one could get her in. I had tried the same thing – using a concierge – but to no avail. So, how did I get a reservation? I am going to share my top tips for getting into “impossible to get into” restaurants.
1 – Consider eating at the bar. There are a lot of great restaurants that have awesome bars. In some cases the bar serves all of the same food and drink options as the restaurant and might even be a better place to “see and be seen” given that so many people end there before and/or after a meal. Furthermore, a lot of up-scale restaurants like Sexy Fish and The Wolseley have some proper tables in their bar where you can eat comfortably.
2 – Don’t call when reservations open. There are thousands upon thousands of individuals calling fancy restaurants each morning to make reservations for spots that come up months later. In some cases, it can take hours just to get through to someone. When I went to The Fat Duck, it took two hours of waiting and I repeat dialled on Skype and my cell phone at the same time! At some point though, people get tired and give up. Wait a couple of hours after the rush, call once the lines are clear and see what reservations might be left.
3 – Consider going at lunch time. Lunch is not only much cheaper, you are a lot more likely to get a reservation without a big fuss. Most people want to “see and be seen” at these sorts of places but the reality is that sometimes you may just want to check out the food and the ambiance. That’s OK too! Some restaurants also have a breakfast menu, however, the options are going to be very different than at lunch or dinner. This makes it harder to discuss the menu with others who might have been there.
4 – Use a booking site. I got into Sexy Fish using Lastminute.com. Yes, I know it sounds goofy. Lots of really posh restaurants post their more undesirable booking times on sites like Lastminute or Opentable so that they are taken. The restaurants also don’t enjoy jammed phone lines and long phone calls with desperate would-be guests. This allows them to easily and quietly take reservations. I pulled out the screen shot from Lastminute.com and posted it below just so you can see how easy it really is. Don’t get me wrong, the best times are probably not going to be available and you have to play around with it a bit to find something decent on a good date, but there are reservations to be had.
5 – Check for cancellations. Once you have a reservation, they will often call you the day before to confirm. Use that time to ask (very nicely) whether anyone who has a better reservation time has cancelled. This is a fast and easy way to see what might be open and frankly they are already calling you rather than you calling them so don’t waste this opportunity. Like I said, they are likely calling around to all of the other people who have reservations to confirm. Someone might say no! Try it out…and remember to leave your phone ringer on so that you pick up the phone when they call you.
6 – Dress up and show up. Show up at the bar and inquire if there are any spots or cancellations for dinner. Make sure you and your dining partners look HOT. I planned a girls night once and one friend was not dressed to the dress code. We did not get in. Look like you belong in the place you want to go to. Dressing for success is not just for your career. You don’t need to spend millions but it is worth it to invest in in a couple of decent outfits that you can wear to nicer bars and restaurants. Showing up is also about your attitude. Be polite, nice to the staff, and don’t become a “problem”.
Good luck with these tips. Post a comment if any of them have helped you get into the top restaurant of your choice.