Welcome to San Francisco, where even the late Steve Jobs can be turned away from a popular restaurant, where Pizzaria Delfina installs a live video stream to help customers monitor the wait time, and where a remarkable restaurant called State Bird Provisions generated the creation of “reservation bots” that book tables as soon as they become available (code here).
Alas, what to do? Here are some insider tips on how to increase your chances of getting that hot table.
1. Become a regular
No matter how successful a restaurant is, their aim is to get repeat, loyal customers. So, if you find a place you really like, revisit them. Get to know the staff. (Simmr events are designed to help you get to know the people behind the business as friends!) Also, one of the best kept secrets is that people in the industry help each other out — so if you’re a regular at one place, you can potentially have the staff call another hot location and speak on your behalf.
2. Get noticed
If becoming a regular isn’t an option, get noticed in some other way. We recommend attending a Simmr event and meeting the people at the restaurant in an intimate setting. You can also like them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, leave comments, and leave Foursquare tips — trust us, it makes a difference!
3. Book at the right time
The best times to make reservations are:
- 2-4 weeks in advance
- 2 days before your desired date. Find out when restaurants confirm their reservations and call around that time because that’s when cancellations open up new seats. Prime tables held for VIPs or friends of the house are also generally released back into the reservation system at around this time.
4. Use your hotel concierge / credit card (especially AmEx)
Ask your hotel concierge for information on that city’s best spots. A good concierge will show off the best his/her city has to offer and will get you a seat. Restaurants are happy to accommodate concierges because they are one of their key channels to get the word out.
5. Walk in
Every restaurant holds tables. Once they decide that Scarlett or Brad isn’t going to show that evening, they will free up these tables for walk-in customers. This tactic also has the perk of getting you some of the best tables.
6. Dine in pairs
Grab one friend and one friend only — any more than that and you’re requesting that a host find you a 4+ person table. Having just one friend also makes sitting at the bar, where you can often order off the full menu, easier.
7. Be willing to eat early
Restaurateurs often need help filling early tables, but toward the end of the night, tables are often filled by walk-ins and people who linger over dessert.
8. Manners, manners
The reservationist has probably talked to 20 other people like you in the last hour, all of whom were just as desperate, whiny, and threatening. Make them remember and want to help you — be courteous and empathetic.
Ask for a manager. Sometimes just the act of asking for a manager will make a reservationist comfortable enough to make an exception. And if you do get the manager, make a case for why you deserve a last-minute table. Insiders say restaurants are turned off by those claiming to be hot shots or big spenders. A better strategy is to cite special circumstances — a spouse’s birthday, an important client coming to town, a burning desire to visit the restaurant while in town for the weekend.
What NOT To Do
Even if it’s telling them it’s your birthday. At least have somebody else in your party tell them it’s your birthday.
As you probably noticed, most of these tactics involve getting remembered or noticed. Dining with Simmr makes this happen because you’re meeting the restaurant chef/owners in a small setting and you’re learning something unique about the business that you can bring up when you visit again! Check out our upcoming events and fast track your way to all the perks of being a regular!