How to Score a Table at the Hottest Restaurant in Town
Earlier today, I was trying to figure out where to dine on Saturday night. A friend is visiting from out of town, and we will be a party of four gals ready to celebrate the season in style. After brainstorming a few possible restaurants, I thought of the perfect place: Trestle, this amazing spot that serves three insanely delicious courses with a set menu at an affordable price point. It’s also hot, new, and fun, and chances of me scoring a reservation for four less than a week in advance were slim. I tried, but to no avail. However, there are few ways to get a reservation at even the most wildly popular restaurant in town. The key is to be savvy and friendly—the host should be your new best friend! Wondering how to get into that hot spot with the incredibly long wait? Here’s how you do it.
Don’t blindly show up at the new restaurant in your neighborhood without doing a little background research first. Find out when it's open and what the reservation style is. Many new places in big cities do not accept reservations. Some places only take walk-ins, and other restaurants prefer to have a list that you put your name on. Figure out what the policy is so you can come up with a game plan. Search Google or a restaurant industry website, like Eater, to find out background information such as the chef’s, owner’s, and bartender’s names. All of this info can be used later down the line when you are trying to secure a table.
Search OpenTable for a reservation at a popular place, and it will most likely have openings early or late in the evening. If you don’t mind eating dinner at 5 or 9 p.m., you’ll be able to snag a seat much more easily.
If the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, be mentally prepared to do some waiting when you arrive. Plan your evening around the meal, and go to a nearby bar for drinks while you wait for your table.
One way to ensure that you always score a table at the hottest restaurant in town is to become a regular. Go early or late one night and introduce yourself to the front of house staff. Go another time—by yourself—and you’ll develop a relationship with the bartender, host, and waiters. Restaurants rely on regulars to maintain business, so if you go often enough, when you do show up and the place is packed, the team will know you as a preferred customer and do whatever they can to get you a table.
Want to eat dinner at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night at the restaurant that doesn’t accept reservations? Show up when it opens, around 5 p.m., and speak to the host. Be respectful and kind, and explain that you would like to eat there around 7:30 p.m. Ask what the average time of tables turning over is and when the most crowded foot traffic occurs. If the host is good, he or she will provide you with insider tips on how to get a table, and in the best-case scenario, the host will help you secure a spot.
Do not try to get a reservation for a party of eight at the hottest restaurant in town. Unless it’s an eatery that specializes in serving large groups, it will be impossible to get a table. The smaller the party, the easier it will be to dine at the restaurant. A party of two is ideal because you can sit at the bar, an individual two-top, or a communal table. If you’re absolutely dying to go to Petit Trois (which Bon Appétit recently named the nation's third-best restaurant), go alone and enjoy the meal solo. The staff will probably be able to squeeze you in at a spot at the bar in a short amount of time. You have a better way of befriending the staff if you're dining alone, and you never know what could happen. I once dined alone, and when a table of three gentlemen found out I was by myself, they invited me to join them. It ended up being a delicious and entertaining meal.
If you’re not familiar with the term hangry, let me break it down for you. It’s when you’re so hungry that you’re angry: hence hangry. Don’t show up to the most happening restaurant in this state. You might end up being rude to the staff, and you’ll only get in a worse mood if you have to wait. When you’re hangry, go to a restaurant where you know you can get in quickly.
There are all sorts of apps that are attempting to change the way restaurant reservations are made. For a price, Resy can get you a table at many of New York’s, Los Angeles’s, Miami’s, Washington DC’s, and San Francisco’s most sought-after restaurants. Download the app and let it do the dirty work for you. A few other apps to try: SeatMe, Table8, and Reserve.
When all else fails, be old-fashioned and book a reservation in advance. Choose a date that is important to you—a birthday, anniversary, or break from graduate school—and make a reservation then. You’ll have it to look forward to and be able to enjoy the meal without worrying about the hassle of a wait or the stress of not getting a table.
Can't get into the restaurant? Do the next best thing: make their cuisine at home. Shop some of the nation's most popular restaurant's cookbooks below.
Have you recently scored a table at a hot spot? How did you do it?