Strategery for Getting a Table at an Overly Popular Restaurant

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Topic: Strategery for Getting a Table at an Overly Popular Restaurant

Food and Dining April 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Strategery for Getting a Table at an Overly Popular Restaurant

Wife wants to go to Le Diplomate.  Too many people are going there at typical go-out times.  Ditto for many other places that are new, popular, in high-traffic areas, etc. 
How can I get a table?  Off hours? Off days? Reservations?  Are there other tricks?

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I’m afraid I don’t have any foolproof tricks, other than impersonating a celebrity, if you happen to be a lookalike! 🙂  But off-hours and off-days are always a better bet, especially if you’re not good at remembering to make reservations way in advance (I am not). I finally got to eat at Rasika with a 9:15pm reservation on a Thursday night–I thought I was going to die of exhaustion eating dinner that late (cut me some slack…I’m old!) but the anticipation actually gave me a good second wind.
Another thing that’s worked for me (not in DC but in high-demand restaurants in a couple of other cities)–you usually don’t see this option if you make an online/Open Table reservation, but sometimes you can just phone the restaurant and ask if they have a waiting list. I’ve been to a couple of places where they make a reservation reminder/confirmation phone call 24 hours in advance and sometimes get a couple of cancellations in that process; before releasing those slots on Open Table, they go to their phoned-in waitlist.  Special occasions may get you waitlist priority, too. I suspect it helped recently that we told one restaurant it was my birthday (which it actually was–it’s probably kind of uncool to lie about it being your birthday or anniversary or whatnot.)  Or even if the night you checked was already full, re-check Open Table 24-48 hours ahead to see if any spots have opened up with cancellations. 

Le Diplomate is on OpenTable. If you plugin the date you want to go eat it will tell you when the next available tables are. (Hint: Plugin 7:00PM, because even though this time definitely is not available currently it will give you a good window of when to expect seats free if you really want to go there.)
Many places that have a maitre d’ will also let you slide them a few bucks and give you a seat at one of the tables that they do not enter into the system for online / phone booking.

Bribery can get you anything in the restaurant industry. Slip the maitre ‘ $20 or $30, especially if you think you will become a regular customer. You’ll eventually get all sorts of freebies.

If you are only using Open Table, try calling. Some restaurants don’t put peak times on Open Table.

Wow, seriously? Surprise to see all the bribe suggestions I have hosted at 7 high end restaurants (albeit none in DC), and other hosts would always talk so much shit on the people who tried to bribe their way in. I have to say I never accepted a bribe because it was way more fun to shut down the oft-entitled folk who tried to pay their way in. Any other hosts/maitre d’s on here who agree/disagree?

I also have worked in restaurants for many years. Mostly,  in restaurants where it can be difficult to get a reservation. None have ever accepted bribes. We look down upon those people. I agree with the waitlist suggestion. Restaurants only have a certain number of tables. Money can’t make one appear out of thin air. A restaurant would never risk upsetting a customer that respects the reservation system and plans in advance over a customer that wants to bribe their way in,  because they can’t plan ahead or thinks they can buy their way around the system. If there are restaurants like that out there, I wouldn’t want to patronize them.


Make a reservation. That’s the way to get a table.

That place is kind of nuts. I stopped by tonight with a friend and was told the wait was at least 90 minutes. We ate nearby instead and less than an hour later, Le Diplomate had tons of empty tables, including outside. I still wouldn’t have waited.

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