Isn't it bloody frustrating when you want to go and eat at a restaurant but can't book? Well fear not because there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting that elusive table, or even to book it.
You know the deal, hot place, sounds good, it's in the news and you want to go. But it's (horror of horrors) no bookings, and depending on your circumstances you don't necessarily want to stand out in the rain for a few hours waiting for a precious table.
Even though restaurants have a few good reasons not to take bookings (namely lower prices requiring faster turnover to make money in a notoriously low margin industry), it doesn't make it any less frustrating. But, there are a few things you can do to try and increase your chances, and in some cases even help you secure a table.
• Call ahead in person. So say you are on a night out with a few friends and want to hit a great no-bookings place. Some establishments have an unwritten rule to allow people to make face-to-face bookings, and especially if you are nice to front of house they may even take your number and let you know when a table becomes free. At a minimum, they'll be able to let you know the busy time when to avoid.
• If you really want to eat there, stay there! Restaurants in hotels will often reserve a set amount of tables for in-house guests, or even better, when you make your hotel booking speak to the concierge and explain you want to eat in their restaurant. Sister (and cheaper!) hotels may also honour hotel guests in the same family so it's worth enquiring.
• Check your timing. A simple one, but a midweek booking on a school night gives you much greater chances to get into a hot restaurant than a party of 6 on a Friday night. Often the cooking is better too as chefs are more focused on getting everyone in and out on the weekends and can spend more time per plate midweek.
• Sit at the bar. No, really. Most restaurants will allow you to order from their main menu regardless of where you are sitting, and a bar side seat in a nice restaurant can often be one of the better places to sit, eat, and people watch.
• Call ahead via phone, at the right time. A polite call and offer of a credit card to secure your booking can sometimes turn an unbookable restaurant into a bookable one. They key is to be polite and flexible to unlock the restaurants willingness. Also, call at the right time, say a Wednesday afternoon, not 11pm on a Saturday night when the person on the other side of the line is thinking more about their post-work beer than trying to slot you into their restaurant.
There is really no guaranteed way to get in to a busy restaurant, but if you keep a few of the tips in mind above, you'll have more luck than the average. Happy eating and let me know if any of the tips help you in the comments section below!