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Q: How Do You Get a Good Reservation?

The Main Line’s hospitality expert reveals his secrets.

Layne M. of Wynnewood writes: What are some of your secrets to getting a good reservation, especially when a restaurant is fully booked?

Thanks for your question, Layne.

Making reservations is my most prevalent professional task, and I really enjoy providing advice on the topic.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you through the reservation process. Good luck and then, hopefully, good dining!

1. Book early. Whether you’re reserving a party of two or 200, call the restaurant as soon as you can to secure your desired time slot and a prime seating location. The early bird gets the A-table.

2. Learn the lay of the land.
It never hurts to know which tables are the most requested ones within a restaurant and where they are located, along with how many private rooms there are and the capacity of each one. Is there a chef’s table? Outdoor seating? Understanding logistics may mean the difference between a quiet corner booth and a noisily situated table by the restroom.

3. Know when to call. Logical times to make a reservation are 10-11:30 a.m. and 2:30-4:30 p.m., as is 9-10 p.m. (on weeknights). Avoid lunchtime (11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.) and dinner service (5-9 p.m.). Call before 10 a.m., and you’ll probably get a kitchen worker who doesn’t know the inner workings of the reservations system. Note: Pre-service staff meetings and/or the staff meal usually occur 4-5 p.m., so be conscientious and call at another time.

4. Learn the name of the person on the other end of the line when making a reservation, and use it during the conversation. Taking the time to say one’s name creates an immediate bond, not to mention it’s a sign of respect.

5. State (but don’t demand) any special requests you may have
at the time of the initial reservation, such as a preferred seating time or a particular table. Denote a special occasion or celebration, mention dietary restrictions or guest accessibility issues, etc. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

6. Utilize online resources. is a notable booking mechanism and a place where last-minute openings may pop up. I suggest, too, visiting a restaurant’s website and booking on it directly, if phone calls aren’t working for you. And don’t forget your credit card company perks. Many have nifty “concierge” services built into the membership. Use those benefits!

7. If you can’t get in, call back.
No luck? Call once again, especially as you get closer to your desired reservation time. Tenacity only helps your chances of scoring a table.

8. Still can’t get in? Work your way up the chain of command.
Asking to speak with the general manager or a managing partner can be a good way to secure a table. It never hurts to employ a pair of managerial eyes to help seek out a table opening—and besides, who else has better clout than the top brass?

9. Place a confirmation call on the day before you’re set to go. Contact the restaurant and reiterate the special details of your reservation. Have all your ducks in a line before you dine.

10. Get your name on the cancellation list.
Many better restaurants keep one, and it may be your way in. Remember: Cancellations can occur anytime—the week before or just a couple of hours prior to your desired reservation time. Having your name on the cancellation list exponentially helps your reserving chances.

Hospitably Yours,

Do you have any secrets to getting a good reservation? Share them by leaving a comment below.

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