Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were recently turned away at the two-Michelin star Ledbury in London’s Notting Hill.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Bruce Palling points out, both couples mistakenly assumed that although they hadn’t made a reservation, their social clout and celebrity status would be enough to secure a table.
Palling reminds readers there’s a commonly held view that a table will be found even at the most famous overbooked restaurant on the planet if the person requesting it is illustrious or notorious enough.
“It is refreshing to see that isn’t always the case.”
Tom Cruise suffered a similar rebuff — although on a much grander scale, where his assumed self-importance bordered on delusional — when he attempted to spontaneously evict everyone from a hotel restaurant so he could dine alone.
Denying his request, the outraged manager said, “Who does Mr Cruise think he is?”
Palling provides plenty of strategies to improve your chances of getting a reservation.
1. Be a Regular:
Once you have eaten somewhere more than two or three times, you are looked after far more by the maître d’ and staff.
2. Be Flexible
Your chances are seriously limited if you insist on a table for four at 8:30 p.m. that day. Instead, consider a late lunch or early dinner. You would be surprised at how many restaurants that are invariably full can accommodate you with this approach.
I am told by friends that while Dabbous in London’s Fitzrovia neighborhood is technically booked up months in advance, if you walk in at 2.15 p.m., you can almost always get a table for lunch. The same can apply if you show your face in the evening the minute the restaurant opens or instead opt for a 10 p.m. sitting.
3. Physically Showing Up
Physically showing up can increase your chances considerably, even to the extent of matching a name with a face the next time you attempt to book.
An upfront tip can sometimes work wonders. One renowned maître d’ in London told me he would certainly accept a significant gesture “as I have a family to feed, too,” but only if he could deliver an actual table.
5. Book Into a Hotel
Another ploy is to book into a hotel should you wish to get a table at its restaurant as tables are sometimes held back for guests. Failing that, a good hotel concierge has more clout with a top restaurant than a request from a stranger.
6. Be Polite
Politeness still plays a significant role. Restaurants want to have contented guests who know how to behave, so never underestimate the power of good manners.
And Palling says that if you think your name is important enough to influence the reservations staff, say it slowly in the first sentence you speak to them, so if they Google you — a more common practice than you might think — it might be to your advantage.