Getting a reservation at The French Laundry

courtesy of The French Laundry's Facebook page

courtesy of The French Laundry’s Facebook page

2600 phone calls. Two days. Four phones.

And it didn’t work.

I’ve read the stories about how difficult it can be to secure a reservation at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s 16-table restaurant in Yountville, CA. The phone lines open each day at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time and the restaurant accepts reservations for meals two months from that date.

I knew that it would be difficult but assumed persistence would prove key. I lined up phones and began calling at 12:55. Busy signal. I speed dialed the restaurant on each phone in rapid succession, quickly disconnecting with the sound of the busy tone.

With each passing minute, I knew the chances of getting one of the few reservations for a party of two decreased. On the first day of my French-Laundry quest I finally got through at 1:57. After waiting for another 20 minutes, I connected with a live person. Waiting list.

Day two progressed much the same. I connected at 2:11 and beseeched the reservationist to tell me any insider tips for securing a reservation. I hadn’t purchased my plane tickets — and wouldn’t — until my reservation was confirmed.

She had three recommendations. First, check Open Table. I knew this one. The restaurant releases two tables on Open Table (one for a party of four, one for two). They don’t appear at midnight, but the restaurant is unsure exactly when they are available. I tried refreshing the Open Table page repeatedly without success.

Her other two suggestions included using a concierge service. If we hadn’t booked our hotel, she suggested the Villagio in Napa, whose concierge service could attempt a reservation on our behalf. Or, if we had access to the concierge at American Express, that would be another route.

I thanked her and told our reservationist that we’d tried Open Table and the credit card concierge suggestions, neither proving fruitful. She was surprised to learn that we hadn’t gotten a reservation with the concierge and checked my last name. Lo and behold, she had a reservation on the books for us. We just hadn’t been notified yet.

That’s how I got a reservation for this 9-course $270 meal. Have you been? How did you get a reservation?

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

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