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