How to Get a Reservation When It's Impossible to Get a Reservation

Lately, getting into the restaurant you want, when you want, feels like a blood sport. Hospitality spending and demand for reservations continues to rise. Resy has become a hunting ground for bots programmed to scoop up two-tops, and a host of new apps and platforms hock seats for a premium. Some, like the members-only platform Dorsia, work directly with restaurants. Others — Appointment Trader, ResX, and Cita — scalp seats at Carbone like it’s a Taylor Swift concert. Here are a few things a diner can do to score that impossible table.

Roulette chips dine on a roulette board
Know when reservations drop
Call your target restaurant to find out when they release reservations. I wanted to dine at a new Manhattan restaurant on a Friday night and, two weeks out, logged onto Resy just four minutes after they opened their books. Bots be damned, I snagged a three-top at 5 p.m.

Show up in person
“There’s no online trick I’ve figured out for [our restaurants] or me personally,” says Michael Stillman, CEO of Quality Branded hospitality group. Especially early in the week and at off-peak hours, Stillman says you might get lucky just dropping by his white-hot Don Angie or Bad Roman in person. “We try to save room for people who are popping in. That’s an advantage of not shopping online.”

Good Restaurant Reservation Etiquette Is More Important Than Ever
Look for last-minute availability
When Chicago’s 36-seat Dear Margaret earned national recognition, their reservation dynamics quickly changed, says owner Lacey Irby. “People book months out and then cancel the day before, day of, and moments before they’re supposed to show up.” These flaky diners frustrate the restaurant and regulars, but their bad habits open up last-minute reservations for flexible guests. Irby suggests joining waitlists and checking booking sites (in Dear Margaret’s case, Tock) the day you want to dine. If the restaurant is on Resy, you can set “Notify” alerts, which will send a push notification or email every time a reservation opens up. It also doesn’t hurt to call or chat with the host in person — you never know until you try.

Pay to play
I don’t ever plan on paying scalpers $240 for a 10 p.m. reservation at 4 Charles, a steakhouse three blocks from my apartment. Still, sometimes throwing a little cash at the problem helps. My husband recently upgraded to a Platinum Amex, largely for its Resy Global Dining Access benefit, which provides card owners with exclusive reservations and other dining perks. The $695 annual fee stung, but then the impossible happened. I finally got to eat fish and chips at Dame.

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