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How to get a table at a tough restaurant

You've only got a few days in town and your eye on a hot, new restaurant. What do you do?
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Heather Cleland, May 21, 2013 5:07:36 PM

For a lot of travellers  food is a huge focus of their jaunts around the world. A hot new restaurant in a foreign city has been known to trigger ticket purchases, but when you’ve got a limited amount of time and you’re hellbent on dining at one of the toughest restaurants to get into, what can you do?

Call ahead
This might mean forking over long distance fees, but your best bet is to call the restaurant directly as soon as you know when you’ll be making your trip. See where they’re at with reservations (either you’ll be able to make one, or they’ll already be full, or they won’t be taking reservations yet) and explain your situation. If they’re already booked up, keep trying — cancellations sometimes happen. Keep time differences in mind and call during opening hours, outside of standard rush times. Ask about wait lists, too, and be polite but persistent.

Aim for low season or weekdays
If you’ve got some flexibility, aim to visit the restaurant you’ve got your eye on during the low season or during the week — traditionally slower times. If you have patience when it comes to these things, wait until the initial rush dies down at a newer restaurant. When in doubt, contact the restaurant to see if they have any suggestions. You may also have more luck grabbing lunch rather than dinner, or at a less-than-ideal dinner time.

Ask your concierge
Many hotel concierges have connections at restaurants in their city and they may be able to work something out that you otherwise couldn’t. Call ahead to your hotel and talk to the concierge about where you hope to dine and see what he or she suggests. If you don’t have any luck booking a spot ahead of time, talk to them again once you arrive.

Try social media
The best place to find out about last-minute openings may be via the restaurants social media accounts where a lot of restaurants are reaching out to their clientele these days. Follow them ahead of time. It may also be worth sending them a Facebook comment or tweet — it’s just one more avenue for making contact.

Show up
If all else fails, go to the restaurant once you arrive in the city. Talk to someone there, politely, to see what’s available during your visit and ask what they suggest considering your limited time in the area. It’s generally best to go before and between mealtime rushes, so you don’t annoy busy staff members.

Use your credit card concierge
Many credit card companies offer their clients concierge-style services. The American Express Platinum card, the ScotiaGold Passport Visa card, the CIBC Aventura World Elite MasterCard and the RBC Infinite Avion card all come with free concierge services including restaurant reservations. Generally, the higher your annual fee, the more likely it is that your card includes these services. Check with your provider to see what you can get and how you can use it.

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Heather Cleland

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