Bribing and Restaurant Seating

Does brib­ing your way into a busy res­taur­ant work as well as it seems to in movies? Is it even possible? Bruce Feiler decided to find out by vis­it­ing some of New York’s most over­booked res­taur­ants with noth­ing more than a pock­et­ful of money (i.e. no reser­va­tions). His res­ults were not quite as expec­ted, find­ing that brib­ing hosts in order to get seated at upscale res­taur­ants is abso­lutely pos­sible and works more often than you may think.

Feiler­’s adven­tures, detailed in an art­icle for Gour­met, act as a more exhaust­ive guide than the Chow art­icle on res­taur­ant brib­ing, but the con­clu­sion is the same: $15–30 per per­son, passed to the right per­son, can to get you into most res­taur­ants without a reser­va­tion (or help you skip a long wait­ing list) – but be pre­pared to get turned away and even occa­sion­ally get burned.

What else did Feiler learn from his exper­i­ment? Here are his “ten tips on tip­ping” (read: brib­ing):

  1. Go.You’d be sur­prised what you can get just by show­ing up.
  2. Dress appro­pri­ately. Your chances improve con­sid­er­ably if you look like you belong.
  3. Don’t feel ashamed. They don’t. You should­n’t.
  4. Have the money ready. Pre­fol­ded, in thirds or fourths, with the amount show­ing.
  5. Identi­fy the per­son who’s in charge, even if you have to ask.
  6. Isol­ate the per­son in charge. Ask to speak with that per­son, if neces­sary.
  7. Look the per­son in the eye when you slip him the money. Don’t look at the money.
  8. Be spe­cif­ic about what you want. “Do you have a bet­ter table?” “Can you speed up my wait?” A good fall­back: “This is a really import­ant night for me.”
  9. Tip the maître d’ on the way out if he turned down the money but still gave you a table.
  10. Ask for the maître d’s card as you’re leav­ing. You are now one of his best cus­tom­ers.