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The French Laundry-Yountville

melly Apr 16, 2007 06:12 AM

How in the heck does one get reservations at this place??? Any help is appreciated.

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  1. r
    rcburli RE: melly Apr 16, 2007 06:17 AM

    By using redial--two months to the day before your date.
    I much preferred a 3-hour lunch than going for dinner, and it was easier to get the reservation at lunch.

    1. d
      diner101 RE: melly Apr 16, 2007 07:47 AM

      Hee, hee. The classic question on reservations at FL!! Four years ago on my birthday, and after repeated failures to get thru on phone (despite speed dial), I took the day off and drove the 60 miles from Hayward home arriving first thing in the morning at 9:30AM when opened. One other person from Santa Rosa was there like me, in person, and they gave each of us a reservation exactly 30 days in advance (not 2 months). My family of five (3 adult kids) had a very memorable +3 hours dining 30 days later. Was it worth it?? Good experience but value just not there, 3 dishes were fantastic, but 4 others so-so relative to price. Think a 2 stars in Paris much better taste. Another person who showed up few minutes later was a hotel concerige (sic?) making reservation for future guests (also 30 days later), so FL does not discriminate!! Good luck trying to get in. The reservation day was not lost, stayed for nice lunch at Buchon down the road and sampled several wineries, paradaise on a work day off!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: diner101
        diner101 RE: diner101 Apr 16, 2007 07:58 AM

        I forgot to mention that reservation person at FL that phone reservations are filled within 10-15 minutes every day. So, impossible to get thru, and they only accept reservations for each day a month in advance. If it is two months, sorry about the longer wait or am I having a senior moment?? (For clarification, FL does not take orders for like 43 days or 65 days later, etc., only 30 days later. Very crazy, but supply and demand, etc.

        1. re: diner101
          Carrie 218 RE: diner101 Apr 16, 2007 11:02 PM

          I believe due to the preponderance of local concierge walking up and booking reservations for guests, FL stopped taking walk-up reservations about two-and-half years ago. I know this as I was living in Napa at the time; when I first moved there, I was able to walk-up and get a reservation. Within a year of moving there, they canceled that policy so that even locals have to go through phone call hell. However (and I have had this confirmed), it seems that locals ARE able to get in easier on the phone lines - something about being on the local exchange.

        2. chaddict RE: melly Apr 16, 2007 09:54 AM

          great article on this: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/...

          1. h
            Hao Chr RE: melly Apr 17, 2007 01:06 AM

            opentable.com actually works, I'm told.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Hao Chr
              chaddict RE: Hao Chr Apr 17, 2007 07:49 AM

              Yes, at midnight, is it 60 or 30 days before your desired date? I have heard of people having luck with this. For what is worth, I enjoyed lunch there more than dinner and probably easier to get a reso.

              There was a story of a man that hired a temp for like 2 days. Her only job was to dial and redial TFL until she got through...too funny!

              1. re: chaddict
                melly RE: chaddict Apr 19, 2007 12:02 PM

                I guess I'll be setting the alarm for midnight. So far, opentable has not worked. I also wrote to the private diningroom manager..as we were willing to reserve that room for 10 at 3600.00, but no reply for five days so far.

            2. b
              brokergal RE: melly Apr 17, 2007 08:28 AM

              I will probably go to hell for this, but anyway...I received a very generous gift certificate to FL back in 2000 when I got married. I was positively dreading the reservation process and so didn't do anything with it...until September 12, 2001. Convinced that the entire nation (the world, really) was distracted by other events, I started dialing...and I'll be damed if it STILL didn't take me a half hour to get through and manage a lunch res. If indeed I do end up in hell, apparently I'll have lots of company.

              1. Cindy RE: melly Apr 17, 2007 08:32 AM

                On Open Table, there's a reservation for tonight at 9pm. I think if you keep trying/checking, you'll get in eventually, just not for your first choice of dates or times!

                1. rworange RE: melly Apr 18, 2007 10:45 AM

                  Has anyone tried http://www.tablestalker.com/

                  The SF Chronicle mentioned it today. It monitors Open Table and if there is an opening or cancellation, it notifies you by email.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: rworange
                    Carrie 218 RE: rworange Apr 18, 2007 08:15 PM

                    Ummmmm.... French Laundry is not on their list.

                    1. re: Carrie 218
                      rworange RE: Carrie 218 Apr 18, 2007 08:17 PM

                      Open Table? My understanding was that all tablestalker did was scan Open Table. From today's Chron ..

                      " The Web site, which searches Open Table every couple of minutes for cancellations or extra table availability to land some of the most coveted restaurant seats in the country, has added San Francisco to its mix"


                      1. re: rworange
                        Gary Soup RE: rworange Apr 18, 2007 08:25 PM

                        It appears that they only deal with restos that are physically in San Francisco.

                        1. re: Gary Soup
                          rworange RE: Gary Soup Apr 18, 2007 08:54 PM

                          bummer. Sounds like a good idea though. Hope they expand. thanks

                  2. BonzoGal RE: melly Apr 18, 2007 04:23 PM

                    I had great luck with Open Table- got a reservation for a Saturday afternoon lunch within 7 weeks of the date I was looking.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: BonzoGal
                      grishnackh RE: BonzoGal Apr 19, 2007 08:07 AM

                      Within seven weeks is great luck! HA!

                      Glad to hear you got your table though.

                    2. oaklandfoodie RE: melly Apr 20, 2007 03:48 PM

                      Last Wednesday I was searching for a Sunday night reservation in that area, and what came up - but a FL res for 4 at 5:30 pm that coming Sunday. It wasn't in the cards for me.
                      I think searching Open Table and being flexible might get you there.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: oaklandfoodie
                        melly RE: oaklandfoodie Apr 20, 2007 06:25 PM

                        I did hear back from the private dining room manager. We will reserve it for 10 in late Sept. or early Oct. We already have 8 who want to go, so just waiting for two more. so, that comes to $360.00 each for food and tip, not including wine. I am guessing that the cost a bottle of wine there is not for the faint of heart.

                        1. re: melly
                          chaddict RE: melly Apr 20, 2007 08:35 PM

                          Congrats! May you have a lovely time.

                          1. re: melly
                            Ruth Lafler RE: melly Apr 20, 2007 10:14 PM

                            When a group of chowhounds went, Melanie got a copy of the winelist in advance and went through it and made up a list of possible choices from the better value selections. Then when we were actually presented with the menu, she made the "final cut" in consultation with the sommelier. At the time there was a reasonable selection of bottles in the $50 to $100 range.

                            1. re: melly
                              kevin h RE: melly Apr 23, 2007 05:49 PM

                              The standard 9-course is $240pp inclusive of service. So for $360pp, do you get anything else other than the privilege of eating in a private room? Is it a different menu?

                              Also, regarding wines, the markup at FL is approximately three to four times retail.

                          2. Non Cognomina RE: melly Apr 23, 2007 05:37 PM

                            I think I read somewhere that Open Table has 1 reservation for 2 people, and 1 reservation for 4 people per service at TFL.

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: Non Cognomina
                              jenpalex RE: Non Cognomina Apr 23, 2007 09:55 PM

                              Tonight, apparently, Open Table has decided to stop working for FL. I wonder why? Last night (when I was up at 3am EDT trying to get a table in 8 wks) it was working fine. By "fine" I don't mean I got a table, however.

                              I'd like to eat there, but the process makes me feel silly.

                              1. re: jenpalex
                                jrhsfcm RE: jenpalex Apr 23, 2007 10:22 PM

                                I noticed this this morning. I'm not sure what is going on; however, I would be willing to bet that all the "try this to get a table at TFL" publicity may have had something to do with it. I really get the impression that the powers-that-be like the impossible-as-hell/who-do-I-have-to-know reservations system... the glimmer of hope might have rubbed some people at TFL the wrong way. The telephone-only reservation system does make things more complicated/exclusive. *sigh*

                                Frankly, the thought pisses me off. I really hope someone at TFL just forgot to pay their OpenTable bill, otherwise I might just give up on the idea of eating there (I've been to Per Se, but I want to try that 16 course extended tasting menu!).

                                1. re: jrhsfcm
                                  kevin h RE: jrhsfcm Apr 23, 2007 10:54 PM

                                  I've heard unconfirmed reports that they offer the extended menu at Per Se as well. See:

                                  1. re: kevin h
                                    jrhsfcm RE: kevin h Apr 24, 2007 11:34 AM

                                    Thankfully I wasn't paying at Per Se, though I don't think I would have made such a splurge there regardless. For that kind of money and time commitment I'd want to head to the original.

                                  2. re: eatzalot
                                    jrhsfcm RE: eatzalot Apr 24, 2007 11:32 AM

                                    If you want to look at Thomas Keller's affairs as "one small business," feel free; however, you'll be deluding yourself. Keller may have started with just The French Laundry, but it has expanded to include Bouchon and Ad Hoc in Yountville; Bouchon in Las Vegas; Per Se in NYC, with a Bouchon in the works; and the rumor is is that Keller is going to open his much-wanted (and what Ad Hoc was going to become) burger bar in SF. Take into account the cookbooks, guest appearances, blah blah blah, and you're talking a small culinary empire. Given that TFL topped the world's best restaurant list more than once certainly gives Keller a hell of a lot of leverage in the restaurant world.

                                    TFL strives to keep the restaurant as exclusive as possible - how else can you account for the ridiculous reservation system, the ridiculous price increases just over the past couple of years (currently $240/person, excluding wine), etc.? Removing itself from OpenTable only further proves this - if you're going to get a reservation, by God you're going to have to work for it.

                                    FYI, I have seen an immense amount of recent press regarding "hard to get into" restaurants - TFL has readily been part of this discussion.

                                    1. re: jrhsfcm
                                      ML8000 RE: jrhsfcm Apr 25, 2007 01:31 PM

                                      I heard TK is going to build a hotel/inn on the lot across the way (big empty lot) from TFL. I'd imagine if you stay there you'd get a res at TFL.

                                      1. re: ML8000
                                        foodiegrl RE: ML8000 Apr 25, 2007 03:00 PM

                                        Yeah, so long as you don't need a restaurant reservation to make a hotel reservation...
                                        We were at Ad Hoc this weekend, and management was decidedly more noncommital about their burger joint expansion. Sounds like it's still a long ways off.
                                        Per the original poster, they should check opentable.com at the stroke of midnight (be sure to have your credit card data copied in your clipboard for quick pasting into the form).
                                        OR they can leverage a few local concierges. The Villagio and Auberge du Soleil have good working relationships with the French Laundry. Don't forget to call 2 months to the exact calendar date you wish to dine at 10:00 AM PST (start dialing at 9:58 AM). For example, you'll call tomorrow morning at 9:58 AM to get reservations for June 26 only. June 25th tables have come & gone, and they won't open the books for June 27th yet. If you don't get in, you should always sign up for the waiting list. 2 months is a long ways off, and many people have to cancel or reschedule.
                                        Hope this helps!

                                        1. re: ML8000
                                          Non Cognomina RE: ML8000 Apr 25, 2007 05:57 PM

                                          The saga of the proposed inn is chronicled in the Yountville Sun (local paper) on a weekly basis. The plans for the inn have not been approved by the town council. However, if the inn does get built, the idea is that you can only stay at the inn if you eat at TFL. Since there will be fewer rooms than there are covers in any service at TFL, the inn is sure to be more difficult to get into, since its a secondary booking after you get a dinner res.

                                        2. re: jrhsfcm
                                          Robert Lauriston RE: jrhsfcm Apr 25, 2007 02:54 PM

                                          I think the odd reservation system results from Keller not wanting to spend more money paying people to talk with the hundreds of people who are disappointed every day by not being one of the lucky few.

                                          1. re: jrhsfcm
                                            eatzalot RE: jrhsfcm Apr 25, 2007 03:46 PM

                                            I only meant the French Laundry itself, small business with large demand.

                                            Situation resembles that of Chez Panisse around 1980 when it had become such a phenomenon, and opened and closed its reservation books exactly a month in advance, people dialing in frantically. ("But they don't post the fixed menu until a week in advance! How can I know if I'll like it?" was a common complaint.) Though it was a very different kind of restaurant experiences and yes the Laundry has raised prices more than Panisse did.

                                        3. re: jenpalex
                                          melly RE: jenpalex Apr 24, 2007 04:39 PM

                                          A friend of mine here in Sac got in thru Open Table on June 2nd today.

                                          BTW..the private dining room manager wanted me to sign a contract and send $1500.00 up front before she'd reserve the private room. The menu isn't different so I guess the higher price is "for the priviledge". I decided I didn't want to sign a contract for lunch. I understand the deposit, of course.

                                          1. re: melly
                                            jrhsfcm RE: melly Apr 24, 2007 04:59 PM

                                            Now it's back up. *scratches head*

                                            Is it typical for restaurants to bounce on and off OpenTable like that? I don't think I've ever seen that before.

                                            1. re: jrhsfcm
                                              Carrie 218 RE: jrhsfcm Apr 24, 2007 05:15 PM

                                              Could just be pending availability... It might "disappear" if there is nothing available.

                                              1. re: jrhsfcm
                                                foodiegrl RE: jrhsfcm Apr 25, 2007 11:48 AM

                                                Since it's a "real-time" service, I think restaurants disappear when they lose their internet connection. I've had this happen before, only to have the restaurant pop up again later. Maybe the night crew shut off the power or something?

                                                See their explanation here: http://www.opentable.com/popups/reso_...

                                        4. TonyO RE: melly Apr 25, 2007 06:12 PM

                                          I wonder what would happen if for one precious week, no one called for a reservation ?? I'll take my $240 and eat elsewhere 4 - 5 times and be very happy in doing so. Once again, the primary appeal is to have what someone else wants (in this case, a reservation to FL).

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: TonyO
                                            eatzalot RE: TonyO Apr 26, 2007 07:00 AM

                                            Demand for this business did increase after it became widely known, but that could just be because more people knew about it. That's a basic dilemma: Once a restaurant (or a wine or anything else in limited availability) is famous, it's also scarce. French Laundry was doing very high-end food for some years before it became this popular (just as an exceptionally good wine doesn't become so because a critic praised it). This reminds us of the good value of restaurants that are up-and-coming, or that have local, rather than national, esteem. You can find others on forums like this one.

                                            1. re: eatzalot
                                              Robert Lauriston RE: eatzalot Apr 26, 2007 10:13 AM

                                              It's true that the French Laundry was a popular wine country destination for years before Keller bought it in 1994. The old chef was Sally Schmitt, who retired to Philo and opened the Apple Farm aka Bates & Schmitt.

                                              But it was Keller who made the place world-famous and impossibly popular, and that didn't take long. By April 1995 it was so hard to get a reservation that Herb Caen called it "the toughest culinary ticket in the Bay Area."


                                              That year it was also nominated for Best New Restaurant of the Year in the James Beard awards, and got three stars from Michelin and four from the Chronicle.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                eatzalot RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 26, 2007 11:49 AM

                                                Again I'm sorry for apparent ambiguity. I should have written that the Laundry _under Keller_ took years to become as popular as it is now. 10 years ago it was busy, but fewer people knew about it.

                                                Also the Schmitt family remains active in other gastronomic enterprises, including the Boonille Hotel (reborn after its scandal in the 1980s). One of the youngest working members of that very creative family is a culinary Wunderkind now in a fast-track career in one of the major hospitality chains.

                                                "[In 1995] it was also nominated for Best New Restaurant of the Year ... and got three stars from Michelin..." I agree but I would rephrase it "and later got three Michelin stars in the first Bay Area guidebook, late 2006." And deserved the praise, in my view.

                                                1. re: eatzalot
                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: eatzalot Apr 26, 2007 01:44 PM

                                                  I suppose it's a matter of degree. In 1995, as that Herb Caen quote demonstrates, it was already tough to get a reservation. In 1996, Keller got the James Beard award for best chef in America. In 1997, Ruth Reichel called TFL "the most exciting place to eat in the United States" in a NY Times review. Someplace in there the two-months-ahead speed-dial game started.

                                                  My bad on the Michelin stars, I misread Herb Caen's item. Of course nobody in California had any until last year.

                                                  1. re: eatzalot
                                                    hi standards RE: eatzalot Nov 9, 2007 10:40 AM

                                                    Wow! I just read this thread and I thought I was the only one who was aware of the Schmitt family and their earlier version of the FL. My kids grew up with those kids and I hear the youngest - won't mention names - is a culinary wizard!!! It is so cool that the family is getting some props!

                                                    1. re: hi standards
                                                      Paul H RE: hi standards Nov 9, 2007 12:06 PM


                                                      1. re: Paul H
                                                        hi standards RE: Paul H Nov 9, 2007 12:31 PM

                                                        Actually, I misspoke, one of the younger grandchildren - Perry.

                                                        1. re: hi standards
                                                          eatzalot RE: hi standards Nov 9, 2007 03:39 PM

                                                          Yes, he sure is. Perry was in charge of the Boonville Hotel's kitchen for a while. Aged 18. I was surprised to hear that because he seemed older, more mature.

                                                      2. re: hi standards
                                                        B J Visalia RE: hi standards Nov 21, 2009 12:52 AM

                                                        Yes, the Schmidt family is long associated with food. Perry < Johnny (+ sister Terry) < Don / Sally (+ Don's brother Emil) < two more gens of Schmidt meat packers in Visalia, Calif. As I recall, their first names were Mr or Sir! I grew up two blocks from Don and his family. He was an honest, hard working / thinking / playing, conscientious and industrious guy then as he has been over his lifetime and as were and are his parents and children before and after him. Values run as deep as foods.

                                                        So, The French Laundry is but one blip in the paths, roads, and even freeways of life's schema for the Schmidt family over the past 130 years or so, all in California. I tend to think Sally is the glue that held the family so tight while never serving glue at the table at home or at any of their restaurants.

                                                        Perry's dad Johnny ran the Boonville Hotel and the Kitchen, Johnny himself being a master chef.

                                                        Don and Sally worked very well together in the business world as well as at home - they have five children - and with well placed values raised those kids to be productive, honest citizens. They and their daughter Karen + hubby Tim Bates own and run Bates & Schmitt Apple Farm in Philo / Anderson Valley / Mendocino Co. Daughter Terry does some marketing at the San Francisco Food Mart for the Apple Farm, this being beyond her profession.

                                                        130 years minimum. Pretty cool, I would say.

                                                        1. re: B J Visalia
                                                          lizziee RE: B J Visalia Nov 21, 2009 07:27 AM

                                                          Perry is now the chef at Etoile - Domaine Chandon's restaurant.

                                                          1. re: lizziee
                                                            rworange RE: lizziee Nov 21, 2009 08:57 AM

                                                            Then he is amazing. I ate there recently and was blown away.

                                              2. gemster RE: melly Nov 9, 2007 10:18 AM

                                                Does anyone know if the reservation situation has improved/changed at all lately?

                                                1. n
                                                  NorthofNapa RE: melly Nov 21, 2009 12:29 PM

                                                  The rule is that they begin taking reservations 60 calendar early. not two months. from there the "books are open" so if there is a slot open 27 days away then it is fair game for anyone calling if they have not booked it with a waiting list.
                                                  They begin taking reservations at 10am and there is ALWAYS 1 open table slot available per day... Good Luck

                                                  1. cosmogrrl RE: melly Nov 22, 2009 01:03 PM

                                                    It's just for this reason I never want to eat at FL. If i am about to drop $350 on my meal alone, I feel that I should be able to get a reservation when it is available and not have to jump through hoops to do so. A restaurant is a part of the service industry, and this system is bad service to my mind...

                                                    33 Replies
                                                    1. re: cosmogrrl
                                                      Melanie Wong RE: cosmogrrl Nov 22, 2009 01:09 PM

                                                      You can get a reservation whenever they're available. Problem is, it's quite rare for any to be available once the day's seats open up for reserving, the place is so popular. But it does happen sometimes due to cancellations and you can call whenever you like to check. Good luck.

                                                      1. re: cosmogrrl
                                                        oysterspearls RE: cosmogrrl Nov 22, 2009 01:37 PM

                                                        Do you have a better suggestion to ease public demand? Therefore improving bad service. Just curious.

                                                        1. re: oysterspearls
                                                          Paul H RE: oysterspearls Nov 22, 2009 01:45 PM

                                                          I suppose they could raise the price further.

                                                          1. re: Paul H
                                                            oysterspearls RE: Paul H Nov 22, 2009 02:30 PM

                                                            Or at the very least hanging up on every third caller. LOL

                                                            1. re: oysterspearls
                                                              rworange RE: oysterspearls Nov 22, 2009 03:06 PM

                                                              Everything is so carefully orchestrated at the FL, I find it hard to believe this isn't part of the planned hype ... which works obviously. If they really wanted to ease the reservation system I'm sure they would find a way. I don't think it is the customer's role to suggest to a buckzillion dollar restaurant ways to make the system better. If they wanted it otherwise, they have the money and resourses to make it so.

                                                              1. re: rworange
                                                                Ruth Lafler RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 04:29 PM

                                                                How do you suggest they deal with the fact that they have fewer seatings available than people who want them? What ever they do, once the seats are filled, they are filled.

                                                        2. re: cosmogrrl
                                                          celeryroot RE: cosmogrrl Nov 22, 2009 02:43 PM

                                                          The system is not unusual , other high end restaurants do the same.

                                                          1. re: celeryroot
                                                            rworange RE: celeryroot Nov 22, 2009 03:09 PM

                                                            Other than El Bulli, name one.

                                                            It is not the two month thing, it is having to hit it EXACTLY at midnight ... while hopping on one foot and shouting please, please, please ... ok, that last part I made up but it does make customers jump through extrodinary hoops.

                                                            1. re: rworange
                                                              Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 03:37 PM

                                                              I suspect midnight is about the granularity of opentable's maximum advance reservation limit option, not TFL's choice.

                                                              Chez Panisse has the same approach, except 30 days, though they usually don't get sold out instantly except for special dinners such as Bastille Day.

                                                              I don't think any famous and popular restaurant has come up with a solution for all the tables booking up as soon as they're available other than raising the prices until that doesn't happen.

                                                              1. re: rworange
                                                                oysterspearls RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 04:20 PM

                                                                At midnight? You mean if using Open Table correct? I would assume the majority of reservation's are made the old fashion way via phone. I do recall a time when only a very few tables were available through Open Table but that may have changed.

                                                                I must admit I have always been puzzled by those suggesting there must be a better way to improve the FL reservation system. I have found it has much more to do with math then any solution to be found in the restaurant industry.
                                                                If you visit the southwest board here on Chowhound you will often find those angry over the long wait at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. Again the question is there must be a better way. My response often is they could take reservations but be aware you may very well have a two month wait like the French Laundry.
                                                                I see no other explanation then it is a matter of supply and demand and to the day the demand slows there is no solution. In the case of Per Se I know for a fact demand is not what it use to be before the economy slowed therefore opening up more tables. Not much but at least somewhat.
                                                                With the ability to serve only so many diners a day without otherwise jeopardizing quality I see no easy answer.
                                                                I have worked in the restaurant industry all my life. Some of the very best and side by side with chefs like Bernard Loiseau. And I certainly have no idea how the FL can do anything more then they do to satisfy the overwhelming demand from a world wide base seeking a table.

                                                                Of coarse maybe some people personally believe the reservation system is some deliberate deceiving business plan to promote attention. In that case I'll refrain from discussing it as nothing I can say we change ones opinion.

                                                                1. re: oysterspearls
                                                                  Ruth Lafler RE: oysterspearls Nov 22, 2009 04:32 PM

                                                                  There are just a few reservations available on Open Table: one for lunch, I think, and two for dinner.

                                                                  Let's put it this way: it isn't the French Laundry who makes you make the reservation the first minute it's available, it's all the other people who want it more than you do.

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                    oysterspearls RE: Ruth Lafler Nov 22, 2009 04:38 PM

                                                                    Exactly my point and could not agree more. Unfortunately I may have been a bit more long winded. LOL

                                                                  2. re: oysterspearls
                                                                    daveroo RE: oysterspearls Jan 9, 2010 11:59 PM

                                                                    Thanks oysterpearls for bringing some sense to this. As I read through the posts over the last 2 years on the subject it was painfull to see how many miss the obvious and rant and rave about the evil FL reservations conspiracy - is it because we have restaurant backgrounds that we understand ? Most simply....supply/demand. Thomas Keller is the only - ONLY - Chef in America who holds to 3 Michelin at 2 restauants at the same time. The entire world wants in a restaurant that has what - 32 tables that only turn over once an evening. Oooh, I just meant to say thanks and I went on this stupid rant ! Cheers everyone, and yes it is worth the wait :-)

                                                                  3. re: rworange
                                                                    JasmineG RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 06:10 PM

                                                                    There are no hoops to jump through. You make a reservation for French Laundry exactly the same way as you do for any other restaurant. The difference is that more people want the reservations for TFL, so it's harder to get them. Now, if you want to talk about hoops to jump through for reservations, I think that Momofuku Ko has cornered the market there: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                                                                    1. re: JasmineG
                                                                      rworange RE: JasmineG Nov 22, 2009 06:38 PM

                                                                      Seriously folks, this is NOT like getting a reservation elsewhere. There are tons of threads on this board begging for hints about how to get a reservation for French Laundry. As I said, the FL certainly has more smarts than I do to change the way things go ... if they wanted to. Why change it? That whole feeding frenzy to get a reservation just feeds into the hype.

                                                                      Ok ... no fancy, schamcy analysts, just off the top of my head. HIRE ANOTHER DAMN OPERATOR TO PICK UP THE PHONE. Even if that answer is sorry, it is booked. That nonsense of having to use speed dial repeatedly just to get through... nonsense. They don't have the money with all they charge to hire someone to man the phones. PUSH THE SCHEDULE OUT. Golly gee, I'll bet computers can handle things like that these days.

                                                                      I'm sorry, to me the scramble to get reservations there just show a total lack of respect for the customer. Then again, if you are sitting there on the phone at midnight punching redial over and over ... maybe you don't deserve respect.

                                                                      Just imagine the possibilities of some high-paid consultant that could find a real solution.

                                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                                        Melanie Wong RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 06:45 PM

                                                                        "I'm sorry, to me the scramble to get reservations there just show a total lack of respect for the customer. Then again, if you are sitting there on the phone at midnight punching redial over and over ... maybe you don't deserve respect."

                                                                        No one at FL is answering the phone at midnight, so only stupid wannabe customers would be dialing then. That's the time that openings go on Opentable.

                                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                                          skwid RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 06:48 PM

                                                                          And just what solution would the high paid consultant come up with? The only thing is to make the hold line longer and given how many people seem to dial in this would eventually fill up and you would end up with folks complaining just like you have now (and higher costs for TFL). I personally think the way they do things is fine. As long as there are more people who want to go than space at TFL there will always be this problem. At Per Se on this coming Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. there is a table for four available on Opentable. So at Thomas Keller's other 3 star restaurant you can fairly easily get a reservation (I think parties of 4 or more are fairly easy to get a reservation at Per Se). IIRC the reservation setup is much the same at Per Se as The French Laundry.

                                                                          1. re: rworange
                                                                            oysterspearls RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 07:11 PM

                                                                            I'm still not grasping this midnight thing.

                                                                            I guess hiring another operator to tell people no is a option but hardly a solution on how to fit 200 or more people into 95 or so seats nightly. Honestly though, I can't say I would be any more disappointed if on the phone 15 minutes then 5 minute's before being told nothing was available.

                                                                            1. re: oysterspearls
                                                                              skwid RE: oysterspearls Nov 22, 2009 07:27 PM

                                                                              The midnight thing is when the reservations on Opentable.com are available. This must be when opentable puts the reservations for the next available day up. I always thought the opentable reservations became avialable at the same time as the regular reservations (10:00 a.m. two months ahead of time). Btw, if you are a table of 2 there is a reservation available on Opentable for November 24th at 8:45 p.m. PT. Likewise for tables of 4 there are reservations for November 29th at 7:30 p.m. (prime reservation time IMHO) and December 17th at 9:00 p.m.. If I were so inclined I would grab the November 29th reservation and see if I could get the extended menu.

                                                                              1. re: skwid
                                                                                oysterspearls RE: skwid Nov 22, 2009 07:54 PM

                                                                                I had the extended menu a number of years ago. The meal lasted over six hours and I left the restaurant after 1.am. Needless to say it's somewhat a blur as the wine pairing was also extended.

                                                                            2. re: rworange
                                                                              JasmineG RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 08:55 PM

                                                                              People want hints on how to get a reservation at TFL because everyone wants to eat there, and they have a limited number of seats. Hiring someone else to answer the phone isn't going to change that. I don't understand why you think there's something crazy or complicated about getting a reservation there: you get reservations the same as for anywhere else, looking on Open Table or making a phone call. It's different from other places because the reservations fill up a lot faster, but there's no solution to that other than expanding the restaurant. I'm not sure what the point of a consultant would be, there's still going to be way more demand than supply.

                                                                              1. re: JasmineG
                                                                                rworange RE: JasmineG Nov 22, 2009 09:47 PM

                                                                                Whatever the time is that phone calls start to be taken, I am not aware of another restaurant in the US where you can't contact them easily by phone.

                                                                                To each their own. If people enjoy being treated that way by a restaurant ... well, enjoy.

                                                                                I'm just amazed that people thinks this is acceptable behaviour by a business. Like I said, works for them.

                                                                                1. re: rworange
                                                                                  Melanie Wong RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 09:49 PM

                                                                                  Maybe French Laundry should set up a call center in Bangalore to handle the demand?

                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                    daveroo RE: Melanie Wong Jan 10, 2010 12:06 AM


                                                                                  2. re: rworange
                                                                                    celeryroot RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 10:01 PM

                                                                                    As I said , this type of system has been utilized for years at many places.It is not unique to FL. About 10-15 years ago FL start time was 10am Pacific.

                                                                                    1. re: celeryroot
                                                                                      Melanie Wong RE: celeryroot Nov 22, 2009 10:08 PM

                                                                                      It's not hard to get through to FL on the phone if you call in the afternoon. Just not during the early hours when callers are trying to get a first crack at the reservations.

                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                        celeryroot RE: Melanie Wong Nov 22, 2009 10:37 PM

                                                                                        You are so right.......I have always called direct with no problem except early .

                                                                                    2. re: rworange
                                                                                      JasmineG RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 10:23 PM

                                                                                      You can contact them easily by phone, just not between 10 am and 10:30 am. Babbo is just as difficult, and they only reserve out 30 days, and there are tons of places in New York and LA that for which reservations are just as impossible. At least at TFl it's first come first served, not any fuss about who you are and only offering you a 5:30 reservation or a 10pm reservation -- that's behavior that I find much more frustrating and disrespectful to guests.

                                                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                                                        Ruth Lafler RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 10:39 PM

                                                                                        What "behavior" is this? Not installing a call center to handle dozens of phone calls at the same time? The French Laundry does not demand that you call at any specific time -- if you call some afternoon and they have a reservation open you can have it -- as was pointed out in other posts, there are some slots showing right now on Open Table. The fact that if you don't call by a specific time is not caused by the restaurant but by the fact that people call in and snap up the limited number of reservations when they become available. Sure, they could open the books up farther in advance, but that would just lead to someone calling and being told that they can have a reservation in the summer of 2010. At least this way people have a shot at getting a reservation at a specific date when they're in the area.

                                                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Nov 23, 2009 07:54 AM

                                                                                          "Whatever the time is that phone calls start to be taken, I am not aware of another restaurant in the US where you can't contact them easily by phone."

                                                                                          New York Magazine had an article about the five most difficult reservations in the US. TFL was only #4.


                                                                                          Chez Panisse used to be the same way and still is for special dinners like Bastille Day. They start answering the phone at 9:00am and if you want a table you have to keep hitting redial until you get through (if you're lucky). They have some tables on Opentable now, but they go immediately, too.

                                                                                    3. re: JasmineG
                                                                                      Ruth Lafler RE: JasmineG Nov 23, 2009 08:27 AM

                                                                                      I just read a post on the NY board about someone who couldn't make their reservation for tonight at Momofuku Ko and was trying to get someone to take their reservation so they wouldn't have to pay the $300!!!!! cancellation fee!

                                                                                    4. re: rworange
                                                                                      celeryroot RE: rworange Nov 22, 2009 09:56 PM

                                                                                      Del Posto , le bernardin to name just a few.Many in Vegas , this type of system has been around for many years .Some are 30 day ,some 60 some more. If you do not like it do not go .

                                                                                      1. re: celeryroot
                                                                                        lizziee RE: celeryroot Nov 23, 2009 06:26 AM

                                                                                        FL could do what Gordon Ramsey did to us in London - insist you arrive at 6:15 - the staff has a meeting in the main dining room until almost 6:50 and then exactly at 9:00 we are told to "retreat" to the cocktail area for coffee as the table is booked for another party. FL doesn't overbook - there are just so many seats a night and they never rush you. To me, that is true customer service.

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