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Question about French Laundry Reservation

rjf Jan 10, 2008 12:10 PM

Hi Chowhounders, I have a question and thought maybe you all could help me out. I somehow (miraculously) got a reservation at French Laundry through Opentable.com. Opentable says that they only book 2 parties of 4 people a night for French Laundry through their site, one at 5:30pm and one at 9:15pm. The reservation they offered me was at 6:30pm for a table of 4.

My co-worker was telling me a story of her friend's father, who got a FL reservation, confirmed on their answering machine ahead of time, flew up from LA, got a hotel room for the night and everything, only to be told he had no reservation once he arrived. So now I'm paranoid.

I tried calling FL but they are closed through January 17th, which is only a few days before my reservation. I feel doubtful I will be able to get through once they reopen due to the high volume of calls. I left a message on their reservation hotline asking them to confirm with me that my reservation is booked but I also feel doubtful I will get a response for the same reason.

So my question is such- Have you ever booked a table with French Laundry through Opentable only to have them deny it when you arrive? Or is the info on Opentable (about 5:30 and 9:15 only) old and perhaps they are booking for other times as well now? Am I worrying for naught?

Thanks. I'm just really excited about this and want to make plans (confirm with friends, book a hotel, etc) and don't want to go through all that only to arrive and be turned down.

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  1. j
    jsaimd RE: rjf Jan 10, 2008 12:38 PM

    I would contact OpenTable about the discrepancy on their site and see if they guarantee the reservation.

    FL in my experience didn't return calls during their break. We ate there on the first day they opened. The food was amazing, but the service I think suffered from the first day back first reservation of the night...

    1. sirregular RE: rjf Jan 10, 2008 12:42 PM

      Definitely, contact OpenTable.com and make sure they have the reservation correct. Let's just hope that someone didn't set their clock properly, or that it's 6:30 "your" time and not their time, and that all is well.

      My Blog: http://www.epicureforum.com

      4 Replies
      1. re: sirregular
        rjf RE: sirregular Jan 10, 2008 03:30 PM

        Thanks jsaimd and sirregular. Just sent Opentable an email, although on their site they say that all FL questions should go straight to the restaurant itself so I'm worried they'll just refer me back to them. We'll see!

        1. re: rjf
          Scott M RE: rjf Jan 10, 2008 05:31 PM

          I would expect the FL to call and confirm reservations. So if you don't get a confirmation phone call it would be a concern.

          1. re: Scott M
            rworange RE: Scott M Jan 10, 2008 06:43 PM

            According to the French Laudry website and OpenTable

            Confirmation Policy
            The French Laundry Restaurant asks that you call three days prior to confirm your reservation @ 1.800.944.1224.

            Vacation or not, I would think this line would be available three days prior to your reservation.

            I don't use OpenTable often. Don't they have the option of printing your reservation. Also if you click on 'my profile' there is a list of upcoming reservations. It should be on there and you could print that out as well.

            1. re: Scott M
              Adrienne RE: Scott M Jan 12, 2008 12:13 PM

              When we made a reservation (via the telephone), we received a confirmation email from reso@frenchlaundry.com -- maybe you could try contacting them there. Their email also mentioned that you can now make a res through opentable, so that is a good sign for you.

        2. norjah RE: rjf Jan 11, 2008 08:16 AM

          Our opentable French Laundry reservation was not at one of the listed lunch times and it was honored with no problems. Cancellations without waiting lists occassionally get put on opentable.

          2 Replies
          1. re: norjah
            Docsknotinn RE: norjah Jan 11, 2008 03:04 PM

            I've never had a problem with Open Table. It's not my favorite method but obviously with some restaurants there is just no other viable choice. I used them to reserve a table last week at another restaurant and they immediatly sent an email confirmation that I printed. The French Laundry only does two seatings so the info about times on their web site is accurate. I hope it works out for you. It's even harder getting a table for two! :(

            1. re: Docsknotinn
              serenity0055 RE: Docsknotinn Jan 12, 2008 04:57 PM

              If you print up your confirmation on opentable of your FL reservation they will definitely honor it. I have never had a problem with opentable..I have been to
              Per se on opentable always bringing my printed opentable confirmation just in case. I wouldn't worry about it.

          2. r
            rjf RE: rjf Jan 15, 2008 11:02 AM

            Thanks everyone for your input. Opentable says it wasn't a computer error and that the restaurants control their spots so I'm just going to assume all is well and not stress out about it. I'm really looking forward to it!

            8 Replies
            1. re: rjf
              Docsknotinn RE: rjf Jan 15, 2008 12:44 PM

              I'd show up at 5:30 local time not 6:30. Best of luck!

              1. re: Docsknotinn
                JillPickle RE: Docsknotinn Jan 25, 2008 04:39 PM

                So the FL told me to call in December on Jan. 18 to make a reservation for the next two months. No one answered on that day. I called at least 20 times, my boyfriend much, much more (he likes to program his iPhone). Open Table was down as well. For the next six days I called and called and so did he and FL was either busy or did not return the messages we left. WTF? Is there some insider way to get a reservation at this place? I'm so disgusted I almost don't want to go. But I have a lot of fight in me, my curse.

                1. re: JillPickle
                  Adrienne RE: JillPickle Jan 25, 2008 04:43 PM

                  When I got my res, we called from 6 cell phones (for a res for 2, I just had people helping me) at the same time over and over --just hanging up on busy signals and calling them back again-- for 30 minutes starting at the minute they opened. On day 3 of this, we got a res. You just need to be persistent if you really want to go. I don't think it's a secret or a conspiracy or anything. I think as far as messages, you just can't make a res via a message, so they probably only return calls that ask questions, like for directions, etc.

                  1. re: JillPickle
                    Carrie 218 RE: JillPickle Jan 25, 2008 08:27 PM

                    While I am sure there are a mere *handful* of folks who have insider information to get reservations, for the rest of us, we are relegated to the phone number which has to be called relentlessly starting a few minutes before 10:00 a.m. and is a crap-shoot at best. Yes, it takes considerably perseverance AND flexibility. Just calling 90 days ahead of the exact date you are hoping for is no guarantee. The flexibility thing is very important -- many have known to call daily for weeks before getting a reservation... You only tried for six days!

                    1. re: Carrie 218
                      JillPickle RE: Carrie 218 Jan 25, 2008 09:42 PM

                      I see, I see now. This is the information I wanted. I'm not wasting my life calling them up anymore.Thanks, guys.

                      1. re: Carrie 218
                        Ruth Lafler RE: Carrie 218 Jan 26, 2008 08:39 AM

                        It's two months, not 90 days, but otherwise, yeah. It's not that they're being difficult, it's simply a question of supply and demand: they have a limited number of seats and seatings, and lots of demand for reservations. There are a couple of strategies, though:

                        --Be online on OpenTable, signed in with everything you need to make the reservation at exactly midnight (PT, I think) when the reservations open for the day you want (two months to the calendar date -- see below). Occasionally the OpenTable reservations aren't snapped up right away, so it's always worth checking.
                        --Shoot for lunch -- reservations are (slightly) easier, it's the same food and the same menu, and I frankly think it's nicer to be able to enjoy the garden and also to walk off your food and wine before heading home.
                        --They take reservations two months from the calendar date, which means there are some days when they are taking reservations for more than one day (i.e. on 2/29 they'll be taking reservations for 4/29 and 4/30, on 6/30 they'll be taking reservations for 8/30 and 8/31), which increases your chances. Note that 8/30 and 8/31 are a Saturday and Sunday this year, which means if you call on 6/30 you have four times (lunch and dinner for two days) the chance of getting a reservation then you would have on following day. Hmmmm... maybe I shouldn't have posted that on the web!

                      2. re: JillPickle
                        OldTimer RE: JillPickle Jan 26, 2008 09:26 AM

                        I'm not a super-foodie willing to mortgage the house for dinner, but from what I've read and heard, you might want to try Cyrus in Healdsburg. Many consider it to be equal if not superior to FL.

                        1. re: OldTimer
                          JillPickle RE: OldTimer Jan 26, 2008 10:19 AM

                          I got a reservation for next week. It entailed dialing their number, getting a busy signal, then my cell phone automatically redialing for about three minutes, then getting through to an automated message that put me on hold for thirty minutes and then getting through to a real person.

                          I read the paper while I waited and talked to my boyfriend. Not that difficult. But I was flexible with the weird day and time that was available.

                  2. bataille2 RE: rjf Jan 26, 2008 09:56 AM

                    we got dinner reservations through opentable for fl & had NO problems at all. this was two years ago. i believe they've always had the two dinner seatings. we got the early one & enjoyed the best restaurant meal i've ever had. this is NOT to say that it was easy getting the reservations. be happy you scored & enjoy.

                    1. eatzalot RE: rjf Jan 26, 2008 12:22 PM

                      One recent thread on Laundry reservations, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/392146 , cited a good WSJ article on hard-to-get restaurant reservations in general:


                      The WSJ article mentions a site devoted to Laundry reservation methods (a go-to reference on this subject for years) which has tipped people off about various then-current methods besides camping on the phone. In-person requests, local concierges, the open reservations policy for groups of 8 or more (no longer listed -- I wonder where that last one stands now). Any place so popular is bound to have this problem (Chez Panisse was the same, 25 years ago when it was the area's great novel restaurant).

                      Also -- I'm sure it's been pointed out before, but for anyone new to Yountville -- it's Yount like font, not fount. (I knew a member of that Yount family.)

                      1. omotosando RE: rjf Feb 27, 2008 04:17 PM

                        Went to Open Table at 3:40 p.m. today, Wednesday, and searched for the next available reservation for 4 people (there are two of us, but I read that Open Table only books for 4, so I figured if I got reservations, we would find two other people to join us). A reservation for this Sunday, lunch at 12:15 p.m. popped up. Wow, that was pretty easy after reading about how hard reservations are to come by - perhaps beginner's luck.

                        Now, I hope it's worth it after reading all these FL has gone downhill threads. I'm flying up from L.A. and if the meal is not memorable given the stiff tariff, I will be very disappointed.

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: omotosando
                          Carrie 218 RE: omotosando Feb 28, 2008 06:11 AM

                          I think lunch is infinitely better -- you can relax a bit more, get the same meal, and then have the evening to recuperate! Enjoy!

                          1. re: Carrie 218
                            Ruth Lafler RE: Carrie 218 Feb 28, 2008 09:27 AM

                            I agree completely that lunch is the way to go -- especially this time of year when by dinner time it's too dark to enjoy the gardens. It sounds like you lucked into a cancellation, although lunch reservations are always (slightly) easier to get than dinner reservations.

                            The most recent review of French Laundry posted just this morning was glowing. I think the only negative comments have been from (1) people for whom it just isn't their thing, and (2) people who are jaded and don't find the food cutting edge enough. Don't forget to ask your waiter in advance for the coffee and donuts dessert, which is only available on request.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              omotosando RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 28, 2008 11:40 AM

                              What is the coffee and donuts dessert, and why is it worth requesting? Also, I am not a coffee drinker - can I get a tea and donuts dessert?

                              1. re: omotosando
                                Robert Lauriston RE: omotosando Feb 28, 2008 12:01 PM

                                The "coffee" component is a semifreddo.

                                1. re: omotosando
                                  sylphi RE: omotosando Feb 28, 2008 01:04 PM

                                  I just came back fron FL for dinner this past Sunday (got a reservation the first day I called...guess I was lucky). Dinner was great. Although like others have stated in the past, you could get something quite comparable if you go to other places in the city such as the Dining Room. Anyway, I requested for the coffee and donuts. While I thought the donut part was okay, I thought the "coffee" part of it was the best. It was better than the dessert they had on the menus. The top was foam much like that of an esspresso and the coffee part was like a custard/mousse/pudding.

                                  1. re: sylphi
                                    omotosando RE: sylphi Feb 28, 2008 01:33 PM

                                    How intense was the coffee flavor? In other words, is this a coffee lovers only dessert?

                                    1. re: omotosando
                                      Carrie 218 RE: omotosando Feb 28, 2008 03:20 PM

                                      Do you like coffee ice cream or any coffee-flavored things? If not, this dish probably isn't for you. For me, I prefer coffee-flavored desserts (ice cream, those hard candies, Opera cake especially!) over actual cups of coffee so for me, the Coffee And Donuts was a winner.

                                      1. re: Carrie 218
                                        omotosando RE: Carrie 218 Feb 28, 2008 03:56 PM

                                        Ah, I detest coffee flavors. So, either this isn't the dessert for me, or, on the other hand, perhaps it will convert me and expand my taste horizons.

                                    2. re: sylphi
                                      scoopG RE: sylphi Feb 28, 2008 03:49 PM

                                      I've found the best time to get through on the phone is during the off hours - mid-afternoon say, not when they open up the phone lines! And yes lunch is much easier. I called once to asked to be put on a wait list during our 3-day visit, this after having no luck ahead of time getting through by phone or with open table; only to be told by the receptionist, "How about lunch tomorrow at 11:45?" Also, the FL does not do two seatings - they do a staggered seating: 4-6 people at the opening, 2-6 people 15 minutes later, then 2-6 people 15 minutes after that etc.

                                      1. re: scoopG
                                        dorazi RE: scoopG May 30, 2008 01:44 AM

                                        I am about to start my "quest" to get a table for 4 at the FL and i have read that people have been lucky with using the "next available table" function at opentable.com. Unfortunately, every time I try it, I do not have this option on the page, it just tells me no tables available. I searched the help section and it does mention this next available table but i still cannot find it.

                                        Anybody have any ideas or suggestions?

                                        Thanks a lot.

                                        1. re: dorazi
                                          Paul H RE: dorazi May 30, 2008 04:05 AM

                                          If there are no tables available in the search range, none will show up. They will only show up if there is a cancellation. Keep trying. Also, call the restaurant every morning @ 10. Good luck.

                                          1. re: Paul H
                                            toni lorenzo RE: Paul H May 30, 2008 06:26 AM

                                            Does anyone know if the French Laundry is closed during the first week in August? Someone mentioned that they close for about 10 days every summer.

                                            1. re: toni lorenzo
                                              Paul H RE: toni lorenzo May 30, 2008 06:31 AM

                                              Traditionally, TFL closes in January. If you want a definitive answer, why not call and ask?

                                              1. re: Paul H
                                                Carrie 218 RE: Paul H May 30, 2008 06:49 AM

                                                Their closure is traditionally two weeks in January and one week between the end of July and beginning of August. Exact dates need to be confirmed, obviously.

                                                1. re: Paul H
                                                  Ruth Lafler RE: Paul H May 30, 2008 11:44 AM

                                                  Because it's impossible to get through on the phone?

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                    Paul H RE: Ruth Lafler May 30, 2008 11:59 AM

                                                    Clever answer, BUT since I have TFL on a quick dial button I just called to ask about the summer closure. It took 3 minutes on hold. They will be closed from July 28th through August 6th.

                                            2. re: dorazi
                                              sunnyand72 RE: dorazi May 30, 2008 02:54 PM

                                              The next available table function only looks 30 days out (from today's date). If you're trying to book 2 months out already (or even 1 month out), the link will not be there. The function works well for snagging last minute cancellations (I here lunch on Friday is a popular meal to cancel).

                                2. sunnyand72 RE: rjf May 30, 2008 02:51 PM

                                  For anyone else who stumbles across this thread: the number of tables listed on opentable (2 parties of 4 for dinner;1 party of 2 for lunch; 1 party of 4 for lunch...or whatever it says currently) only applies if you are trying to make reservations 60 days out. They frequently fill cancellations (especially in January) using opentable. If you search for today's date, then use the "find next available day" link, you will sometimes be pleasantly surprised (especially in January).

                                  Everything else I know about the French Laundry can be found here: http://takealotofdrugs.blogspot.com/s...

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: sunnyand72
                                    dorazi RE: sunnyand72 Jun 9, 2008 01:10 AM

                                    Mission accomplished, almost.
                                    I have been trying to get a table for the past few days and my experience was that opentable is very difficult to get, both days I was trying 30 secs before 12am PST time and it said i was exceeding the 60 days and instantly it switched to there are no tables available. My friend and I were trying from different computers and lines. The first day, I was redialing for an hour and a half, till I got a hold of someone and of course I only managed to put my name on the waiting list. Yesterday, four of us were redialing from 1 min before 10am PST and my boyfriend managed to get through after 19mins, then he was on hold for 15 mins untill he spoke to someone and there was only a table left for lunch. I am so excited nonetheless.

                                    Has anyone been to TFL for lunch? I have read that the menu is the same but I am not 100% sure.

                                    Thanks for everybody's tips and suggestions.

                                    1. re: dorazi
                                      lizziee RE: dorazi Jun 9, 2008 07:11 AM

                                      Menu is exactly the same at lunch and dinner. Lunch is lovely - enjoy.

                                      1. re: lizziee
                                        dorazi RE: lizziee Jun 9, 2008 07:50 AM

                                        thank you! ;-) I have to wait 2 months now!

                                        1. re: lizziee
                                          sunnyand72 RE: lizziee Jun 9, 2008 11:49 AM

                                          Looking at reviews on this board, it seems that far more negative (or mediocre) reviews occur at lunch than dinner. The menu is the same...I am told the staff is the same. I suspect spending 4 or 5 hundred dollars per person hurts a little more for lunch (than dinner), raising the potential for disappointment.

                                          1. re: sunnyand72
                                            Ruth Lafler RE: sunnyand72 Jun 9, 2008 01:30 PM

                                            Hmmmm ... my experience is that most people recommend lunch. Same food, but more leisurely (they don't turn the tables), more time to enjoy the garden, and more time to recover before driving home or toddling off to a B&B for bed.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                              Carrie 218 RE: Ruth Lafler Jun 9, 2008 01:55 PM

                                              I concur with Ruth -- my experience at lunch was more than delightful and I really appreciated the fact that I had the rest of the evening to relax and digest the amazing meal (versus going to bed an hour later!)

                                              1. re: Carrie 218
                                                Adrienne RE: Carrie 218 Jun 9, 2008 05:01 PM

                                                Me three. I had dinner there and wished afterwards that it had been lunch -- we were so full that it would have been nice to have more hours to digest... and you certainly can't eat anything else the same day no matter what meal it is.

                                                1. re: Adrienne
                                                  Absonot RE: Adrienne Jun 9, 2008 06:16 PM

                                                  Me four! I've had dinner and lunches there, and by far the lunches were more leisurely, more enjoyable. I like having the natural light and the chance to wander the garden between courses.

                                            2. re: sunnyand72
                                              Paul H RE: sunnyand72 Jun 9, 2008 06:41 PM

                                              I''m number five. I've had both dinners and lunch at TFL, and much preferred lunch, for much the same reason as others posting here. I'd much rather walk out of the restaurant with the evening ahead, than walk out at midnight in a food coma and then trying to sleep.

                                              1. re: Paul H
                                                rappel75 RE: Paul H Jun 9, 2008 06:53 PM

                                                I had lunch last week at FL. I was happy it was lunch because I was stuffed and needed five hours to digest. Since it is the same type of experience at lunch and dinner, you might be happy to eat lunch there rather than dinner.

                                          2. re: dorazi
                                            homecook1950 RE: dorazi Jun 16, 2008 08:49 AM

                                            We recently went to the French Laundry for an 1115am lunch. Fabulous. I posted about it on my blog site. Lunch menu has different courses than dinner menu. Warning- food is fabulouys- be careful with your wine selections as that can cost more than the food.

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