When I think of Bond, one of the most vivid images I have is the scene where he’s sitting in the bar doing the shot with the scorpion on his wrist.
That’s gotta be one of the coolest scenes (by one of the coolest character’s) we’ve ever seen right?
Yes I know it’s bit unrealistic, but go with me here.
See all those people watching in the background? And how much do you want to bet the bar owner heard about this?
Do you think if our friend James walks back into that bar next week he get’s whatever table he wants?
Thank God that’s not the only way to get a VIP table in a place.
It does however, get us in that “out of the box” mindset we need to be in sometimes to reach a goal.
Over the last few months I’ve been doing some serious research on social skills.
After being in San Francisco for a year, and recognizing that I’m an introverted extrovert, I’ve made some progress in the social anxiety realm of things.
I’ve also noticed a lot of things about the way people interact with each other, and despite the American sense of being polite to everyone on the surface, I have noticed some rather significant missing areas in the social fabric (specifically in communication) that holds us together.
I’ve realized this year that social skills are a much larger part of what makes people successful than we normally care to admit or realize.
Over the last 3-4 years I’ve made an on purposes attempt to try and improve these skills and see if there was a way to incorporate them into real world business success and personal life goals.
In this post, I’ll review what I’ve learned in a few personal trials about restaurants and fine dining. This has probably been tried before, and it does work, if you work it.
If you want to stretch your personal skills, impress clients, friends or a date, give this a shot. It’s also awesome if you just enjoy eating good food.
Hacking The Best Table In The House
Today we’ll explore the ways you can hack the system at a restaurant to get the best table, area or the best service at a restaurant.
These hacks typically work best when the restaurant is high end or fine dining.
This works best when the head chef is a bit on the snobby side.
The Foody Method
Warning: This method is pretty straight forward, and takes advanced people skills and active listening.
Here’s how it works.
Find a few restaurants that you know have a proud head chef. You can usually find these in your area just by looking if the restaurant is fine dining. Use Google, Yelp and anything else that will tell you what level the restaurant is at.
Your goal is to find and create a relationship with the head chef.
If you’re “his guest” you’ll get the best table, service and sometimes ever free service.
If you can’t find out who the head chef is on the internet, or on their website, call the restaurant and ask. then hang up. No need to talk to him over the phone.
Remember the most effective forms of communication are those that revolve around trust. How do you create trust in a new relationship? Spend time with them, preferably in person.
In person communication is the most effective way to build trust and communicate.
Show up at the restaurant, and show up with someone else. At least 1 other person, not a big group. Show up just when the restaurant opens so you can catch the head chef when he’s not busy.
When the receptionists greets you, say something like this,
“Hi there! (Big smile) I’m here with my friend (Introduce your friend) and we’re both big foodies. We’ve dined at some of the best restaurants in the world, and have been wanting to try yours.
But before we do, we have a couple of specific questions about how the chef prepares the food. Could you grab him for a second so we can ask?”
She’ll probably go and get him.
When she does, introduce yourself again and your friend and say a similar version of the same thing.
“Hi chef. I know you’re busy. We’ve been wanting to try your food for a very long time. We’ve heard from a few friends that it’s phenomenal, but I gotta admit, we’re pretty big foodies. We’ve been on a quest for months to find the best food in town.
We dine out a lot, and take friends everywhere, so food is a big deal for us.
We were hoping you’d tell us what you’re passionate about, and if you ever cook anything off of the menu? We love that type of stuff!”
Flattery goes a long way. You’ve told him you’ve heard his food is great, and you’ve also asked him to talk about his passion.
People LOVE talking about their passion.
Listen intently to him, and be willing to try what he’s’ having. If you ask a couple of follow up questions, he’ll probably send you the dish he’s talking about during your dinner.
Try and engage him in a 5-10 minute conversation until he can tell you’re really interested in what he’s talking about. Then tell him…
“Ok, that sounds amazing. we’m coming back on Thursday night, which table should we sit at?”
He’ll walk over the to the receptionist, and ask her to reserve you a table that’s the best in the house.
if you’re wanting to eat that night, tell him and eat. You’ll get the best table in the house, and the best service, probably with the chef himself bringing the dish out to you.
The Client Method
This approach is going to take longer than the previous method discussed, mainly because it requires you to build a long-term relationship – and that doesn’t happen overnight. It also requires you to invest in the relationship by being a patron of that restaurant first.
Here’s how it works.
You remember that list of places you had earlier? Well, take some of those on the list and go over there. You will want to build a relationship from the ground up, so start with building a relationship with the customer-facing staff.
Introduce yourself as a foodie and equip yourself with ways to prove it if necessary. If you’ve written blogs about other restaurants and food reviews before, show them or mention it to them (“Have you read this blog? I’m a regular contributor for their food section”); name-drop people of note that you’ve recommended to their place if applicable Get them to help you out with the orders and be very nice to them.
Once you finish your meal, tell your server how much you loved the meal and have them call the restaurant manager and the chef to express your gratitude. Introduce yourself as an avid foodie and that you will be giving your recommendation for the restaurant to everyone you know.
That should get you on their radar.
Show your loyalty – keep coming back.
So far, the process sounds similar to the previous technique. But this is where it differs: instead of getting in by flattering the chef, you build an actual relationship with the restaurant – as a loyal client.
You will have to invest both time and money for this, but there are ways you can save money while increasing your value as a client. One of the ways you can do that is to bring your business meetings to that restaurant. Chances are, the meeting is billed under your company, but because your name is on the reservation, you establish yourself as an important customer.
Get to know the people – and be genuine.
When not having a business meeting, you will have to invest yourself. Take your family, friends or special someone to that place, or treat yourself – and take the time to get to know the staff and get closer to them. You don’t have to engage them in lengthy conversations – try this, for example: “How did you get into the food industry?”
Now remember this: because they are in the hospitality industry, they will be polite and answer any questions you may have as long as they are not too intrusive or disrespectful. But if you want to build a real relationship with them, you need to show genuine interest.
Listen really well.
The first step to showing genuine interest in them is to listen. Pay attention to what they’re actually saying! They’re giving you their full attention and their service for the next hour or two, so the least you can do is listen.
Try to remember the details of your conversation with them. These will come in handy in the next point I’m about to make.
Give them something personal.
The idea of reciprocity can be applied to social: if you want someone to give you what you want – in this case, a free VIP table – you need to give them something in exchange. Conversation-wise, this could be offering information that they need. For example, if you’re talking to a server who wants to take his career to the next level, you might suggest training programs or offer to give your assistance in the form of a recommendation – the bigger you offer, the more they will be inclined to give you what you want in return.
You can also offer to support their restaurant by bringing in customers. “I’ll get you a specific number of guests on this particular day, and in exchange I want access to your VIP table,” you can say. It’s an offer they won’t be able to refuse because you will be giving them more business in return. Get your family, friends, colleagues and their friends to come to the restaurant!
Businesswise, give them a generous tip. You’re more likely to get the best seats in the house if the staff knows you tip well. That’s the language of reciprocity they understand.
If you’ve been a loyal patron for a few weeks now and you still aren’t getting the table you want, then it’s time to communicate as boldly as possible: ask to be seated in the VIP table. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve been bringing them a of of business.
It would help if during your business meetings, for example, you already request “I’d like the best table in the house, please” and emphasize how important your clients are. This will help them remember the next time you come back with, say, a date. The bolder you are about asking for what you really want when you bring in more business, the more you will be remembered as a VIP.
Creating That Connection
There are times when you hear people say things, and they seem to be exactly what you’re thinking, almost like you’re aligned, and the other person knows it immediately. Try to create that. Remember: the key to getting a VIP table no matter where you are in the world is to have strong connections inside the restaurant. Work on building those relationships and you’ll be getting the best seats soon.