Correspondence with coworker regarding French Laundry Reservations. [I added a few links, and omitted the names of the innocent.]
From: xxxx xxxxx Sent: Monday, February 18, 2008 4:46 PM
To: xxxx, xxxxxxx x
I just called and they said reservations are only accepted two months ahead, so that means I have to call back on Sept. 3rd.
From: xxxx, xxxxxxx x
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2008 4:47 PM
To: Lasko, Michael B
french laundry. we want to go on nov 3rd but they said we can only make reservations 2 mths ahead. are we screwed? what kind of game are they playing?
Here's all I know about making a reservation at the French Laundry.
1) They take reservations 2 "calendar months" in advance*
2) Reservations for parties of 8 to 10 are accepted 6 months in advance**
3) Reservations are accepted by phone starting at 10AM (two calendar months in advance)***
4) Reservations are accepted on Open Table (two calendar months in advance)****
5) Be flexible*****
6) Consider a new career******
7) Lower your expectations******
*How they go about calculating calendar months is open to interpretation. Today, they will be taking reservations for April 20th. This strikes me as 2 months + 1 day...is this because February only has 29 days, or is 2 months + 1 day the norm. At any rate, I would recommend trying to call on September 2nd [for your November 3rd reservation].
**Parties of 8 to 10 are considered private parties, and are likely more expensive than the standard $240/pp + tax, tip, coffee and doughnuts, and drinks. But if you're worried about money, this is not the place to be eating.
***Start calling at 8:30 or 9:00...you might want to take some PTO on September 2nd, as it might take a couple of hours to get through. Of course, all the tables will be gone by the time you get through, so taking PTO is a waste of time. If you're staying in an expensive hotel in Yountville, the concierge can take care of this step for you (Some people say that's the best way to get a reservation).
****Only two tables (for parties of 4) are available for dinner on Open Table...they also have one table for two, but it's for lunch only (they only serve lunch on Fri, Sat, Sun, if memory serves). If you make a reservation for 4, and decrease it to 2, you get charged $100/pp. But if you consider the average cost of a meal, that's only a 16% surcharge...not too shabby. If you can make lunch, the menu is the same...you can easily spend 5 hours there, so it's like eating an early dinner, too. Again, the exact time they start taking reservations is subject to interpretation. I've heard midnight, midnight EST, and 9 AM. I recommend staying up until at least midnight 2 months + 1 day out (and have a few friends at other computers doing the same thing) to try for that single table. You do need to give them a credit card to make the reservation, and you will be charged if you modify the reservation (I do not know if they charge you for cancelling a reservation).
*****As with lunch above, the laws of probability state that the more days you are available, the more likely you are to get a reservation. Many people schedule their vacations around a French Laundry reservations. Try calling on August 31st for an October 31st reservation. When there is no availability, will the person answering the phone make you call back the next day, and the next day? Maybe, but he/she does have the power to make things happen for you. (See below).
*****Many (otherwise unconnected) people in the Valley get jobs (or have their kids get jobs) at the French Laundry just so they can make reservations. At one point, they offered an internship for aspiring chefs/restaurateurs (you had to pay $1200, or something like that for a week of service). I see no reference to this currently on the website, but they are hiring for "real" positions.
******Consider one of the many other fine Thomas Keller Restaurants. Bouchon is where all the French Laundry servers eat (though that might just be because no one else in the Valley serves dinner until 1:00 AM). Ad Hoc is the poor man's French Laundry, and [Burgers and Half Bottles] a gourmet hamburger place will soon open in the same building as Ad Hoc.
PS: I might add this treatise onto an existing post on the subject. Which brings up another point, reservations at the French Laundry are easier to come by in the off season. November is not peak season, but it is by no means the off season.
PPS: You seem to have a habit of providing me with email addresses of people you probably don't want me emailing...Hmmmn.