When it comes to getting a reservation at a hot restaurant, the maître d’ holds all the cards, and more importantly, all the tables. Spoiler: You will be judged.
Three of the most prominent London maître d’s –Fernando Peire of the Ivy, Jesus Adorno of Le Caprice and Silvano Giraldin of Le Gavroche — recently spoke to Bloomberg Business about how to score that coveted dinner ressie and what they look for in clientele.
First, you have to fit in. “You have got to decide on the evening who feels, looks and sounds like they are going to fit in with the party. If they don’t, and you can afford to turn them away, you turn them away,” explains Gibraltar-born Peire, who is a director of the Ivy and known for his TV appearances as the Restaurant Inspector
Second, you have to look and sound right. “You need to look pleased to be there. You need to give a good impression. You listen to what people have to say. You ask the right questions. You dress appropriately. Don’t overdress. Be friendly. It always helps if you talk to staff. There are regular customers at the Ivy only because they are charming to the staff,” share Peire.
Consistency and longevity are key. Maître d’s look for loyalty and at your cumulative dining record in their establishment. “You need to go back to places and have a list of, say, five restaurants you support regularly. And when you go back to those restaurants, you’ll be treated like a friend.”
Being a celeb doesn’t mean you will have a leg up (or a chair to sit down on.) Peire recounts a story about how Sir Alec Guinness was turned down when calling to book a table for dinner, accent and all. Giraldin explains that even the likes of the Rolling Stones were turned away because of dress code issues.
And lastly, attitude can make you or break you. If one is snooty, be prepared to be turned away. However, Peire reminisces, “Someone rang and said, ‘This is Michael White. Do you have a table in 10 minutes?’ I didn’t recognize the name – he was a producer – but the way he asked meant either that he knew his name carried weight or that he had no idea where he was calling.”
Turns out the maître d’s instincts were spot-on by his acceptance of the last minute request. The producer showed up with a pink-suit-clad David Bowie, wife Iman in tow.
“They were utterly charming and the pair of them cut a real dash. They made everybody’s night.”