So you want to be a hot shot at the latest hot spot?
While in school, I worked in some of the hottest restaurants and hotels in L.A. One of my first jobs was an assistant position at a top-talent agency in Hollywood where we booked reservations for big agents and celebrities. Now, I dine at some of the finest restaurants in town with clients and friends, so I know a thing or two about the scene.
Restaurants aren’t just a place to eat–they represent a lifestyle and are one of the best places to see and be seen. They are where business deals are done, connections are made and great moments are created. Choose your spots wisely. From trendy popups to hotel dining rooms to the legendary establishments, all restaurants are not created equal.
A word to the wise: pick places that match up with your lifestyle and start putting in effort. Here’s how to stand out from the crowd and get in anywhere you want.
1. Build familiarity fast.
Be strategic in your approach. Here is how to create familiarity with the decision makers (or the people who influence the decision makers):
Nurture the relationship:
Pick one or two people and build the relationship like you would with a friend. Treat them well because they will soon be one of your best allies. Remember, you aren’t working with a job title. You are working with a person with goals, hopes and dreams. Treat them that way. Make eye contact when you thank and tip them. Call people by name and ask about their lives when appropriate.
People can smell desperation, and it will work against you when you try too hard to get the best table if they don’t know who you are. Build familiarity first by sitting at the bar and connecting with the bartender and the staff. The key is to connect while you get to know the place.
Keep going back. They will notice. A repeat customer is a VIP most of the time in the restaurant business. Pick a few restaurants and go there often.
2. Getting others to book for you.
The fastest way to get in on the action is to go through someone who is already in. Use your resources. There are people around you that have access. Here is how to access them:
People already on the list:
Ask a work associate, socialite friend or popular neighbor to book your reservation for you. Even better, go with them. The best way to get in is to be attached to the people who are already in.
Luxury hotel concierge:
Getting to know the luxury hotels around you and the staff there is necessary. I live in NYC and don’t work out of an office, so I often use high-end hotels to hold meetings with people and have drinks. In the process, I get to know the important waiters and concierge who know everyone. Take care of them and they will take care of you.
The special event planner:
If you are thinking of planning a large party, call up the manager or event planner of the restaurant and tell them you thinking of organizing a very special party in the future and would love to experience the restaurant to see if it is right for the occasion. If it is not right for you, tell them you are going in another direction because of the theme but you loved the place so much you want to bring your other friends there. Win-win.
3. Give them a reason.
You need to find that hook that pulls someone on your side. Most of the time, it’s something that can benefit them. You must give them a reason to treat you like a VIP because it doesn’t just happen on its own. Here is how to make it happen:
Be associated with someone influential:
Similar to what I mentioned above, be strategic in your first few encounters with the staff at a restaurant. It can be another VIP or a member of the actual staff. The key is to be associated with someone who is in-demand or someone on the inside.
This one is kind of obvious but you need to know how (and who) to take care of. Always take care of the person who takes care of you, even if they don’t make the decisions. If they are on the inside, they have some influence. Go through them to get in next time. Whomever you make your connection with is your ticket. Don’t get too cocky—I can’t tell you how many times a bus boy has delivered what another couldn’t.
Make a special trip:
Most people don’t make the effort to personally introduce themselves. If you want to be treated like a VIP, you must get noticed in some way. It has proved to be highly effective when people go into restaurants and meet with the manager or gatekeeper to explain the situation ahead of time. They will respect you for it because you respect them enough to take time out of your day to meet with them.
Final thought: these tips don’t just apply to restaurants. The more strategically you think and the more you nurture your relationships, the easier it will be for you to become a VIP in every area of life.