You’ve chosen where you’re going on your vacation, and figured out where to eat. How do you snag a table at some great restaurants? Hopefully my tips and considerations will help you plan your trip, and make it as tasty as it can be!
1. Make reservations ahead of time
Luckily many restaurants these days offer online reservations, so it is pretty easy to book. I found that booking at least one month ahead of time was enough to snag a seat.
For Michelin-starred restaurants, try booking a reservation 6-8 weeks before and see how their reservation systems operate. There are restaurants that only allow you to book 1 month ahead of time, so time the booking precisely one month before the date you want. I get to the website at midnight in their timezone because that’s typically when online bookings becoming available.
Note: For those looking to dine in Japan, it is not as easy to make reservations to some popular / famous restaurants. I won’t go into this within this post and recommend reading this Eater article if that’s where you’re going.
2. Check restaurant hours/days open, and national holidays
As you’re planning your trip and meals, make sure to check the restaurant closures. Restaurants will close for national holidays, but sometimes they also close during the week (e.g. in Lyon most restaurants were closed every Sunday and possibly Monday). They will have this information on their website or Google.
Additionally, depending upon what country you’re in their dining times can be different. For example, in France most restaurants open earliest at 7pm whereas in America most restaurants are open by 5:30pm.
Note: In case you are in Lyon on Sunday, fear not! There are some restaurants that are still open, including a few traditional Lyonnaise bouchons like Les Lyonnaise Bouchon. It is worth walking around and seeing what is open as well.
3. Consider weekday lunch if dinner isn’t available
Granted some restaurants don’t have availability at all, but there are some places that also offer lunch and not just dinner. It’s worth it to see if the restaurants you want to eat at also have lunch options, especially if it’s your priority to try out a famous or popular restaurant. That is how we ended up at Takao Takano in Lyon!
4. Double check the reservation emails you receive
I don’t find this to be a problem in the US since the only time you get an email from a restaurant is to provide your reservation details. However, restaurants in France will email you to let you know they’ve received your request to dine there OR that you’re placed on a wait-list since they are completely booked.
I know this sounds unnecessary to say, but as a person who made the mistake twice now, it’s likely valuable to someone else too. 🙂 Make sure to read those emails so you know if you’ve actually received the reservation. This happened to me with Jérémy Galvan where we showed up to the restaurant just to learn that we couldn’t dine there. Eep.
If you don’t end up making reservations, no need to fret! Part of traveling is sometimes unplanned exploration and you can still snag seats at some of these restaurants without reservations. Never hurts to go in and ask.