With 90 percent of restaurants failing within the first year, you’d think that restaurateurs would be doing everything possible to impress customers and get them in seats. Well, not necessarily. Some restaurants thrive anyway, despite ridiculously long waits for reservations (if reservation requests are returned at all).
While making customers jump through hoops to get dinner reservations might backfire at many restaurants, it hasn’t for the most exclusive, sought-after dining establishments in the world. As challenging as it may be to secure reservations, people still clamor to get in. Being famous doesn’t always help, either. President Obama faces the same difficulty getting a reservation at Minibar in Washington, D.C., as Joe Blow from Pittsburgh.
At Schwa, in Chicago, it can take three weeks to get a reservation, but you need to be lucky and time it right, calling when the restaurant’s voicemail isn’t full (good luck with that). And if you like your dinner plans to be surprising, this is the place for you—Chef Michael Carlson is known for closing the 26-seat restaurant suddenly and unexpectedly. At the very least, you may want a back-up plan if you happen to get reservations here.
That three-week wait is minor compared to getting reservations at Talula’s Table, in Kennett Square, PA. If you want to try their farm-to-table menu, set your alarm to call at 7 a.m., exactly a year in advance of your dining plans. And that still might not get the job done, depending how many people want that spot.
Are you willing to wait a decade to get one of the most coveted dining reservations in the world? Chef Damon Baehrel hosts exclusive dinners for 20 at his upstate New York home. The “restaurant” is so backlogged with reservation requests that it’s at least a ten-year wait for those who made requests prior to April 2014, and all new reservation inquiries have been halted.
When you think of waiting more than ten years to get into a top-notch restaurant, chances are you wouldn’t envision that restaurant being at Disneyland. However, the exclusive Club 33, located on park property, requires a pricey membership to get in, and even if you’re willing to cough up the dough, there’s currently a 14-year wait for new memberships.
Perhaps the most difficult reservation of all is for Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Often cited as the best restaurant in the world, it fields 20,000 phone calls a day requesting reservations. And those of you who haven’t secured a spot yet are basically out of luck—Noma will close its doors at the end of this year. If only they'd allow you to bring your own table, then you might not need to wait!