Any successful business traveler knows the value of meeting in person and how deals often come together over drinks or during the final minutes of an amazing basketball game.
Face time is just half the formula. Clients need to be entertained at venues designed to impress.
The extremely trendy restaurants—the ones that would really wow a client—book up 30 days in advance. But business meetings often come together at the last second. So here are some tips about how to get access to that impossible restaurant, show or sporting event.
Todd Hunt, the assistant head concierge at the posh Crosby Street Hotel in New York, told me that most restaurants, baring a very select few, keep a section of tables reserved for walk-in customers. You might have to sit at the bar a while to be seated, but you will get a table.
“Once you’re in the restaurant, they aren’t going to send you home,” Hunt says. “They wouldn’t tell you that over the phone if you call tonight.” But it works.
Still, the idea of waiting at the bar for an hour with an important client might not be so appealing. That’s where it’s time to have your hotel’s concierge pull some strings. Most major restaurant groups have a central booking office and a good concierge knows somebody there and can probably get you a confirmed table. If you are flexible about the time—or willing to sit at the bar—your odds improve even more.
“We call the contact with whom we have established a relationship. It could be either the maître d’, general manager, the chef or sometimes a top reservationist. It’s all about the relationship,” says Charisse Fazzari, the chef concierge at the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco. “Business travelers are generally savvy when it comes to approaching the concierge about their favorite restaurants. Concierges at high end hotels are professionals at their craft and will go above and beyond when treated as such.”
The more advance notice, the better the odds are that the concierge can meet your request. Don’t wait until you arrive at the hotel. Call or email in advance.
Fazzari, who has worked for nearly 16 years at the Mandarin Oriental, adds that probably the worse question one can ask is: “Do you have any pull?”
For concerts and sporting events, there is StubHub, a site that resells tickets. There is a markup but the tickets are insured to work and the company has offices in big cities and even on-site teams at really big events like the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
If that doesn’t work, turn again to the concierge.
Our ticket brokers work miracles for us,” Fazzari said. “We also have other contacts who can make it happen for our guests. It could be the manager of a sports team, the producer of a popular Broadway show, or our well connected concierge colleagues, or even a bouncer at a concert.”
Crosby Street’s Hunt said that brokers can help get access not just to concerts, games and shows but to a book signing that got sold out or to a hot rooftop bar.
“Guests might not be ok with the price, but we’ve never had to say no,” Hunt says. “For a price, we can get access.”
Travelers don’t always realize how exactly popular the hottest show or restaurant really is and how hard it can be to get access.
“I always explain the demand for what they’re asking for so that they can have realistic expectations,” says Maria Sutherland, a concierge at the W Union Square in New York. “Then I do my best to make it happen. The thrill of the hunt never gets old.”
Even if you aren’t staying at a fancy hotel, it doesn’t mean you can’t use its concierge. A good concierge knows that your company might have travel restrictions but—if they perform well—you might stay there on vacation.
Hotel guests usually take priority, so be patient and willing to wait. If you travel regularly to a specific city, develop a relationship. You never know when it will come in handy.
“We’re always willing to help others out,” Hunt says.
And don’t forget to tip, especially if that concierge pulls off a miracle for you.