You can get in! If you’re patient
If you don’t have a reservation at a Main Street restaurant tonight or tomorrow, you can still get in. Fewer corporate events this year means more availability. But there are some things you should know.
First, if you live in Park City, mention it. It won’t give you an advantage at every eatery, but many set tables aside for locals.
"I hold a small dining room for local people," said Jean Louis Montecot, owner of The Jean Louis. "I take care of my local people first. They’re why I’m here."
Kevin Valaika, owner of Shabu, said if he recognizes you, he’ll take care of you.
Bill White Enterprises keeps a database with their reservations system. They try to protect regulars, but even if people aren’t, mentioning you’re a local when making a reservation can sometimes help, he said.
Second, eat early or really late. No amount of local pride can create room where there is none at 7:00 p.m.
"At times we will end up with a two-hour wait between 6:00 and 8 p.m.," said Cindy Hedding, manager at Cisero’s.
The Sundance Film Festival crowd tends to eat later, Valaika said.
"Timing is everything," Montecot emphasized.
Third, be patient and persistent.
Fewer corporate reservations this year has freed up about 1,000 seats in Park City restaurants, estimated Valaika.
Zoom general manager Steve Solomon said he always leaves counter and bar seats open during dinner. The turn-over for them can be as much as 90 minutes, but walk-ins typically have good success, he said.
Valaika keeps 20 seats open on a first-come, first-serve basis. Cisero’s doesn’t take reservations during Sundance, but they do keep a waiting list and serve a certain number of people off the list per hour.
Hedding said she’s wary of reservations because she’s found business people reserve tables in several different restaurants and then decide which to go to at the last minute without canceling at the others.
The silver lining of such practices is that even restaurants that think they’re booked can fit people in at the last minute.
"There’s always the chance of no-shows, films running late and cancellations," Jones said.
If people leave a cell phone number with the Bill White restaurant they want to get in, there’s always a chance they’ll get called to fill a last-minute opening.
Fourth, know where you’d like to eat and contact them as early as possible.
Riverhorse Café is booked most evenings during Sundance, and has been for a while. But at noon the day before the scheduled reservation the restaurant calls to confirm, said owner Jerry Gilomen. If a person wants to get in this weekend, or anytime this week, try calling just before 1 p.m. the day before to get a cancelled table.
Just a warning, this weekend’s waiting list already has 50 people on it. But ask to be on the list for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday if you can wait, he said.
The last piece of advice is to take what you can get.
Kevin Henry, manager at the Wasatch Brew Pub and Cantina, only expects a 45-minute wait this weekend since the Sundance crowd comes mostly to drink, not eat, he said.
He serves burgers, and not $40 entrees, but that’s been a safe business plan the last few months with the recession hitting pocket books, he said.
The restaurateurs would like clients to also remember this week is important to them financially. This winter the slow weeks have been especially slow. Gilomen said he’s off about 10 percent from his three-year average. Valaika said he’ll be hurting if there’s not another snow storm in the next three weeks.
The week after Christmas was good for them, and they’re counting on Sundance to be as well.
In addition to putting up with Hollywood people reserving tables they don’t intend to use, Jean Louis Montecot said he’s also frustrated with people who want a table to hold a business meeting.
He’s adjusted his menu to only offer three-course meals this week so no one can order soup and then sit and talk for four hours.
"I’m not a coffee shop. There’s one next door. At night, I’m offering a dining experience. I want Park City to be known for that. People are coming from New York City, France and Italy and I want them to see the dining experience here, not to hang out," he said.
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