Planning a party can be fun, but doing it right requires organization and creativity. Social graces have gone through a major transformation since the days of Emily Post, so it's time for a book that brings you up to date on modern decorum. Along with advice from celebrities and experts in the field, Party Confidential: New Etiquette for Fabulous Entertaining answers the questions people want--and need--to know about everything related to a party, from planning to attending. It addresses topics that are not covered in traditional etiquette books and takes a new approach to covering the basics. You'll learn all the essentials, like how to:
* Invite someone last-minute
* Handle unexpected guests
* Accomodate dietary requests like vegan or kosher
* Leave a party early
* Ask if you can bring a guest
* Respond to an RSVP--and when
* And much, much more.
This is the only book you need to be a consummate host, as well as a perfect guest, at every party.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|File size:||520 KB|
About the Author
Elizabeth Harrison and Lara Shriftman are the principals at the public relations, special events and marketing firm Harrison&Shriftman, with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The special events division of their company has produced many highly publicized events, including hotel, restaurant and store openings, product launches, nmovie premieres and charity events. Lara spends most of her time in Los Angeles. Together, they co-authored Fete Accompli!: The Ultimate Guide to Creative Entertaining and have been touted as experts in entertaining by Glamour, Elle, Vanity Fair, The New York TImes, "Extra," "E!," and :The Today Show."
Elizabeth Harrison lectures at the School of African and Asian Studies, University of Sussex.
Read an Excerpt
PARTY PLANNING 101so, you wanna throw a party? here's how
IMAGINE THIS A gorgeous garden, twinkling with candlelight, and beautiful flowers blooming. Servers in white dresses circulate with trays of Champagne and delicious tidbitslike a sinfully delicious puff pastry stuffed with a smidge of cheese and charcuterie. Couples congregate on plush white sofas and sip cocktails by the bar while discussing the latest Britney Spears brouhaha and, wait, where did you get that dress? I must have it! As the evening charges on the tunes heat up and couples bounce onto the dance floor. Now that's a party.
SOUNDS AMAZING, RIGHT? Trust us, it is. Unfortunately, the mere thought of putting together even a cocktail party for the neighbors can put some hosts into a cold sweat. Relax, take a deep breath, and listen up. Throwing a bash is simple, easy, and most of all, fun, yes, fun! To illustrate the point, we've distilled the finer points of party planning into ten easy steps.
TEN NO-FAIL STEPS TO A FAB FÊTE
1. WHAT'S THE SCOOP? There are thousands of reasons to throw a party: a birthday, half-birthday, anniversary (wedding, one year since you quit smoking or kicked the coffee habit, lost twenty-five pounds, and so on), holiday (Halloween, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Jewish New Year ... there's even Columbus Day!), the summer solstice, winter solstice, upcoming wedding (engagement, bachelorette,bridal shower), award-show viewing of any kind (Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, People's Choice, VH-1 Fashion Rocks, MTV VMAs, and more), a new job ... any momentous occasion worth saying woo-hoo!
2. CONCEPT Pick a theme, whether it's a color or a full-on dress-up extravaganza, and go with it. Some of our favorites include: Leather and Lace, Golf Pros and Tennis Hos, Denim and Diamonds, CEOs and Secretary Hos, 70s, 80s, 90s, Dress as Your Favorite Celebrity, Barbie and Ken, Old Hollywood, RollerSkating à la Boogie Nights, Beach Party, Vegas Casino Night ... anything goes!
3. ORGANIZATION PLUS We can't emphasize this aspect more: the key to throwing any successful event is to be organized. Keep track of every single detail and we promise, your head won't implode! Create a master list that details each and every component, from the guest list to the vendors to the flowers.
4. THE GUEST LIST Before you can get the word out about your fabulous, not-to-be-missed event of the millennium, you have to decide who and how many to invite. Is this a small, intimate gathering? A big blowout? Do you need a host committee? If you have a guest of honor, be sure to discuss who they want in attendance. Mix it up; invite new acquaintances and old faves so guests extend their social network. And don't forget to overinvite! Out of every ten guests, plan on two no-shows. And always, always confirm guests. Not only does confirmation serve as a reminder to them, but ensures their attendance!
5. MONEY TALKS Okay, you know why you're partying and who you're inviting. Now you need to figure out how much you can afford to spend. Again, organization is important. Put together a dream list of everything you'll need to pull this baby off and then estimate how much it will cost, then add 10 percent. Also, when constructing your budget decide what is the most important aspectis it invites or Cristal?
6. SPOT ON Location is everything! It could be your living room, backyard, the local park, the hottest new club in town, a swanky hotel suite, or a classic restaurant, like Mr. Chow, Dan Tana's, Hamburger Hamlet, or Cipriani's. Take into consideration how much space you'll need to accommodate the guest list and what your budget can handle. Be creative when choosing a location; think of a place where your guests will be delighted to spend the night.
7. NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH If you decide to throw your bash at home, there are some basic steps you won't want to forget. Namely, notifying the neighbors! The rebuffed girl-next-door could bring an end to your night, so let them know of your plans well in advance. Better yet, invite them over so they're a part of the merriment or send a fabulous gift beforehand to butter them up.
8. THE A-TEAM Make sure your staff knows what is expected of them. This includes hired staff (catering, valet, servers, cleaning, and more) as well as the staff at a location such as a restaurant or nightclub. If you're doing it at home, hiring help is still a must, even when you're strapped for cash (your nephew would kill for an extra fifty bucks, wouldn't he?).
9. GOOD VIBES You don't have to be a professional party planner to create a cool, interesting space. Think about your theme and what you can do to make it come to life. Consider the décor, lighting, music, and any extra-special touch that will make your gala the greatest ever.
10. LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL Most important, make sure that you are enjoying yourself, because if you're not, you can be certain your guests aren't having any fun, either!
Always use unscented candles at dinner parties; an overpowering scent can compete with the luscious smells coming from the prepared meal. Plus, you never know when a particular scent will turn a guest's stomach. At cocktail parties or any other kind of event, feel free to pick scented candles, but pick one single light fragrance and stick with it. Don't mix green tea candles with vanilla spice; separate they are lovelybut combined? Not so much!
WHAT MAKES A GOOD PARTY?
Ever wondered the secret of the best party in town? It certainly depends on the type of party you are throwing and who you are inviting. Take a tip from our hunky Hollywood men about town, Harry Morton and Hugh Jackman.
"Numero Uno. Hot girls. You can absolutely never have too many. Rule #2: Copious amounts of alcohol. You need to loosen everyone up. Rule #3: Amazing music. And last, top it off with flattering lighting. It can make a six look like a nine."
"Having shots served to the guests at the door as they arrive."
"People, music, food, and locale. All of the above should be great with preparation. The operative word is 'best.' The best of people, music, food, and locale."
Take a tip from one of Hollywood's greatest hostesses, Dani Janssen, and make a sure statement about what you expect from your guests. This doyenne of Oscar night throws an annual after-party that is the most coveted invite in town. She crafts (and cooks!) a late-night dinner for Hollywood royalty like Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, and Billy Bob Thornton. The day of her party she never answers the phone, which is her way of sending the no-cancellation message. In fact, to cancel, or worse yet, be a no-show, on this once-a-year event means you may be deleted from the list.
So how did Dani cultivate this implicit set of rules? It's simpleshe creates a sensational evening and is tactfully honest about what she expects from her guests. Remember, it's your party, so you call the shots!
MUST DINNER PARTY INVITES BE RECIPROCATED?
As party planners, Lara and Elizabeth encounter this issue more times than they can count. They throw and attend countless parties, both business and personal. As a rule, you shouldn't expect a return invite unless you are going out of the way for a particular guest, perhaps by accommodating extra guests or something along those lines. If you're in a position to reciprocate an invite, consider the type of event you are planning. Is it big? small? intimate? Will the invitee mix with the guests you've already invited? If not, then wait for an appropriate occasion or take them out to lunch or dinner. Also, be aware of guests who invite you to an event because they want to attend your once-a-year Halloween Bash. If you don't want to feel beholden, then don't attend their party.
Bottom line, more important than responding with a return invite is responding with politeness; a handwritten thank-you card will do.
Afternoon tea is perfect for bridal and baby showers, birthday parties, Mother's Day, or whenever you're looking for an alternative to the cocktail party. This British custom dates back to the early 1800s, but the tradition gained popularity during Queen Victoria's reign and by the mid-nineteenth century, taking tea in the afternoon hadbecome an established practice, with a complex set of rules and etiquette.
Needless to say, planning or attending an afternoon tea can be daunting, so to straighten out the confusion that often accompanies tea, we went straight to the authority, Christian Gradnitzer, executive chef at Jumeirah Essex House. This New York institution features homemade breads, scones, pastries, and sorbet alongside an assortment of loose-leaf black, green, herbal, and fruit teas. Tradition states that the proper way to take tea is to select from an assortment of finger sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and Devonshire clotted cream, and end with a selection of sweets. That being said, there are a slew of dos and don'ts when teatime rolls around. Gradnitzer lays down the law for the proper way of serving and taking tea.
for the guest
"Never hold your teacup with your pinkie finger extended. This is considered rude in most social settings. Place your index finger into the handle of the cup up to the knuckle while placing your thumb on the top of the handle to secure the cup. The bottom of the handle should then rest on your third finger. The fourth and fifth fingers should curve toward your wrist.
"Do not clink your spoon against the cup while stirring your tea. Swish the spoon gently back and forth without touching the sides of the cup. When done, remove the spoon and place it on the saucer behind the teacup. Remember not to drink your tea without removing the spoon from the cup and don't sip from the spoon.
"Do not lift the saucer, only the teacup. When you take a sip of tea do not look around at the other guests, but lower your eyes so you can see what you're doing and not spill your tea down the front of your blouse or dress.
"The correct manner in which one eats a scone is the same manner in which one eats a dinner roll. Simply break off a bite-size piece, place it on your plate, and then apply, with your bread and butter knife, the jam and cream.
"Be sure to take small bites, since attending a tea is a social occasion and you will want to participate in the conversation without always having a full mouth. Chew and swallow completely before taking a drink of tea, since it is hot and is not meant to wash the food down."
for the host
"Afternoon tea food placement for a three-tier stand: top tier for the scones; middle tier for the sandwiches; bottom tier, sweets. The protocol of placing the scones on the top tier is due to the fact that during the 1800s, when the genre of afternoon tea first became popular and modern kitchen conveniences did not exist, a warming dome was placed over the scones. The dome would only fit on the top tier. The savories and tea sandwiches, followed by the sweets, were placed on the middle and bottom tiers respectively.
"Offer a wide selection of teas to satisfy everyone's taste: black, white, green, oolong, or blended teas. Present the available teas in a beautiful wooden display box; guests can open the glass bottle to smell the aroma of the tea before selecting one.
"Change the afternoon tea 'theme' according to the season. For example, Jumeirah Essex House serves a refreshing lemon-themed afternoon tea during the hot summer months while during the colder months a holiday-themed gingerbread afternoon tea is served.
"Serve with appropriate afternoon tea china. The teapot is designed with a lower rounded body to ensure the tea leaves have the proper room for expansion during the infusion process. The lower placement of the spout on the vessel allows for the tea to be poured without interfering with the leaves. A teacup is shallow and wider than a coffee cup, giving the beverage a chance to temper before drinking.
"Using loose leaf teas allows greater flexibility, letting the guest brew weaker or stronger tea as desired. A strainer is used to avoid having to drink the floating loose leaves."
TIPS FIT FOR A BUNNY BY MARY O'CONNOR
When it comes to parties and acting proper, there's one woman who's seen it alland by all, we mean everything. Mary O'Connor, with the help of her team, has been running the ultimate Playboy's world from her position as Hugh Hefner's secretary/executive assistant for thirty-five years. O'Connor is the gatekeeper to the Playboy Mansion, home of the most-sought-after parties in all of Hollywood.
So no matter what kind of party you are planning, O'Connor has the insight to help you keep your playboys and girls feeling frisky!
how do you plan the guest list?
"Over the years we have built a list of five to six thousand people. That actually may be a low number. But we send out about twelve hundred invites."
how do you handle requests for invitations?
"They all fall into different categories. Young girls who've never attended a party are asked to submit a picture and a driver's license. We don't need underaged people drinking at the parties. You can look really hot when you're sixteen. That's one thing. Then the floods of pictures start coming. Agents, publicists, get wind and they all start calling."
what if a guy wants to come?
"It's much tougher for guys. It can't be an ordinary guy. It can't be a pharmacist or a doctor. He has to be some sort of celebrity. If he wants to bring a friend, it depends on the person. And people's status changesit can go up or down. It is every guy's fantasy to go to a party at the Playboy Mansion."
what do you do when a guest brings an extra person?
"It depends. We've turned down celebs who have tried to sneak in extra guests in their car or even in their trunk. We've turned them away because if we don't stand our ground, we've lost."
how do you deal with bad behavior?
"Generally those people are escorted off the property. And how this is handled is important."
what about people who were out of line at a party and then want to be invited again?
"There is a fine line between getting into an argument, or saying 'We changed the list around, so it's not the same people. We want to give others a chance to come.' We try to finesse it that way."
what are your best party tips?
"Ambiance has a lot to do with it, as does the mix of a number of people. We like to serve grazing-type food, so people can eat while they drink."
what is your favorite party food?
"The best food is the food that keeps people moving. In other words, they can pick it up and move around, and a line doesn't queue up. All that said, the mansion is famous for its lamb chops. We do a thing with lamb chops that is like eating a lollipopthat is my favorite. We also have sushi, seafood, and all types of salads."
you have a lot of theme parties that are famous at the mansionthe pajama party, midsummer night's dream. tell us a bit about them.
"Theme is important with a party. You should always give people an idea of what they should wear. This past year we changed up the theme for a Midsummer Night's Dream. Hef decided it should be a Pirates of the Caribbean theme. Holly is a total Disney-ite. She loves everything Disney. Hef and Holly spent their sixth anniversary at the Disneyland Hotel in the Pirates of the Caribbean suite. For the first time we had outstanding male costumes. There was Captain Ahab, bare-chested guys, daggers, everything!"
how do you handle not dressing up?
"We don't allow them to come in. I take that back, it depends on who it is. If George Clooney came through the door and it was a sleepwear theme, I'd have him take off his shirt and give him a bathrobe. If he was wearing a tux, I'd have him remove his tie. I would admit George Clooney."
what is your biggest party regret?
"A long time ago, which we regret to the hilt, was when Cameron Diaz was coming to the mansion. She is such a sweet and loving person and is so much fun at parties. She called and was with a major rock band that night. She asked if she could bring them to the party. Hef said she could bring two or three of the guys in the band, but not the wholegroup. Well, she never came and she's never been back to the mansion. This was a big mistake. We want Cameron Diaz as a friend. I know now that I can say 'bring it on.' They are who they are, and they are good for us."
what is your best party ever, and why?
"I think that it's the smaller parties. When I'm talking small, I'm talking about three to four hundred people. You aren't bombarded by people. It's overwhelming sometimes, and I can imagine what it's like for the celebs who are there.
"My favorite party at the mansion is the Fourth of July party. It's an all-day event with hot dogs, popcorn, swimming, and watching the girls play volleyball. We have a Dixieland marching band and fireworks. There are fifteen minutes of choreographed fireworks that make you glad you live in America."
what are the rules for the girls?
"There used to be a rule that the girls can bring their boyfriends around on New Year's Eve, because nobody wants to be alone on New Year's. Hef has eased up on the rule, and the girls he knows are allowed to bring dates to parties."
Mary O'Connor's Top Etiquette Tips
1. Always RSVP.
2. Don't bring a camera. Respect people's space and don't ask them to take pictures with you.
3. Don't smoke pot at parties. We follow the air, find it, and that person leaves. If they need to get high, they need to do it on their own turf.
4. Don't overdrink, and don't make us have to nurse you.
5. Be respectful of the property. People lose sight of the fact that this is somebody's home. Some people can be so full of themselves that they are rude to other guests, servers, and bartenders. You have to remember that you are an invited guest just like when you went to your grandmother's house.
Hosting a party at a restaurant is one option because cooking, catering, cleaning, coat check, valetall these details are handled. But you're not off the hook completely. There are major details to be addressed.
When choosing a restaurant or nightclub, we love to pick a place that is a classic spota place that people know and love. Alternatively, look for a hot new venue or go with the unexpected and choose a place that no one is familiar with to make your event stand out. Another great option is to choose an ethnic restaurant and makea theme of the evening. Go with Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, or any favorite food. Often this route can make the event cost a lot less than having it at a trendy A-list spot.
Whatever type of place you select, be sure to think about the mood of the party. Do you want high energy? Then go with a dinner club. In the mood for something intimate? Look for a restaurant with a private room. Once you've selected the location, you'll need to scout the lay of the land on a pre-party visit so you know exactly what to expect. Make note of anything you might want to supply, like specially created menus or flower arrangements.
If the restaurant is booked ask to put your name on the waiting list or to be notified if there is a cancellation. Without begging shamelessly (remember, flattery will get you everywhere), engage the reservations manager and explain why you want the reservation and how important the table is to you and your guests. Another approach is to enlist a friend or acquaintance who frequents the restaurantconnections darling, it's everything! If they have a good relationship with the establishment, ask that they make a phone call on your behalf.
In addition to your waitstaff, be sure to tip the maître d' or host, valet, coat check, bartender, and anyone else who goes the extra mile to make your event enjoyable. For the waitstaff, the recommended tip is 15 to 20 percent, for exceptional service we suggest 25 to 30 percent. It's also especially considerate to write a thank-you note to those that went the extra mile. It'll make your next dinner a guaranteed success!
Table for Ten, Please!
• Make your reservation as far in advance as possible. The key to making your event successful is to establish a relationship with the person taking the reservation, whether it's the hostess, reservations manager, or owner.
• Be specific about the number of guests and the date and time of your party. Also, be sure to discuss in advance a preference for a specific table or location.
• Negotiate the menu and price beforehand. Not only does this simplify the bill but it also takes decision-making out of the hands of guests so they have more time to play!
• If you have a large group, consider signing a contract with the establishment in order to make sure everything is in writing and handled ahead of time.
• Provide the restaurant (including waitstaff, bartender, host, owner, and others) with a typed list of special requests. This includes items such as place cards, candles, cake, and so on.
• Always confirm your reservation two days before and again the day of the event.
• The day of the event you should arrive at least forty-five minutes before your guests to iron out last-minute details and bring additional items like gift bags, cake, centerpieces, etc. Inform the restaurant if you are running latenothing spells disaster like a canceled reservation! If for any reason you must pull the plug on your party, don't forget to call the restaurant. Most high-end restaurants keep tabs on no-shows and no one wants to be on the blacklist!
Be on top of the dress code. If you're not positive about whether coats are required, call the restaurant ahead of time so you can inform guests. No one wants to be the guy wearing the ill-fitting, crest-blazoned jacket provided by the maître d'!
When picking up the tab, make advance arrangements, either by handing over your credit card upon arrival, or negotiating an agreed upon price and menu. Whichever route you take, just ensure that no check is presented at the end of the meal. Don't forget to discuss gratuity and ask that it be included in the total amount. If you miss this step, make it a point to check the calculations to see if gratuity is already included.
turning the tables
Though you called ahead of time, the host just seated you at a table next to the kitchen door. You've been eyeing a plum table by the window and the seat you've got is the last seat you wanted in the house. What now?
First off, don't pout through your dinner. Politely ask the host if there is another table where your party can be seated. Explain that you really wanted that cozy booth or window perch in a sweet, soft manner. Do not take attitude! Do not demand! That kind of attitude may land you in the street. You might have to wait a bit longer for the more desired location, but if it means that much to you, make it work.The best plan of attack is to ask for a specific table when making your reservation.
Don't like the food? Be polite when sending it back! Don't throw your fork down in disgust and snarlthat's how you end up with a waiter or chef spitting in your meal! Simply call a server over and quietly explain that you ordered your salad with no tomatoes, the steak cooked rare, mushroom sauce on the side, or whatever is displeasing your palate.
At a party, it is important that guests be mindful of certain guidelines, both spoken and unspoken.
1. When you are seated, look at the menu right away and decide what you are going to order before chatting up your dining companions. If your host is footing the bill, avoid ordering the most expensive dish on the list. And remember, no one wants to sit next to a food critic, so keep your complaints to yourself!
2. RSVP! Respond promptly to the invitation and then show up on time.
3. Don't cancel at the last minute. If you absolutely must, be sure it's a solid reason. Cancellations are a sure-fire way to get your name at the top of the blacklist.
4. Don't ask if you can bring a date if the invite was addressed solely to you.
5. Don't drinkor eattoo much.
6. Don't move your place card or change your table assignment. The host seated you there for a reason, so go with it!
7. Never switch other people's seats. If there are empty seats, then fine, you can do so. Just check with the host first!
how to make a reservation
Now it's time to actually get a table at the hottest, hippest, or classiest place in town. We've asked for advice from the key holders at some of the hardest tickets in town: Corinne Lazarz, CFO Koi Restaurant Group; Wolfgang Puck, executive chef, Spago, Cut, Chinois, and others; Doug Major, general manager, Il Sole; Stephen Bruce, owner, Serendipity 3; Erika Matsunaga, general manager, Nobu; Michael Manoocheri, director of restaurant operations, Hotel Bel-Air; and Kerry Simon, chef/owner, Simon Kitchen LA and Las Vegas. You don't have to be a regular or a celebrity to get a reservation; it's about knowing how to work the scene. Lara suggests having someone from your office call and say, "I'm calling from Harrison & Shriftman to place a reservation for Thursday at nine p.m." This makes it sound like your company is a regular and it adds a little panache.
Here's what our experts say:
CORINNE LAZARZ "Before calling the restaurant know the amount of people, date, and time for your reservation. If you are flexible with dates and times have them ready before you call. Also try calling during nonservice hours, for example,not during lunch or dinner service. Plan ahead; most restaurants have a certain period they book out. If leaving a message, always repeat name and number."
WOLFGANG PUCK "Be polite on the phone and make reservations far in advance, especially in a popular restaurant."
DOUG MAJOR "Always be cordial. The host or hostess is your friend and actually wants to help you."
STEPHEN BRUCE "My top tips for reservation etiquette is to be prepared. Have all your information at hand and ready and treat the person taking the reservation with respect."
ERICKA MATSUNAGA "Please call as far in advance as possible. Please don't be afraid to place your name on the waiting list. We try to accommodate as many people as possible. Patience and flexibility are a plus."
MICHAEL MANOOCHERI "Be friendly, it may make the staff or reservationists more favorable when selecting your table!"
KERRY SIMON "Be overly polite when speaking to a reservationist, just as they are to you. Understand that most guests are all looking for the same time slots, especially when they have a show to catch after dinner. Name dropping can be extremely condescending. If you must drop an owner, chef, or manager's name, do it with sincerity: 'I'm a good friend of so and so, whatever you can do for me would be greatly appreciated, but if you can't accommodate us at that specific time, I completely understand.' This goes a long way. If you have given specific instructions upon making a reservation (special table, special occasion, vegetarian request, etc.), always end the conversation by asking the name of the reservationist. When staffers are asked for their name, it instills full accountability for your special requeststhey've got your name!
what are your suggestions for tipping the maître d' or hostess?
People are always intimidated by tipping, but these handy suggestions from those in-the-know take the guesswork out of the dollar.
WOLFGANG PUCK "Never tip before you are at the table. Tip on the way out."
ERICKA MATSUNAGA "Offering money at the door is offensive and ineffective. Remember that tips are a sign of appreciation."
MICHAEL MANOOCHERI "Matter of personal opinion. I feel it is unnecessary unless the person goes above and beyond."
STEPHEN BRUCE "Only tip the maître d' or hostess if you received exemplary service."
KERRY SIMON "A maître d' is somewhat of a thing from the past. However, they are still utilized in older establishments that cater to the older clientele. In today's modern restaurants, it is not required to tip 'the door' unless they have gone out of their way or job scope to fulfill a special request. In most restaurants today, the servers tip the door to ensure proper seating rotation and flow."
what are your tips for canceling a reservation?
Everyone always has that day when an emergency or something unexpected throws a wrench in the plans. Whether it's a fender bender on the way to dinner or the attack of a killer flu, sometimes things just don't go your way. But you can't just let that table for twelve sit empty all night. Here's how the pros suggest you call the whole thing off.
DOUG MAJOR "Always call and cancel to give the host or hostess an opportunity to rebook the table. Call even if it is ten minutes before your arrival time."
WOLFGANG PUCK "Cancel as soon as you know you cannot make it."
STEPHEN BRUCE "Always call as soon as you know you cannot make your reserved time. If you are stuck somewhere and late, call to inform the restaurant. No-shows are definitely frowned upon and remembered, so always inform a restaurant if you are not coming."
ERICKA MATSUNAGA "Please call. Cancellation is always better than a no-show so we can accommodate somebody else from the waiting list."
MICHAEL MANOOCHERI "Always call to cancel. Call well in advance when possible; make sure to ask about any cancellation fees or policies."
KERRY SIMON "Always give as much notice as possible. Many people will make multiple reservations in town in order to have several choices once they've gathered their group. This is fine, except when they rudely fail to cancel the others. Ever wonder why so many restaurants these days require credit card deposits for large parties? Now you know. No-shows result in not only the restaurant losing money, but also the tipped server, who was relying on the sales."
how to avoid waiting for a table
Everyone waits. It doesn't matter who you are or how often you eat at a particular place, there are things that are out of your control. Restaurants overbook (especially those that are in high demand), and people linger over their dessert and loiter over their last sip of wine for what feels like an eternity. Don't be the grumpy Gus, follow the maître d' protocol.
MICHAEL MANOOCHERI "Arrive early, confirm the reservation in advance; book outside of peak periods."
WOLFGANG PUCK "Be courteous."
CORINNE LAZARZ "Check in on time or slightly early with the host and don't demand a particular table. Also, make reservations earlier since they have first seating and it's usually less busy."
KERRY SIMON "Ever been told 'we don't have anything available until later' yet the room has a great deal of empty tables? Makes you think you're getting the ol' brush off. Not the case. Most dining experiences are roughly ninety minutes long. The tables that you see empty are already earmarked for reservations arriving within a certain time frame. At the beginning of the night, the floor is 'mapped out' to ensure each reservation is covered. This all said, don't be frustrated with watching empty tables go unseated for long periods of time. If 'the door' does not hold a specific number to cover their reservations, they will be in big trouble explaining to the guest with the reservation why they don't have it ready."
how to get the best table in the house
Got your eye on that perfect table situated in that oh-so-desirable location, maybe a cozy booth tucked in a private corner (perfect for that tête-a-tête with Mr. Big) or the see-and-be-seen table in the center of the action. These tips will ensure you get your spot!
MICHAEL MANOOCHERI "Ask for it when making the reservation. Be a loyal and frequent client."
WOLFGANG PUCK "Call as far ahead as possible and be friendly and polite."
CORINNE LAZARZ "You should have a better pick at tables if you book your reservation at the first available seating. If you have a particular table in mind, put the request in at the time of the reservation."
KERRY SIMON "If you reach a voice mail system during nonoperational hours and need to leave a message, always speak slowly, spell out your name, and leave your cell number, not your home or office number. If your guest count changes be sure to call and confirm the new count. Many parties drop in numbers and fail to inform the restaurant until they arrive. Empty seats will only aggravate the server who could have used them otherwise."
PARTY CONFIDENTIAL: NEW ETIQUETTE FOR FABULOUS ENTERTAINING. Copyright © 2008 by Lara Shriftman and Elizabeth Harrison. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.