Playing hard to get. It works like a charm in love, and seems to work even better in restaurants.
Whether it's the maddening computerized reservation system at New York City's Momofuku Ko (scarce bookings at the tiny restaurant are made available online every morning at 10 a.m. sharp) or the inconvenient ordering method at Commodore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (guests have to order at the usually-crowded bar), or the often interminable wait at Los Angeles's Gjelina, the more diners suffer, it seems, the more ardent they become. All three of the aforementioned establishments are wildly popular. The Rules girls couldn't have orchestrated it better themselves.
'If we didn't offer such a good vibe people would be more bothered by the wait," says Stacey Perrone, director of operations for The One Group, which runs several restaurants including the perpetually packed STK in New York's Meatpacking District. "People don't mind hanging out a little bit, especially if there's good energy and pretty people."
Of course, it's logical that any hot restaurant will have more people trying to get in than seats available. But how much of the buzz is truly about delicious cuisine and how much is savvy marketing? For every Ko—arguably one of the best restaurants in the country at the moment—there are probably a dozen other spots where the food just isn't worth the hassle. Which is why consistently good service is key in making sure a hot restaurant stays hot.
"The staff know everyone by name and face and we make ourselves accessible to guests via e-mail," says Perrone, who says that much of the clientele at STK are regulars. Still, she does concede that diners, particularly in Manhattan, "like to torture themselves a bit by waiting at a popular restaurant."
Perhaps delayed gratification really is the best seasoning.