How to Buy the Best Table at a Restaurant

The gentleman's guide to skipping the line with class.

The keys to securing a plum table at an exclusive restaurant or nightclub are discretion and deference. At a restaurant, don't confront the maitre d' at the check-in stand in front of the other customers. Meet him in the middle of the restaurant after he has seated another table, says psychologist Mark L. Brenner, PhD, author of Tipping for Success. Introduce yourself, explain your story (why it's important that you are seated), and be sure to close with the universal code: "I'll be happy to take care of you in the right way if you can make these arrangements."

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Another option is to call from a cell phone within the restaurant and make the same pitch out of earshot of others waiting. How much to tip? Depending on how long the wait is, anywhere from $5 to $15 will do the trick. "It's never as much as people think," says Brenner. Pass the tip using the one-hand or two-hand shake method once the maitre d' delivers. To keep the quid pro quo on the down low, fold the bills into quarter sections and conceal them in your palm. After you shake his hand in appreciation, he walks away with the gratuity.

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In a hotel setting, ask for the reservation manager if you run into an issue. With a doorman at a nightclub, it's usually necessary to take a gamble on the advance tip. Ask to speak with him privately and be sure to have the bills prepared ahead of time. As you'd expect, the more exclusive the venue, the bigger the tip should be. There's a reason the doormen at Las Vegas's trendiest clubs are rumored to make as much as half a million a year.

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