It can be very difficult to get French Laundry reservations. In fact, The French Laundry is often named in the list of top ten most difficult restaurant reservations to book in the world. This 3 Michelin-starred Thomas Keller restaurant in Yountville, California is one of the most exclusive in Napa Valley. However, this article will give you the facts on how to book a reservation at The French Laundry and tips on how to increase your odds of making a reservation based on our experience and from asking the staff at The French Laundry.
So normally, making a restaurant reservation involves simply calling the restaurant or making a quick online reservation request. Generally you can do this a week or less in advance and boom you have a table. Things are not so easy at The French Laundry. It takes a bit of planning to ensure you get a reservation on your preferred date and time. There’s also winter and summer closure breaks, white truffle season, and summer tourists to take into consideration. But things are not hopeless, read on for our tips to help you make French Laundry reservations.
We ate at The French Laundry last week (note, post originally written in 2013 but updated in 2018 with latest reservation information) as this was a surprise from Ethan for our fourth anniversary. I used this as an opportunity to get tips from staff members on how best to make reservations for our blog readers. We’ve since updated those tips with recent changes which have included renovations to the restaurant as well as significant changes to their booking system and their reservation policies.
Some Basic Information about The French Laundry
-The French Laundry is a three-Michelin starred restaurant service French-inspired American food. Thomas Keller is head chef.
-Restaurant is located at: 6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599.
-Their main phone number is 707-944-2380.
-They are open seven nights a week for dinner and also service lunch on Friday-Sunday. They typically close for 1-2 weeks each Winter and Summer.
-They serve dinner from 5:00pm to 8:45pm., and lunch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:00am to 12:30pm.
-At each service, two nine-course tasting menus are offered (the “Tasting of Vegetables” vegetarian menu and the meat-inclusive Chef’s Menu). Both currently priced at $310 per person. Service and nonalcoholic drinks are included in the price. You can see a recent copy of the menu and wine list are posted online
-There are 62 seats in the dining room. These seats are the ones that become available two months to the date. They are able to accommodate 1 to 7 persons per table in the main dining room.
-For groups, there are two private dining rooms available that can each accommodate between 6 to 12 guests. In the warmer months, there is also one outdoor courtyard table that can accommodate 8-14 guests who wish to dine al fresco. Groups may also book out the full dining room for a private party. For private dining and group pricing and information you can call them at 707-944-0456.
How to Make a Reservation
Until recently there were three main options for making a reservation at The French Laundry, which included calling them directly, booking a table online through OpenTable, or using a concierge service to help book by phone. However, things have changed a lot recently, and all bookings are now done online (with the exception of private events) via Tock.
Important Note: Reservations are no longer taken by phone! You can not make a reservation (expect for larger private or special events), change a reservation, or join a waitlist by phone. You have to do it via the online system.
Book a Table Online via Tock
-The French Laundry has moved to only taking reservations online using Tock. You can make an online reservation here.
-I would sign up to Tock ahead of time if you are not already a registered user as you will need to sign up to make a reservation.
-You need to book 2 months in advance. Available tables are currently released every 1st day of every odd numbered month at 10:00 A.M. (PST), 2 months at a time. So for example tables are released on January 1st for those wanting to book from March 1st through April 30th and tables will be released on May 1st for July 1st through August 31st.
-The Tock site is helpful as it shows in the sidebar of the website information about booking dates and when the next release will be (e.g., “Now booking through December 31, 2017”).
–The new tables go online at 10am PST. Translate this time to your own time zone (e.g., 1:00pm in EST) and mark this on your calendar.
-Have your credit card information handy. You have to pre-pay for your reservations.
-If the system shows all the tables are booked, add yourself to the online Waitlist and you’ll be notified when and if a table becomes available for your chosen date(s).
Use a Concierge Service
-If you have access to a concierge service through your credit card or bank (e.g., American Express, Visa Signature Concierge Service), I would call them and ask to see if they can help you get a reservations.
-This strategy worked well back when the restaurant booked most of its tables via phone, but is likely much less effective now that it requires you to book via an online booking system. But you can still call to ask to see if they can help and be sure to explain how the booking system works.
-Make sure the concierge service has your credit card info and that you authorize them to give out your information as Tock and The French Laundry will need this information to hold the reservation.
-The great thing about the concierge services is they may have a better chance than you of getting a reservation and you don’t have to do anything further. However, the downside is that you have little control over the process and you are left waiting to see if they are successful or not.
If you Don’t Succeed, Don’t Give up All Hope
-Keep checking back periodically as people’s plans change and tables will often come open.
-If you are in the Napa area, keep checking online the day before or the day of your visit as people sometimes have to cancel reservations last minute and you may be able to scoop a table.
-Make sure you are on the online waiting list. You need to add your name on the Waitlist through the Tock software.
-The French Laundry has a very strict cancellation policy. It used to be that there was a USD $100 cancellation fee per booking; however, that policy has changed. All bookings are non-refundable and cannot be canceled. However, you are able to sell the booking to someone or transfer the booking to another person as a whole reservation online within the Tock system.
More Tips for Booking French Laundry Reservations
-Be prepared and do your planning. Those who plan in advance are much more likely to get reservations.
-Call or check their website for their upcoming closing or renovation dates. Generally, The French Laundry closes twice a year for 1-2 weeks in both Winter and Summer although it was closed more often in recent years for renovations. Figuring out these dates in advance, can save you a lot of time since it will be impossible to dine here during their closures. Similarly, you can also call and check to make sure the restaurant is not being booked for private party on your desired date.
-Be flexible with your dates. This will greatly increase your chance of getting a reservation.
-Be flexible about when you can dine. Most people want the coveted middle dinner seating, but be open to the early and late times as well. We ate at the early 5:30pm seating and the food was still wonderful, we just planned accordingly and didn’t eat much for lunch.
-Lunch reservations are easier to get than dinner. The French Laundry serves dinner 7 nights a week when open, but also serves lunch on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The menu is still the same!
-Try for weekdays instead of weekends.
-Best time of year to try for French Laundry reservations according to staff at the restaurant are February through the beginning of May as this is a slow time for tourism in Napa Valley.
-Worse times of year for getting French Laundry reservations according to staff are during white truffle season (October and November), and during the summer months (mid May through end of August). The staff also noted that right before or after a closure (they normally close for one week or so in the Winter and Summer) is typically quite busy as well.
-All bookings are non-refundable and cannot be canceled. Be sure to check the latest cancellation guidelines before booking. If you do need to cancel, be sure to do so as early as possible to be able to have a good chance of selling your reservation to someone else.
-If you need to cancel your reservation, you can transfer it thorough Tock online at any time. You can gift or sell your reservation for any amount up to the original purchase price to another person. To transfer a reservation, you need to log into your Tock profile and complete the transfer through there. If it don’t know of someone looking for a reservation, try posting online to see if you can find some other diners looking for reservations that can take your place, or ask if your hotel might help you by calling around to see if there are other visitors who have been trying to get reservations.
OK, so there you go! A comprehensive guide to how to make French Laundry reservations if you ever choose to do so. Have you ever booked reservations to The French Laundry? If you have more tips, updated information, or advice for booking reservations, please let us know. Also, you can read about our French Laundry dining experience (including loads of pics).