There's no question that dining is an essential component of travel. You need to eat, of course, but most likely want to have a memorable meal—or two—as well. While you might sample local street food on the fly or get snacks at a simple neighborhood cafe, sometimes you want something more formal. However, reservations are often required. That's when planning in advance is essential. And luckily, there are tools that can make things a lot easier, especially considering your precious time and any potential language barriers.
You've probably heard of OpenTable by now. The popular website—and app—allows you to make free, instantly confirmed restaurant reservations in all fifty states, plus 16 international destinations from the Caribbean to China. However, it doesn't cover every country—gastronomic capital France, for example, is notably absent. But there are other options, both U.S. and foreign based, out there.
On a recent trip to Paris, I discovered a French service similar to OpenTable called La Forchette (the English version is The Fork) and tested it out on Pomze, a small restaurant on Boulevard Haussmann. Just like with the site's U.S.-based counterpart, you create an account and then enter the restaurant name, the date and time you want to dine, and the number of people in your party—and voila, reservation made!
While I can get by speaking French and don't mind making reservations by phone, I sometimes freeze when the person on the other end of the line talks too fast or starts asking me more complicated questions in return, making me wonder if a table will actually be waiting for me when I arrive. La Forchette took the worry away and saved me the pricey call on my roaming cell phone, too. The site also offers handy reviews, maps, and menus. Flambeed Calvados crepes anyone? It's a date.
Here are a few more restaurant booking sites that might come in handy on your next trip:
- La Forchette: France, Monaco, and Switzerland
- Rezbook by Urbanspoon: U.S., Canada, U.K. and Ireland, and Australia
- Bookatable: Europe
- Top Table by OpenTable: U.K. and Ireland
- DiningCity: Select destinations in Europe (including Italy), some parts of China, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Africa
- Michelin-partnered LiveBookings (to come): France and Germany
No site will be completely comprehensive (and some restaurants still require a phone call), but consider testing them out.
Have you tried any of these sites (or do you know of any others)? If so, how did it go?
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(Photo: Crepes on White Plate via Shutterstock)