This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Jennifer Yin, 2/28/08
Upon arrival, Spruce was slated to be the biggest debut in some time, so much so that Michael Bauer called it the "most anticipated San Francisco restaurant opening so far this century." While the Cinderella story of SPQR may have stolen some of its thunder and Kuletoville may have upstaged it in the flashy upscale department, Spruce is still one of the toughest—if not the toughest—reservation to score in town. In fact, it's probably one of the only San Francisco restaurants that you'll have to book at least month ahead if you want any hope of something other than a 5pm or 10pm seating. Walking into the dining room is all but an impossibility, though the bar is a viable option. So, how to score at Spruce?
Megan "Megs" Hanoian, Assistant General Manager at Spruce: Our dining room seats 70 guests and we have additional seating in our 3 private dining rooms. Walk in seating is available at our 14 seat bar counter and at 6 tables in our lounge. Total seating 160. My favorite tables are 211 in our lounge, 32 in the main dining room, and our library room for private events. Each of these tables has the best views and different experiences in dining style throughout the restaurant.
8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? Our bar and lounge areas are available for walk in guests at anytime and the wait is anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. The main dining room is usually fully occupied with guest reservations. Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? No, but it never hurts to tell me how pretty I am. (Joking) We do try our best to make your wait as short and as comfortable as possible. How about gifts or cash to speed things along? We appreciate the gesture yet do not accept forms of bribery. We feel that every guest is equally important and do our best to ensure that they feel this way.
Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? My favorite guests are those who really come to enjoy the experience of the restaurant. I love the people who share our passion and are here to sit back and thoroughly submerge themselves in the ultimate dining experience. I am a fan of anonymity. I will tell you however, that we have had quite a few celebrities dine with us. How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? The guests that we consider VIP are usually regular guests of our restaurant. We bring them their favorite drink or something they enjoy eating to make their wait more comfortable. ?the owner's friends? The owners are really great and their friends are the most understanding if they have to wait for a table. Usually, they make themselves comfortable at one of our lounge couches or bar counters until their table comes available. It is our goal to treat every guest with the same level of status. It does not matter if the guest is dining at our bar, enjoying a burger and drinking a glass of wine or in our dining room having a four course meal. They are ultimately of the same level of importance.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've had to accommodate? A guest was contemplating a purchase for her daughter at a clothing store across the street from the restaurant. When speaking with her at her table she realized that I was approximately the same size as her daughter. She asked if I would not mind trying on the dress across the street to make sure she was buying the right size. ...that you couldn't accommodate? The guest wanted one of our employee's personal home phone numbers.
What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Sincerity. I have keen interest to know our guests and make them feel welcome on each of their visits.