How Do Rich People Get Seats in Booked Restaurants or Sold-Out Shows?

From what I’ve seen & heard, if you have enough money and/or clout you can get good seats at a booked restaurant, or tickets to a sold-out show, or whatever.


Suppose I’m Mr. Big, a very wealthy socialite, industrialist and man-about-town in Chicago. It’s Friday night, and I’ve got a hankering to go to the Cecil Adams Bar & Grill, the fanciest restaurant in Chicago. There’s a waiting list 6 months long for reservations at the CABaG. However, I call the Maitre d and say, “Hey, I’m Mr. Big. Hook me up.” Next thing you know I’ve got the best table in the house.

So how does that work, exactly? Do the Powers That Be simply tell the guy who had that table “Hey, tough luck. Mr. Big is coming.”?

Or what about sold-out shows? If I (Mr. Big) want to go see William Hung in Il Travatore at the Chicago Lyric Opera, I can just make a phone call and have front-row center seats. But what about the guy who actually paid for those seats six months ago? Is he just given a refund and told “Mr. Big is coming. Sucks for you.”?

It is possible that a restaurant may make somebody wait if a Mr. Bigshot wanted a reservation.

Theaters and concerts almost always have ticktes that were not offered to the public.

Like so many things, it is ofter who you know.

Money talks.
If you have enough clout and enough cash you can get a lot of access.
Front row seats of concerts are often reserved for promoters, sponsors, management, etc. and are rarely available for public sale. If you go to any big concert and ask the people in the front row how they got their tickets not many will say they were first in line and bought them from Ticketmaster. They are more than likely a friend of so-and-so who knows so-and-so and got hooked up.
Ticket brokers may also get their hands on some of these and charge $1000 a seat and someone with enough cash will buy them.
Restaurant owners will bend over backwards to make accomodations for celebrities. They’re guaranteed to make some money off them and the ability to say “Oh yes, Tom Cruise frequents here often” is more valuable than hundreds of dollars spent on advertising.
If a restaurant owner can have his place be the “IT” place for celebs he may as well let them eat for free.

If you’re Mr Big, you can afford to have your agents say, “Here’s a hundred thousand dollars for the first group who vacates a table in <incredibly-desired location X> in the next twenty-five minutes. I’ll be there in thirty.” :slight_smile:

Once we got caught in a weird sort of loop between having our tickets punched and not actually being admitted to the cinema, so in the end the guy who was trying to seat us (the only one who knew we had paid) just took us straight to the two best seats in the cinema (for me at least - just past halfway up). They were still empty because they’re always kept empty. I suppose it’s for reviewers… or… look, I don’t know why it is, but they do it.

Not that I imagine Tom Cruise ever shows up at the Glasgow UGC on a Thursday afternoon, but, y’now. Somebody might. That guy who was in the 1970s Spiderman movies, say.

Is it typical for there to be assigned seating in British cinemas? In the U.S. it’s just everyone for themselves.

Others have basically said it, but even for a show that’s sold out, the theatre will hold back seats/tickets for just such an occassion. I imagine in a restaurant, at least the real up-scale joints, likely they do not reserve out all their tables.

It used to be. Nowadays, sadly, many places opt for unreserved seating, resulting in an undignified scrum and two hours of neckache if you arrive late, as the front row of seats is about this far


from the screen. (Diagram actual size)


A Swedish airline I used to fly with a lot guaranteed a seat on any of their flights once you’d qualified for a Gold card. If someone with a Gold card wanted a seat on a full flight the captain would come on and ask who would debark and get a seat on the next flight for SEK 500. No-one? OK, SEK 1000. Still no-one? OK, SEK 2000. Eventually, someone would bite.

A friend of mine used to work for RCA/BMG. She often would give me tickets for shows, usually in the first three rows. I would see some of the same faces around me each time.

Around here, not only are all seats reserved, for some theaters you can order specific seats online.

A restaurant’s reputation is enhanced by having prominent people seen dining there, so that’s one reason they’ll get a table (preferably a visible table) when others do not. Also, I’ve heard that some restaurants will set aside a particular table for a regular customer. In that case, you don’t need to be famous, just someone who eats there often.

There are also some specially negotiated arrangements made to accommodate these sorts of last minute requests. The first that comes to mind is the concierge service American Express provides to it’s Centurion (and to a lesser degree Platinum) cardholders. They have arrangements for priority seating for their clients at select restaraunts around the world, presumably in return for a break on the processing fees they charge the merchants.

American Express also works with ticket brokers to reserve a set number of tickets for the most popular performances, on the gamble that one of their clients will want tickets for any given show. The day of the show, the leftover tickets are returned to the ticket office to be sold at face value. By waiting until the last minute and contacting the ticket office to see what had been released, I got front row tickets to The Producers on Broadway a couple of years ago, and good seats to O in Vegas. Of course, in order to get the tickets to O, I had to wait in line at the Bellagio a couple of hours before the show, while my Centurion card holding friend had gotten his tickets to a sold out show by calling Amex.

An interesting article made the rounds not too long ago on how to tip the maitre d’. Bottom line: it’s easier than you think. Even if you’re nobody in particular, you can jump a queue for half a C-note, an amount that an “important person” would sneeze at.

Disclaimer: by this standard, I am not an important person.