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October 31, 2008

El Bulli Reservation

The first and only time I tried to make a reservation for el Bulli was in 2004 when I emailed them on January 7th for a table because I was told that they take reservations for the year starting in Jaunuary. Later, I found out that reservations for the following season are taken when the current season is completed, not at the beginning of the year as I erroneously thought. (Note: El Bulli is only open about six months per year in what they refer to as a "season," and each season starts and ends on different dates every year.) Of course they were unable to fill my reservation request.

I decided it's time to make a serious attempt at securing a reservation at el Bulli so I went to the reservation page on their website to determine when they will start accepting reservation requests for the following year.

I checked the reservation page out in mid-September and it said the 2009 season will start June 13th and ends December 20th and reservations will be accepted starting in mid-October of 2008, no exact dates given.

Not knowing what they mean by "mid-October," I sent an email (according to the reservation page, only email requests are accepted) to them on October 6th figuring that it's about a week into the month and maybe that's mid- enough for them. I asked for a dinner table for 4 for any available date for the 2009 season.

A day later I got my reply:

Apreciados Señores,

We do not take reservations for 2009 at this moment. You can send your request in mid October of 2008 to bulli@elbulli.com as we never start the management until we have finished the season before.

October 14th-15-16th will be the first moment (there is not an exactly one to give the same option to the most possible of requests).

That sentence in parenthesis about not having an exact date was worrying but at least I have dates to work with now. So on the 14th at 2 p.m. (local time in Spain), I sent another reservation request. Again, I asked for a table for 4 for dinner for any available date.

There was no reply the next day like last time. I thought perhaps that's a good sign that they are working on fitting me into their reservation book. Because it would stand to reason that if it's full, they would just set some sort of auto-reply to all reservation requests coming in.

Two weeks later on the 28th I got my reply:

The demand that we have received at the first moment has again surpassed our limited possibilities for one season and we regret not to be able to full fill more reservation requests.

Son of a...

Their whole reservation process is so opaque that I can't even tell how I could improve my chances next year. You get one shot a year and it's very frustrating when you don't know exactly what you need to do in order to succeed.

Do I need to send my request at 00:01 on the first day of reservation? But when is that exactly? They gave me three dates and then said they can't tell me which one it is. So is it all a crapshoot? Should I have sent in a request at 00:01 on the 14th and then another on the 15th and another on the 16th? Then would I be in danger of annoying the reservationist and therefore getting my reservation canceled when three requests show up if they in fact started taking them on the first day? Send three requests on three different days from three different email accounts?

Do I get a better chance by requesting any dates or by requesting a specific date? Any date would seem more flexible and easier to accomodate but perhaps they don't want to deal with working with people who don't have firm dates?

Ah, just frustrating.

If you have a reservation, please tell me how you did it! Or better yet, let me join you! I'm crazy enough about food that I don't mind flying half-way across the world to eat with strangers! But seriously though, if anyone has a reservation that needs to be canceled, let me know, I'll happily take it.

Filed Under: Food & Drink
Tags: elbulli, food, frustration, reservation, restaurant