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I’m a restaurant expert and here are my hacks for having the BEST dining experience possible, from picking the perfect arrival time to gaining the respect of the waiting staff

Restaurant insider Danilo Mangano (above) has revealed his eight simple hacks to having the ‘best’ meal out

There’s nothing worse than forking out a small fortune for a disappointing dinner out. 

But subpar dining experiences can be avoided if you follow the advice of restaurant insider Danilo Mangano reveals. 

Mangano, who is the managing director of SevenRooms, the reservation platform behind restaurants including Nobu and Michelin-starred Gymkhana, has revealed his eight simple hacks to having the ‘best’ meal out, which he assures will ‘make a world of difference’ to your experience as a diner. 

From choosing the right arrival time to successfully bagging a table at the hottest restaurant in town, here are his top tips. Bon appetit!


Mangano says that ‘restaurants will reward you for booking directly on their website’ 

Mangano recommends booking directly with your restaurant of choice. ‘By booking through marketplaces like OpenTable, you risk missing out on the best availability and experiences,’ the insider says.

He explains: ‘Restaurants will reward you for booking directly on their website with better availability and you may find out about unique experiences that you might have otherwise missed.’


‘Booking a table at a great restaurant feels more competitive than ever,’ says Mangano, highlighting that this is especially true ‘at well-known favourites like Dishoom [a Bombay-inspired restaurant group in the UK]’.

He adds: ‘An insider secret is that many hard-to-book restaurants save a few tables for their most loyal guests.

‘As in any relationship, loyalty is an essential ingredient of success. Regularly visiting a restaurant and getting to know the staff is a great way to build your customer profile and guarantee yourself a spot in the future.’


Let the staff know you’re celebrating a special occasion and you could bag ‘anything from a discount on your meal, a free drink or dessert, to a special bottle of Champagne’ 

Mangano advises letting the restaurant know when you are looking to celebrate a special event ‘whether it be to celebrate a new promotion, a birthday or even to pop the big question’.

He says: ‘Many restaurants have a little something extra to offer to make your memory of the night just that bit more special.

‘You could gain anything from a discount on your meal, a free drink or dessert, to a special bottle of Champagne.’


‘If you’ve booked a table for 8pm, it’s likely that at least three or four other parties will be booked in for that slot too,’ Mangano says.

He continues: ‘Instead of arriving at 8pm on the dot, aim to get to the restaurant at least five minutes early.

‘You’ll get in ahead of everyone who arranged to arrive on the hour and get seated much sooner – and likely at a better table.’

The restaurant insider adds: ‘You’ll also be able to place your order before others, which means your food is far less likely to be delayed if there’s a rush.’ 


Generally, if you’re polite and easygoing, staff will want to help improve your experience where they can, according to Mangano 

‘Servers are human too, and can apply their own discretion when choosing which tables to prioritise for good service – and who to ignore, if they want to,’ Mangano points out.

He continues: ‘With this in mind, make yourself a pleasure to be around. Generally, staff will want to help to improve your experience where they can if you’re easy and polite – it doesn’t hurt to ask how their evening is going.’

But the expert warns against making ‘When Harry Met Sally-style menu substitutions’.

In the 1989 romcom, the character Sally Albright, played by Meg Ryan, makes ultra-picky requests at restaurants. For instance, when she’s ordering apple pie, she says: ‘I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it.’ 

Such pernickety requests are ‘generally frowned upon’, he says, ‘as is being glued to your phone while ordering [and] interrupting or even tapping them while they’re speaking to another table’.


No longer able to make your dinner reservation? The worst thing you can do, Mangano reveals, is to fail to show up without cancelling your reservation. ‘Just as restaurants track their loyal customers, they also know who their frequent no-showers are,’ he points out.

‘Not only will you be less likely to get a great experience – or even a reservation – next time, but with many restaurants now requiring booking deposits or putting no-show fees in place, you could take a financial hit.’

The expert suggests ‘simply amending your booking ahead of the cancellation window’ rather than missing out on the experience and losing money in the process.


Mangano recommends sharing details such as ‘your likes, dislikes, allergies and seating preferences’ with a restaurant 

Mangano recommends giving the restaurant all the information it needs to help give you the most tailored experience, whether that’s by including it in your online booking notes or by telling your server directly.

‘If they don’t know it, they can’t use it,’ he says. ‘All sorts of details can be taken into account – your likes, dislikes, allergies and seating preferences are just the tip of the iceberg. The more you share, the more personalised your experience can become.’

This can be particularly useful if you dine often at a particular restaurant, he adds.

Mangano says: ‘Instead of getting generic and irrelevant marketing emails, the restaurant will be better armed to only contact you with information on the deals, dishes and special events that you’ll really love.’ 


Mangano says: ‘You can infinitely increase your chances to get a table or seat at the hottest restaurant while on holiday by asking for help from a hotel concierge.

‘Many concierges have close relationships with the best local restaurants in each city and can help recommend the top spots and even get you those “impossible” tables – you just have to ask.’

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