Why Vij's makes everyone, even celebrities, wait in line
What do Harrison Ford, Martha Stewart and Pierre Trudeau have in common? They’ve all cooled their heels waiting in line to get into Vij’s West 11th restaurant, which famously doesn’t take reservations—no matter how famous you are. Sure, the lineups can take an hour or more but you’ll be fed with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and given chai to drink, and who knows who you’ll bump into? But does it make good business sense to give away free food and drink at a restaurant?
Vancouver restaurateur James Iranzad has a distinct take on this. His acclaimed Gastown eatery Wildebeest takes reservations but his new project, Bufala in Kerrisdale, does not. “From a business perspective, not taking reservations does guarantee all of your tables are full with no downtime, which is very attractive to a restaurant for which there is a great demand. My other restaurant, Abigail’s Party, is first-come, first-served with brunch but we take reservations at dinner, which works because table turns are faster at brunch and that allows us to maximize our revenue- generating ability.” He says, “I think Vikram is very smart; he has the most democratic way of accepting guests. Usually if someone was a celebrity or was staying at the penthouse at the Pacific Rim, the concierge would get them the best table in the house and you or I would have to wait. But not at Vij’s. And the appreciation of his generosity and hospitality to the queue is far greater than the cost.”
Ex-Vancouver magazine food editor Jamie Maw agrees: “Not many restaurants can do it, but Vij’s can because Vikram is as much a draw as is the food and the wine list. He’s a very good businessman; he understands the needs and wants of his clients and has taken aspirational dining to a very egalitarian place. The restaurant brand is as aspirational as the cars some people drive. If they want to hang out with their own tribe or aspire to hang out with another tribe, for $100 or $300 they can buy that choice for the evening. I’ve sat on the terrace waiting for a table with a German prince next to blue-collar folks. That terrace on a summer night was so fun you almost didn’t want to go in for dinner.”