The answer is YES!
Some might argue that with 9000 restaurants in Paris you don’t need to book to find a table.
If you are traveling to Paris during high touristic season, and want a nice table in a popular restaurant in central Paris on Friday or Saturday, it is best to book your dinner in advance.
It is true that there are lots of small restaurants or bistros and brasseries in touristy areas that don’t require a reservation, but if you want a table in a sought after place, you need to book.
You might be OK on week days especially if you are from the US having dinner early in the evening compared to the French which will book a restaurant for 8.00-8.30 pm.
When to book?
How much in advance? Three days will be fine with most trendy restaurants except for high end Michelin stars, Eiffel tower restaurants, and on special days like Christmas and New Year’s eve. In these cases you need to book a month to several months ahead of time for the more hard to get places.
But I don’t speak French
Calling restaurants in Paris is a bit of an adventure, if you don’t speak the language. Chances are that 50% of the people answering the phone won’t speak English. Not the most efficient way to book your restaurants.
Unless a fluent speaker can do it for me, I would not book a table by phone with the very little French I master and avoid the “can’t see any note of booking” nightmare.
Forget about emailing your bookings too, for some reason French people in the restaurant industry don’t take this mean of communication very seriously, and tend to not respond to email request.
So what are your options?
– Ask your hotel reception
If you are staying in a hotel, contact the reception to make the reservations for you and ask for an email confirmation.
– Book on the restaurant website
Look online if the restaurant has a website with a booking form, this will work.
– Book in person
Drop by the restaurant once in Paris at the beginning of your trip if it is possible for you, even with minimal or no french it works fine and is a lot easier than by phone.
– Book through online reservation websites
The best online booking website for Paris restaurants is The Fork.com. They have been on the Paris market for several years now and it works flawlessly. Not all Paris restaurant will be bookable through The Fork but they have a large selection.
The way it works is that you enter the name of a restaurant you would like to book and if it is listed it will tell you if they have any special offers for the place. Just follow the booking process. They also have customer reviews but most of the time less comprehensive than on Tripadvisor.
The other way you can use the site is search by areas to see which restaurant they have listed and choose one that way. Always cross restaurant reviews from different sources, Tripadvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews and the Fork website itself.
Once at the restaurant give the name under which the reservation has been made and the restaurant will know that you booked through the Fork as well as the details of the special offers, if there were any. If you want to be extra safe you can print your reservation details and bring it with you.
The Fork also has a phone restaurant booking app that you can find on Itunes here and on Android there. You will need to sign up on their website beforehand to log into the app once installed. This is a great tool to find last minute tables near your location.
If you can’t find a restaurant you are interested in on The Fork you can try it on exclusive-restaurants.com website. They specialized in high end restaurant bookings and also have some good deals on various restaurants you might be interested in.
You might encounter in your searches a restaurant booking website named Best Restaurants Paris, it has a fair amount of negative reviews as far as booking reliability is concerned, so it is best to avoid for reservations.
You might still want to use the website to find information about the restaurants you are interested in like their websites to book directly.