This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite hard-to-get tables.
If ever there was a restaurateur who'd be most able to put one of those elusive 'dream dinners' together--you know, with any person living or dead, though the dead part we're not so sure about because there's nothing dead about his restaurants, especially the crown jewel, Prime 112, it would be Myles Chefetz, the man behind his eponymous restaurant group which also includes Prime Italian and Big Pink. Prime 112 is a total Miami success story, a place where everyone from presidents and royalty to the Hollywood, sports world and hip hop A-list and even your hip aunt and uncle from out of town have eaten. It's where people go to be seen. If only those wine room walls could talk. And to eat, even if that activity doesn't take place until well after midnight, despite your 9 p.m. reservation. We managed to pin Chefetz down for a few rare moments of calm to ask him to reveal, sort of, how he does it.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table?
Two and half hours without a reservation.
What about earlier in the night?
At 5:30pm, we seat walk-in guests on the patio; however, by 7pm, we are slammed.
Is there anything I can do to make my wait shorter? How about gifts or cash to speed things along?
I’m sure a few guests have tried to buy their way to a table, but we don’t “do” that at Prime.
Tell us about your favorite customers.
My favorite customers are my regulars and locals. these are the people who come all year round and support us.
You get a lot of celebrities – real celebrities, not reality stars or celebs in their own minds. What sort of special treatment do you give them? Who's been the biggest tipper?
For special treatment, I try to get them a table as fast as I can and I try put them at a table where they feel comfortable and won’t be harassed by other guests. I have always tried to make my restaurant a place where celebrities know that they can eat and enjoy themselves without fan interruptions. As for biggest tippers, we respect their privacy. We do have some tippers that tip 100 percent or more.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give them?
Well there are so many VIPs in my mind that there is a juggling act. I try to make them feel comfortable while there waiting and make it less painful. I try to minimize the pain by sending them some drinks. One time, Shaq came in and there was no physical table and I had no notice and I tried to do everything to get him a table I even tried to buy a table dinner so he could sit in their seat. It didn’t work and Shaq didn’t wait. He ended up holding a grudge for a bit but he still comes and is a great friend.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you've accommodated?
Mariachi bands to play in a crowded restaurant. That was interesting, but I let it happen.
Any requests you couldn't accommodate?
We have had request for strippers at bachelor and bachelorette party tables, but I declined their request. You have to draw the line somewhere.
What's your favorite seat in the house(s)?
The hightop at the bar at Prime Italian and Prime 112. Both are interactive and you’re able to see who’s coming and going. I normally eat at the hightop at Prime 112 around 12:30am/1am. It’s easy for me to get up and thank my customers.
Any secret off the menu items people can order?
We have a couple that always orders the Dover Sole. They pre-order and text me to request it, so I can make sure I have it for them
When you're not at one of your restaurants where are you eating?
What's your most important gatekeeper tool?
Being able to deal with Juggling act, multitasking and making people feel welcome!