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Maine's super-popular The Lost Kitchen is switching to analog to manage demand.

Clara Olshansky
March 14, 2018

Getting tired of the reservation industrial complex? It's not just OpenTable—there are restaurants that charge for reservations at peak hours, apps that let you get on the waitlist remotely, and all kinds of other tactics for getting yourself into that restaurant you really want to go to. If you find the whole thing a little bit overwhelming, then The Lost Kitchen in Maine might be just the antidote you're looking for. You make reservations the old-fashioned, analog way: with a notecard, an envelope, and a postage stamp.

The Lost Kitchen (TLK) is a remote farm-to-table restaurant in Freedom, Maine that hosts a series of highly in-demand dinners between May and December. Last year, these dinners were way more popular than chef Erin French had predicted, and it ended up being total mayhem. The 40-seat restaurant received 10,000 calls. This year, to manage demand by making reservations a little more difficult, French has instated a new snail mail reservation policy.

As French says in the 2018 Reservation Process document, "Here at TLK we are old fashioned, we are simple, we are slow, we are Mainers. We prefer human contact over computers and pen & paper over keyboards… Keeping it small and intimate is part of what makes TLK so magical and something we don’t want to stray from."

Not only does your reservation have to be sent by mail: it also has to be on a 3x5 notecard and postmarked between April 1 and April 10 (with exceptions for people who send it on March 31 to accommodate Easter). There are more specifications on the document about how to give your contact info and what kind of messages you are and aren't allowed to include. The Lost Kitchen will draw notecards at random and personally call you to figure out when they can accommodate you and how large your party can be. Also included on the document is a list of recommended Maine restaurants that are much easier to make reservations at.

The whole thing is pretty heartwarming. If you want to get TLK's great Maine cuisine in your life without the effort and randomness of the reservation system, you can order French's TLK cookbook here.