The rise of online reservations has been another key factor. Decades ago, securing a reservation at a hot restaurant in another part of the world meant timing your phone call to coincide with opening hours — sometimes down to the minute — then hanging out on hold. In person, you might need to grease the palm of a maître d’. Now tables at covetable restaurants can be secured online.
Of the 66 two- and three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the U.S. and Britain, nearly half are on OpenTable, the biggest reservations platform. Others, including The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s seminal Napa Valley restaurant, Alinea in Chicago, and Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, which all have three Michelin stars, are on Tock, the online-booking system founded by Nick Kokonas, co-owner and co-founder of Chicago’s Alinea Group, in 2014. Resy, which also launched in 2014, has scores of Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as zeitgeist-defining, hard-to-get-into spots like Petit Trois, in L.A, and Lilia, in New York City.
And then there’s TV. An early force in engendering the allure of traveling to eat, Ms. Dixler Canavan said, was “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” the Travel Channel phenomenon, which Mr. Bourdain later took to CNN as “Parts Unknown.” Documentaries like “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” about a three-Michelin-starred sushi counter in a Tokyo Metro station, and “Chef’s Table,” a Netflix series now in its sixth season, have both catapulted extraordinary restaurants right into viewers’ homes.
In November, Christina Tobia monitored airfare to warm-weather destinations like Miami and Costa Rica. But it was the irresistible combination of “Chef’s Table,” a $246 round-trip flight, and the magical phrase “taco omakase” that got her on a plane to Mexico City.