Last Saturday night, a lineup of 40 people snaked from the rough wooden door of Guu Izakaya, a recently opened Japanese restaurant that seats just 63 diners. Shivering for an hour and a half before abandoning their attempt at getting a table, 15 dancers from the National Ballet huddled together for warmth, their feet in first position, smoking cigarettes to stave off hunger.
In front of them, a group of four sipped cans of Maclays beer in sub-zero temperatures. As one hour stretched into two, the waiting crowd shuffled their feet, complained, and quietly mocked a sockless man whose attempt to bribe his way in is politely rebuffed. Whenever diners exited the restaurant, they let out a halfhearted cheer.
Guu is part of a new breed of restaurants whose lineups are as talked about as their menus, and how they manage them is just as key to their continued success.