Most restaurants are constantly on the hunt for new technology to handle day-to-day business such as reservations. The Lost Kitchen in Freedom is taking a step back this year, asking diners to mail in their reservation requests for the 2018 season.

The 40-seat restaurant in an old mill in Freedom, owned by Erin French, usually starts taking reservations for May-October seating at midnight April 1. Last year, 10,000 phone calls inundated the restaurant’s reservation lines in just 24 hours, fueled by a lot of glowing national press coverage that had come French’s way. This year, French is asking diners to mail in a 3-by-5 note card with their name and contact information between April 1-10. On April 11, her staff will begin randomly selecting cards, and those who are chosen will get a phone call from the restaurant to set up their reservation. Cards will be drawn throughout the week until all seats are claimed for the season.

“The response from last year’s reservation process made it clear that the request for seats now severely outweighs what we will ever be able to provide,” French wrote in a note explaning the new system on her website. “We never wanted a reservation system that entailed staying up for all hours through the night on the phone, miserably hitting redial over and over again, but that is what it had become. Let’s not do that again this year.”

French wrote that she wanted to make the reservation process less stressful, with “no busy signals, no full voice mailboxes.”

“Here at TLK we are old fashioned, we are simple, we are slow, we are Mainers,” she said. “We prefer human contact over computers and pen & paper over keyboards.”

The new system does, however, come with some new rules. For example, since April 1 falls on Easter Sunday, French will allow cards to be postmarked on March 31. Cards postmarked earlier than that, however, will not be included in the drawing. Cards received after April 11 will also be disqualified.

Other rules: Don’t send more than one card. And don’t include a heartfelt, handwritten message describing why you want to eat at The Lost Kitchen so badly. The staff might enjoy reading such pleas, but they will not be swayed.

And if your card isn’t drawn, don’t give up hope – there’s always the waitlist.

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