Skill Focus: Creating Regulars


I am kind of a pain to go eat with.  When I make reservations or arrive at any number of restaurants I have a conversation with the host/hostess.  Before being seated I have to determine if certain servers are working that night.  Then we all have to wait to get a table in their section. This annoys some of the people who go out to eat with me.  I assure them that I am proactively trying to make sure we get great service.  I don’t leave such things to chance.  Besides, why would I sit in a random section when I am that server’s regular?

I am a regular for a number of servers around town.  Some are servers that I have worked with in the past.  Others are servers who have given me great service on previous visits.  In addition to the type of tip that only a devout believer in tip karma would leave, I also give repeat business.  I will eat mediocre food with great service, but have written off many restaurants with great food and poor service.  I am the type of regular you want to have.

We all want regulars.  I have had more than my share over the years.  This is because I started very early on in my career trying to determine what created regulars.  I still have some of my first “server business cards” from 14 years ago.  When I recently changed restaurants, I was pleasantly surprised to see the names of some of my favorite regulars on the books during my first month.  This was a very heartwarming tribute to the type of relationship we had developed.

I first shared some of my tips in the post this week’s skill focus is based upon: Creating Regulars.

I covered the basics in that post.  Today I want to give you some more tips on how to turn guests into regulars.

Make time to visit: Even if a guest you had rapport with on a previous visit is not in your section, make time to at least thank them for returning.  This will likely cause them to think highly of you and remember you when they return.

Point out what you remember: If they mention they are going on a trip, be sure and ask how it was when they return.  Point out the fact that you remembered the special requests they had on their last visit.  One set of regulars at my current job require, water with no ice, straws, lemon, sugar, butter, hot sauce, and a box delivered with their meal.  This would normally make them high maintenance, but by memorizing that list, it is one trip to get all of it and leave them impressed.

Use their names: If you want a guest to use your name when they come in, you need to use their name when they are seated.  I prefer to stick to last names.  Greeting a guest with, “Welcome back Mr Johnson” will always make them glad they used your name at the door.

Make them feel special: Introduce them to you manager as someone the manager should know.  Tell them about items you think are outstanding that evening.  Give them the name of another server they can ask for if you are not there and make an introduction.  These are things that give your guests a feeling that they are VIPs.  They will return to maintain that status.

Use Open Table: So many restaurants have Open Table, but very few servers utilize it.  Put some guest notes in the system to provide you with information you want to remember on their next visit.  It is also very helpful for jogging your memory with guests that remember you, but that you don’t remember.  Open Table will tell you the date and table of their last visit.  I find this invaluable in keeping track of new regulars.

Everyone wants to be a regular.  Every server wants to have more regulars.  It is up to the server though to take the necessary steps to facilitate this relationship.  Giving the level of service that makes a guest come back in to see you is only the first step.  Following up with the type of personalized and grateful service that merits a return visit is what creates a long-term regular for years to come.

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