There’s nothing like going to your favourite pub, sitting in your favourite seat, and being greeted by your favourite server—the one who doesn’t need to ask your drink or lunch order because they already know what you like.
Being a regular at a bar, restaurant, or shop means that when you visit, it’s more like going to spend time with friends, and those friends often go out of their way to make you feel welcome, appreciated, and like part of the family. Here’s how you can become a regular and reap those benefits at the places you frequent.
Why You Should Be a Regular
It’s no secret that regulars get the best treatment, and that’s usually because they have a real impact on the people and the business they patronize. When you become a regular—not just at bars and restaurants, but at shops, farmer’s markets, and local businesses, the people there come to appreciate you and rely on your business to survive. Naturally, it’s in their best interest to make sure you come back, and that often translates into access to the best products they have to offer, the freshest vegetables, advice on how to pick the best cheeses, first glimpse at the hottest commodities and items for sale, and even discounts and freebies just for stopping by.
Take it from someone who sometimes just wants to go into a restaurant, put my head down, and enjoy a meal without being bothered or fussed after—being a regular doesn’t mean that you’re so busy catching up with the staff that you barely have enough time to eat your meal or drink a few pints. What it really means is that whenever you go to a specific place, the people there know you, they know what you like and what you want, and most importantly, they know how you like to be treated while you’re there.
How to Become a Regular at Any Establishment
Becoming a true and dependable regular is a bit trickier than just showing up all the time, although that’s a good start. Sure, you can just find a favourite place and go every week or so, but if you meet different people, sit in different places, go at different times, and buy or order different things, people won’t come to know anything about you, and that’s what’s important.This article at Forbes offers some tips to get you started, but here are some more suggestions.
- Make your visits part of a routine. I love to shop at farmer’s markets, even if sometimes I have to go to the grocery store anyway for other supplies later. Still, I make a point to visit my farmer’s market roughly the same time on the same day every week or two. I visit the same stands when I visit—my favourite deli counter, butcher, vegetable farmer, egg stand, and cheesemonger. Even if I don’t need anything from them, I stop in and say hello, and ask what they have in that week. Afterward, I visit my favourite coffeeshop, right across the street, or grab lunch at the pub around the corner.
- Part of this is that I genuinely care about them, their business, and their livelihood, but building a relationship with them—or even with the same people at the counters in your supermarket—pays off for me when I come back to the cheesemonger the following week for some Brie and walk off with a half-price slice from a freshly opened wheel.
- In restaurants, sit in the same place at the same time. This is a variant on making your visits a routine, but when you go to a restaurant and have an option on where to sit, make sure to sit in the same place if you can. Don’t be rude and demand to sit in a specific person’s section unless you know for fact that’ll be OK, but sit in the same place, or belly up to the same spot at the bar if you can. There’s no faster way to get to know your server or help a bartender learn what you like to drink by sitting in the same place at the same time on a regular basis.
- Take an active interest, but allow yourself to be educated. Especially when you’re getting to know a bartender, server, market vendor, or shop owner, you want to make sure they understand that you’re engaged and interested in what they have to offer. Share your own thoughts and ask questions. The server is the expert on the restaurant—they can help you find out whether the lunch special is any good. The wine buyer is the expert on the vintages they have in stock—they can help you pick a varietal that will compliment the dinner you’re planning for Valentine’s Day.
- Order and buy the same things. When you really become a regular, you and the server working both know that when you walked through the door and made eye contact, you ordered a specific drink to start and possibly even a specific meal. If you’re lucky, they’ll walk up with your drink, take the menu from you, and ask if you want “the usual,” in which case you should always say yes. You’re one of the fold, now.
- The same applies to shops and markets—you know you’ve made an impression when someone has saved something they know you love for you because you ask for it frequently. You can get to that point with your favourite restaurants and shops by picking your favourite dishes, drinks, and products, and sticking to them. Once you’re a regular, you’re free to change it up from time to time and try something new. Oh, and it goes without saying: if you want to be a regular at a bar or restaurant, tip well. Small shop or deli? Pay cash and save them the credit card processing fees. It may sound silly, but your consideration often makes a big impact, especially on small pubs and hole-in-the-wall shops.
When Does the Free Stuff Come In?
- Once you’ve made a name for yourself, and maybe even gotten to know the names of the staff you see every time you visit, it won’t be long before you reap the benefits. Like we mentioned, you’ll quickly become an insider, get access to their best or newest wares, pick up your next order at a discount, or find that your favourite server comped you a drink or forgot to add your appetizer to the bill. It doesn’t happen often, and you shouldn’t rely on it by any means (after all, no one stays in business giving things away for free), but from time to time the shopowner, wait staff, or bartender will go out of their way to make sure you know they appreciate your business.
- To that end, you’ll find that you appreciate their business as well. You may have gone into becoming a regular in order to snag a discount here and there, but you’ll come out with much more than that. You’ll have a seat reserved for you every week at the same time, have a butcher who cuts the chops thicker than they normally would, a wine seller eager to tell you what they just got in stock, or have a place of refuge where your drink is waiting and you can relax when you’ve had a hard day—where everybody knows your name.