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How to Become a Restaurant Regular

From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week

A mural of Virgil Smalls at Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen in College Park, GA
A mural of Virgil Smalls at Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen in College Park, GA
Ryan Fleisher

This post originally appeared on July 20, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

A friend of mine is a regular at every restaurant, coffee shop, and bar in our neighborhood. He’s like the mayor of our little section of Brooklyn. It might be because he is exceedingly friendly. It might be because he has one arm, a cheat for getting people to remember you. Most likely, it’s a combination of both.

When I asked him how I, too, could achieve regular status in our favorite places, a longtime goal of mine, he said I should find a way to visibly stand out (he suggested a stupid hat). But I think becoming a true Cheers-level regular — where people actually know your name and maybe even what you drink and care about — involves being memorable on multiple vectors.

So I asked some co-workers today who are expert in this for tips in the hopes that I can work my way toward my regular status goal. Because it turns out just politely buying my coffee every day without some sort of attempt at true human interaction isn’t doing the trick for me!

They may be obvious to you but not to everyone.

  • Be exceedingly friendly. That means (cringe) introducing yourself. Asking people their names and remembering them. Introducing yourself again. And again.
  • Tip well.
  • Have a go-to order.
  • Dine during non-peak times.
  • Go a lot within a short period of time.
  • Sit at the bar or counter.
  • If you are going to sit at a table, make reservations so they can track you.
  • If there is a host or greeter, get to know them. They are paid to remember faces.
  • Make a reservation on your way out.
  • Ask about what to order. Talk about things on the menu (or that came off the menu that you miss).
  • If there are other regulars, make small talk with them.
  • If you order a bottle of wine, offer your bartender or server a taste.
  • Go on the same day of the week to get the same staffers. Home in on one person and cultivate that relationship (but don’t be a creep, obv).
  • Go alone and try to stay off your phone.

Have any other tips as a customer or a server/owner/bartender/barista? Let me know!

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