Regulars Deserve Royal Treatment

Cultivating regulars in your bar and/or restaurant is not only smart business, it’s fun. Frequent patrons become good friends, almost like family and even sometimes an extended unpaid member of your staff. They can be your eyes and ears on busy days noticing things there’s no way a server or manager could notice like someone getting ready to walk out without paying.

Like any close relationship it becomes somewhat of a delicate balance. The hospitality business is unlike any other. The business model actually includes ‘touching a person’s heart’. Food is love. People walk in the door of their favorite, regular establishment to shake off their days, blow off steam and be surrounded by good friends which often times includes other patrons and staff.

A disagreement or a misunderstanding with a regular patron can become difficult. The best solution is to remember, above all, it’s a business. Businesses cannot survive without making money. Familiar patrons may start to feel like they don’t need to tip their friends, or they may want a free desert or drinks.

Some ways to manage that delicate dance are:

Make the Manager or the Owner the Heavy.  Create some strategies around not being able to buy another round or offering free drinks by blaming the manager or the owner. This will only work if the manager or owner backs you up. It’s highly unlikely they won’t back you up, as every time a product is given away their margin sinks a little more.

Blame it on technology:  “I’d love to give you a heavier pour but the dispenser is pre-measured.” Emerald Wine Systems  is one of the many dispenser’s available today that only allows pre-measured pours. This technology is becoming more and more available helping to increase the profits of establishments, while minimizing the risk patrons will be over-served. 

Create Loyalty Programs: Reward your best customers with loyalty rewards that are not focused on discounts but on solving pain points and creating a stellar experience. A recent Forbes article discusses how Starbuck’s uses a Lifestyle App to create an experience customers will remember long after they’ve received a discount. 

Remember their Birthdays: Create mini celebrations. People love to be remembered and celebrated on their birthday. Have them verify the date by showing their drivers license just to be sure. Quote ‘policy’ when doing so.  These small birthday parties will create a stronger sense of community.

Sometimes I try to remind my guests of the business model. If a restaurant or bar gives their product away, their favorite place, where everybody knows their name, won’t be around for long. It’s tough to be a small business owner, particularly in the hospitality industry where margins are tight, product is perishable and prices fluctuate.

Provide value by giving stellar service and creating a memorable experience.  Do your best to turn expectations away from receiving free items and reminding patrons of the experience and the value they are getting. Make sure to shout out their name, greet them with a big smile and a wave each time they walk in the door. Remind them they are special, because they are, as you look forward to their frequent return.


  • Subscribe to our latest insights


Are you capital raise ready?