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What is a "regular" at a restaurant and should it get you something?

Recently I was sharing a story about a restaurant in Princeton, NJ - that the place has great food, but we stopped going. Here's the thing: for over two years (or more?) we went every other week - usually, every week. While the wait staff was always pleased to see us, we never got any acknowledgement for being - what I would consider - a regular! One night we called ahead for seating (you could do that M-Th) and when we got there, they told us it was an hour wait. I finally said something about coming every week and the guy gave us some free shrimp tempura. Honestly, it was kind of too little, too late. This restaurant is about $80 for two, so it isn't super cheap or super expensive. I don't think my husband and I expect much. Or, do we? What do you think?

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  1. the problem with (relatively)expensive restaurants is often you're paying for more than the food. i would be annoyed if I went to that restaurant and wasn't acknowledged, too.

    in general,, i feel like being a regular entitles you to get the food the way you want, quickly, without a hassle. also, they should not necessarily charge you for small extras.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fara

      when you say get your food "quickly" do you mean a consideration for shorter wait for a table?

    2. I think that although the people at the restaurant like to see a familiar face, there's really nothing they can do to make you feel especially part of the family except to acknowledge they recognize you and maybe try to give faster service if they're not too busy. There are several places we spend more time at in several states.... and the most we can expect is that they recognize us..... perhaps drinks come a little faster, or they remember what we do drink... I don't fault the staff... there's so much they have to do.
      Every once in a while we do see an up tic in something almost intangible... And we respond in kind - vis a vis a tip. etc. It's nice to be welcomed at a place you like and where they know your name. But I don't fault them if they are frazzled.

      1. I think you're right to be annoyed. I always have a regular dinner spot and a regular bar. Several years ago I had to work late and through the weekend and my clients and I decided to get a bite on a fri around 7. We went to my place, there were several people ahead of us, we got the next table and before menu's came, the waiter brought my ususal cocktail. We were obviously given special treatment/acknowlegement and it was very appreciated. It's really little thing, but they add up. It's nice to be appreciated

        10 Replies
        1. re: rednyellow

          The trouble with that sort of thing is that it isn't fair to other patrons. It can't have been fun for all those people who were waiting ahead of you! Yes, there are perks to being a regular but the restaurant runs the risk of losing new business by doing things like that. How many times have you read complaints here about peoples' tables being given away and other diners getting preferential treatment? That kind of bad word of mouth can really hurt a business! Regulars are great, but they rarely stay regulars forever and restaurants need new customers too.

          It's great to be a regular, but unfair/unreasonable to expect special treatment on a busy weekend night. I am a regular at a couple of dozen places in my neighborhood, but on busy nights expect nothing more than the exact standard of service that is being given to everyone else. I never expect freebies and would certainly not be able to enjoy my meal knowing I had stolen someone else's table.

          1. re: hrhboo

            I disagree. I dont expect anything, but very much appreciate it. The rest. can handle it very well, discretely, as if we had a reservation.

            1. re: rednyellow

              Regardless of how the restaurant handled it, I wouldn't feel good about it. It's unscrupulous and inconsiderate.

              1. re: hrhboo

                I understand your opinion, but dont share it. If I'm spending quite a bit regularly at a rest. I'm quite fine with vip perks. I"d never try to flaunt it, but am happy to accept it.

                1. re: rednyellow

                  Of course, you're entitled to your opinion. When you arrive on time for your reservation at a place at which you are not a regular and are still forced to wait for a table, please understand that this is likely the reason.

                  1. re: hrhboo

                    I agree with hrhbo.

                    'Regular' status should, hopefully, entitle one to the owner stopping by to chat, getting a table via a last minute call, a little something extra from the chef, and an out-of-ordinary greeting at the door, but it doesn't entitle one to line jump.

                    1. re: dolores

                      If you have "MVP" status, or whatever they choose to call it, on an airline, they jump you ahead at a special shorter check-in line. You get first shot at boarding. This is even if you are flying coach. I liken it to getting a table ahead of others. It can even be handled discreetly so no feathers are ruffled. I don't feel guilty about it, not in the least. It is a gesture of appreciation to a dedicated customer. We need more of this, not less.

                      1. re: Leonardo

                        Interesting comparison. Actually, airlines don't do that discreetly at all; they announce "we will begin boarding with our first class, 1K, elite and platinum members" or what have you. It's also possible to buy into those programs directly, in addition to what one pays for airfare. I wonder if the overt nature and accepted practice by airlines doesn't ruffle feathers or is people are simply used to it.

                        It also doesn't quite hold up to the restaurant situation because someone boarding earlier doesn't change the seat that the other people are going to get (except for Southwest, but there's always an exception, right?) and doesn't change the flight for those people.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          And how much does that alienate the average customer. The last time I flew United Airlines (and probably the last time), they had EIGHT different preboarding groups.

                          After twenty minutes of waiting someone shouted out, "When do the peons board?"

                      2. re: dolores

                        I totally agree. I think here is the difference as far as I am concerned. Lets say I am eating at a restaurant for the first time and somehow I become aware that the people at the table next to me are getting some kind of preferential treatment. As long as our needs are met and the food is good, we will come back. It is a non-issue for me. However, if we have been waiting thirty minutes in line and all of a sudden a repeat customer with no reservation walks in and jumps the line, we are leaving never to return. Of course, every restaurant has that right to make the choice for themselves as to which customer they deem more valuable and I do understand that.

          2. Thanks for the responses. Now there have only been a few responders, but if people think a regular just deserves acknowledgement and nothing more, then if feels like there is a big opportunity for restaurants who are willing to acknowlege good customers. I know ther are places out there...we now go to a place - once a week, at least, and they basically make us what we want. Yes, 90% of the time, it is straight off the menu, but if we liked a special, and it's not featured, they will still make it if they can. Needless to say, I am still going to this place once a week - going tomorrow!

            1. I think that being a regluar can bring you some little perks, but you shouldn't expect them. A good restaurant should find a way to make their regulars feel known and appreciated without making non-regulars feel like crap.

              In your situation, anyone who called ahead for a table and were then told it was an hour wait- anyone should be miffed by that, not just a regular.

              In my experience, being a regular doesn't entitle you to bumping other diners in line, or in any way inconveniencing others. A drink or glass of wine sent to the table, however, is a nice acknowledgement, and it doesn't make others feel "less than", because they never have to know.