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Are you a regular?

There is a great story in this wednesday's NYT by Frank Bruni about being a regular at a restaurant. Its all about the comforts of knowing a place and the place knowing you. I wanted to find out how many of you are regulars and how many regular places you have.

Being a regular in my view means that the owners/staff know you, maybe not by name but you've been there enough so that they know who you are and treat you just a bit differently than someone who walks in off the street. There are two places that we go to where we have gotten to know the owners and every time we go, the owners come by to say hello. We often get comp'ed drinks or desserts there. Then there are 2 more places that the wait staff knows us and when we place an order for a particular dish, they know that there are certain modifications we like to various dishes and we don't even have to ask them to make them anymore. And finally, there is our favorite sushi place where they keep our individual chopsticks behind the bar each of which have the names of my family members engraved on them. I remember the day when we came in and were seated. The waiter removed the chopsticks that were on the table and presented us with the personalized version. Made us feel very special.

So do you have a regular place or places and how do they treat you as a regular?

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  1. Just one regular place. A small family-run americanized-Chinese restaurant that is in a quiet suburb, and not only do I like it for the food, but because it is quiet (not busy) in the evening so I can have converstations with friends, or just be alone in my thoughts when I dine alone. I don't feel as relaxed in any other restaurant.

    The owners don't say much because english isn't their first language, but the daughter who is now in college is very friendly. When I quit going for awhile after moving out of the suburbs, the mother mentioned "where have you been, did you move ?". It was kind of comforting knowing that I was missed.

    Foodwise, I never mention the restaurant on chowhound.com because it wouldn't wow anyone or come close to a "best"...but sometimes dining isnt just about the food.

    1. Yes, at my morning taco place and at the family's Sunday night Tex Mex place.

      1. The Lao woman who runs my regular canteen will come out and tell me about special ingredients she has on store and propose improvised dishes. Once she gets going with ideas, it's amazing what she can come up with. In some cases she will just surprise me.

        1. We have a number of places that know/treat us as regulars.

          In some my drink arrives without have to be ordered. In others the hostess will seat us in our favorite servers' section without us having to ask.

          Even in a local branch of a fast food regional chain, the counter help knows that my wife's sandwich gets made with leaf lettuce, not shredded, she doesn't have to ask.

          And of course my in-city club, where my drink is waiting at my usual seat at 1:05PM on Thrusdays right after the lunch break starts in family court. Membership has its privileges.

          1. We are regulars at three places. Our son has gone with us since an infant and the staff spoils him at all three. He thinks a club soda in a rocks glass with extra lemons and limes is the greatest drink ever. Add a sword and he is over the moon.

            At one place, we know the owner well and often he will join us to eat.

            At another, the hostess orders our son's favorite soup as soon as she seats us and it comes out with extra crisps. He is 8yo and still is delighted when it arrives without ordering it, like it is magic.

            The third is a club and the servers bring our drinks to the table as we are sitting down.

            1. I play tennis one evening a week with 3 friends and we go to the same sushi place every week after tennis. We are regulars there. As soon as we sit down, they immediately bring 3 of us our Diet Cokes. Plus they know other little details about our group (who likes salad dressing on the side, etc). When I go in there with my husband, he is always impressed at the greeting that I get.

              My husband and I (and kids) are regulars at a local chinese takeout place. We bring in from there many Sunday nights (in fact, most Sunday nights). My husband usually calls to place the order and goes for the pickup, but even when I call to place the order, they know that it's us calling. Not sure if it's the caller ID or the order that they know! But they are nice to us.

              And same thing for a local Indian place. We don't eat from there *that* often, but when we do, they know us.

              1. We are regulars at one local restaurant. It isn't fancy or serving complicated food. We usually go for lunch on a Saturday or Sunday but will occasionally hit it up for dinner. We sit at the bar and have been going there for years and years so all of the bartenders know us and the managers at least recognize us though they never acknowledge us.

                My husband changes his drink order all the time so they never know what they will have to make him, but I often walk in and sit down (in the same area) and find myself almost immediately presented with a mojito which is my drink of choice there. They see our car pull in and start making the drink.

                1. I am a regular in many restaurants, but also eat out a lot of new restaurant. I think the reason why I am a "Regular" in many restaurants is that I eat out alone very often and don't mind striking conversations.

                  It is just easier for staffs to remember a single patron sitting in his own table instead of a person in a party of 6. For cry out loud, I have only been to my local Cheesecake factory 4 times in the last 2 years, and somehow I am a "regular" -- recognized by 3 staffs.

                  In term of how they treat me beside remember me. I will say a few of them simply like to share a bit of insider stories. For example, I find out the relationships of between several restaurants. I also probably learn things like how their sons and daughters are doing and how their childhood was like that sort of things.

                  1. Apparently, I haven't been enough of a regular at my "regular" places-

                    In Jakarta, I'd go nearly every day to a Manadonese place called Woku Blangan, though because I've moved away, even with the same staff (and a mostly local clientele), I'm just another customer. It's fine by me, since the quality is still high.

                    While teaching in Shenzhen, I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant (now closed; it was called Sharazad 1001 Nights) nearly every weekday. I didn't stand out as much there, but the owners did bring my friend and I Lebanese baklava a couple of times.

                    As a kid, one casual restaurant I ate at gave another friend and I free vanilla ice cream, but they're long closed too.

                    Jonathan
                    http://buildingmybento.com
                    http://collaterallettuce.com

                    1. I am a regular at a small sake specialty bar in my neighborhood of Tokyo. In addition to the regular sake menu, the owner stocks some unusual and special sakes. When I come in, I never need to look at the menu because he knows my preferences well, and always selects one of the off-menu sakes he is sure I will like.

                      1. 3 places... know me well enoughto call me by name and know what I like to order and comeout and talk to me. One of those knows me well enough to have sent flowers when my grendmother died.

                        1. At JITB, they know my breakfast order ("Extreme Sausage, sandwich only, no cheese, extra egg, medium water, no ice, to go."). And my Chinese take-out knows that I want chopsticks.

                          1. Piero's, Bull and Bush, Shotgun Willies, Blue Goose Cantina, Glenwood, Star Fish, Woody's River Roo, La Pesca, Cueva del Pescador. Hugs/ abrazos every time, then great service.

                            1. Yes we are regulars at a number of places.

                              I can think of one higher end place where we no most most of the staff/owners on a first name basis. Then we have 2-3 small more casual places that definitely know us but not necessarily our names. They great us warmly, always ask about our son if he's not with us, ask him how he's doing in hockey, etc. One is small Thai place, one is fusion/asian place that serves sushi, japanese, thai and Sichuan cuisine and the last is a small middle eastern place.

                              1. I'm always a regular at a few places at once, although there are degrees of "regularness." Now, there is only one place I go to about twice a week, and about three places where I am known for being a long-time customer even though I don't get there as often as I used to. A comp'ed drink is a common benefit, but once recently I scored a half-dozen raw oysters which had been rejected (untouched) by a customer.

                                I used to have a place (long gone) where I was the number one regular. Once when I went in and found a neighbor sitting in my place at the counter, he got up to move. I let him stay, though.

                                1. i have a rotation of 5 restaurants and bars at which i am a regular.
                                  add to that i am a regular at the gelato place near my house.

                                  i eat out about 5 times a week, so when i find a restaurant that i like, it isn't hard to become a regular there.

                                  the point of becoming a regular is that:
                                  1) i treat the place better than i would if i were at a restaurant at which i wasn't a regular. (higher tipping, more forgiving, friendlier to the staff, making it a point to bring in new customers on a regular basis)
                                  and
                                  2) they treat me better than they would a "non-regular" customer.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    I think you make the best point of all. Where we're regulars, THEY get special treatment, the very things you mention. And what goes around, comes around. Not the comp-kinda thing which I care nothing about but just that recognition.

                                  2. We've got a fairly short rotation of restaurants we frequent, but there's only one where we get the "regular" treatment. It's an Indian joint called Sri Maharaja.

                                    We caught the owner/chef's eye not only because we dined there frequently, but because I'm one of the rare customers who orders the hottest dishes on the menu with the specification that he prepares them as hot as he's willing to. Being a Hyderabadi chilehead himself, he appreciates my ambitions, and we've gotten to know each other pretty well, even though his English is almost as limited as my Hindi.

                                    The waitstaff also know us quite well, and I'll occasionally see one of them on the university campus where I work.

                                    1. Absolutely! I am a creature of habit so my life is a series of regulars. I usually go to only 2 places in our neighborhood and they know me quite well. They know to bring me a diet coke without ice and a cider if I'm having alcohol. When I call for delivery or take out and start my order, I'm such a regular that the person taking the order usually starts to recite what I'd like - this is quite hilarious at both the Chinese and sushi places. I enjoy feeling like a part of the family. Even at the grocery store I'm a regular. I usually go around the same time on the same particular days and know all the employees by name. Actually yesterday, the fishmonger spotted me and then handed me a fresh container of gazpacho. I often walk up to the counter and they already start heading towards my likely selection or let me know if my favorite cut is in stock. I quite enjoy when the butcher shouts across the aisle "we have grass fed sirloin today."

                                      1. One regular place. A pho place down my street.

                                        It's gotten to a point that I have only to walk in, wave and sit down. 5 min later my regular order (pho tai) is placed in front of me with the secret hot sauce no one else gets.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: meatnveg

                                          There was a Pakistani place I'd go to in Hong Kong's Chungking Mansions where the owner made me a spice blend that he didn't offer anyone else. Well, that's what he'd like his customers to think. In any event, I continue to forget to ask what the name of it is, so the owner has to be there in order to get the condiment.

                                        2. Yes!! At several places

                                          One if which is throwing a regulars appreciation party tonight!

                                          1. One regular place, it's a neighbourhood pub/sports bar kind of place with good, simple food. I typically go later in the evening with friends and the waitress/manager knows all of our drinks and what/how we like to order from the menu.
                                            It is also a spot for impromptu gatherings for family dinners with friends and their kids. They happily accomodate our large group when we show up. The kids usually get their own table and a remote for one of the TVs.
                                            We've had many birthday and going away parties there and if kids are included they get the royal treatment. Above mentioned waitress/manager takes them on tours of back of house. They were especially thrilled with a trip to the beer cellar!

                                            Oh, I just remembered one more. A greek takeaway place in the neighbourhood. It has fabulous food at a great price and I just couldn't say enough good things about them when they opened up. I was chatting with the owner one day and he asked if I ever went one Chowhound, the restaurant had been mentioned very favourably by many on our local board. When I told him I did and what my screen name was he insisted on giving me my meal that day, it seems he remembered my posts!

                                            1. There are only two dim sum restaurants in Tampa, although a lot of other places put a few dishes on the menu and claim to be dim sum places. Since there are only two and my girlfriend is a dim sum fanatic, we go to T.C. Choy's often on Sundays. The hostess, who I think is one of the owners, can predict what my girlfriend, a creature of habit, will order.

                                              If we do not come for a few weeks, the hostess always notes that it has been a few weeks since we came in and asks if we have been out of town. I do not think the hostess would recognize me alone, but my girlfriend always gets treated like royalty. It's nice--and great PR. And the fact is that I think the warm reception comes from the heart.

                                              1. Just one and when I'm there I sit with the owner and his family and catch up on the latest wholesale prices and the latest customer stories. I always pay for my meal and sometimes I bring a gift for the children. If I didn't pay the respect level would change. If I needed special accommodating, the relationship wouldn't be as easy as it is now. Food wise, I sit, I eat what they're eating and enjoy. When they visit my studio, the same professional respect applies. Sitting at their table is special.

                                                1. We stopped into our fave place this afternoon for an "adult beverage" after a downtown food walking tour. The owner/executive chef had just put up on FB that they were starting to serve local goat. He'd also seen that we got a smoker. He brought us a rack of smoked goat ribs! Back in the spring he gave me a quarter pound of morels. Now THAT'S the kinda regular that I like being :) Great guy even if he hadn't done these things.

                                                  1. We used to live around the corner from a local Italian American place that has been around for about 70 years. We started going on Monday nights for their chicken parm special (my husband got that, I always got the "spag and balls"). After a few weeks, the waitstaff would bring over 2 IPAs on tap as soon as we walked in.
                                                    Fast forward 3 years and my husband went in on a Monday night without me....They couldn't stop wondering where I was. I didn't come back the next Monday either. Our favorite waitress came up and said, "She's pregnant, right?"
                                                    They knew about our first child-to-be before anyone else. After my first trimester ended, I came back.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: saintp

                                                      I just have to know why you didn't eat there during that time. :)

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        As soon as I would walk in, the smells (garlic, pizza, sauce...) would hit me. I couldn't eat a thing....it seemed too complicated. Once my nausea ended, I could eat anything!

                                                    2. I was the kid of a single mother who worked full time and never, ever cooked, so we were "regulars" at a couple local restaurants. I absolutely hated it; hated being recognized and welcomed. I wanted more than anything to be " normal" like my friends and have a home-cooked meal at home every night. To this day, part of me now craves anonymity at my local favorite, while the foodie in me is ashamed of that.

                                                      1. Yes at several places, I don't think the serviced is any different but, it's nice to have the wait staff know you.

                                                        1. Nope, there's nowhere we visit often enough to be classed as "regulars" and recognised as such by employees. There are a couple of places that we might go to maybe three times a year but that's as frequent as it gets.

                                                          1. Years ago we used to go to a great restaurant 5 minutes from our house. When we walked in, if the bartender had the time, he would put on the opening song from Rhythm of the Saints by Paul Simon -- my personal favorite. We always ate at the bar and sat at the same two seats whenever possible. We came in one evening to find a small brass plate on the edge of the bar with our first names on it. Still miss the place after 20 years though of course it has changed hands and everyone has moved on. Oh for time travel.

                                                            1. Yes, I am a regular at three places ... but one of them, I am often not treated as a regular. There seems to be a lot of turnover ... I've been going there virtually my entire life (haven't always lived here but my relatives have), and the employee may have started yesterday or a few months ago. Whatever ...

                                                              It is nice to be greeted like a regular, and at one place, I have a regular order so I often don't need to say what I want.