Becoming a regular at your favorite local bar or restaurant isn’t something that just happens overnight. It takes multiple visits, numerous meals, plenty of drinks, and most of all, a lot of time spent over many months, sometimes years.
Becoming a regular isn’t difficult, but it is earned. And while there’s no official playbook or guide for how to do it, there’s also no better time than now to show your support and your appreciation — and to put in that time toward becoming a regular at your favorite restaurants.
Here’s what some chefs and restaurateurs have to say on the matter:
Whether you show your support to beloved haunts or newer spots, any kind of support is appreciated these days, says Colonia Verde chef and co-owner Felipe Donnelly. In Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, he says he’s made it a habit to go to newly opened For All Things Good on a constant basis, both in person and online, too.
“We personally know how hard it is, especially now,” he says, “so we’re trying to be as loyal as possible, but also be supportive online as well, just by promoting these restaurants or helping each other out in any way possible. Anything to maintain a close connection with them, you know?”
He adds that even now, in the pandemic, he’s also aware of his loyal customers, too. “We have a database, so I know who’s been here. I recognize them I see their name. Just by sending quick emails to say thank you for buying this — I want our customers to know how appreciative we are of them and that this isn’t just something we push through. We want to be as gracious as possible, and to recognize as many people who have supported us all this time.”
When Juan Correa wasn’t the co-owner of New York’s Llama Inn and Llama San restaurants, he was a frequent regular at his local gastropub. “I’d come by on mornings for brunch and I would know everyone there,” he recalls. “I knew the host, the general manager, the staff, the bartenders, and we would all hug each other when we’d see each other.”
Simple acknowledgements — rather than sending out free plates or drinks — made all the difference, he says. “They’d just say, ‘Hey, how are you? So good to see you.’ Just that acknowledgement of me as a person rather than a customer — that went a long way. It just goes back to the point of what we like in restaurants — it’s that. That’s why we’re in this business and that’s what we enjoy. And we’re sorely missing it these days.”
He adds that when it comes to his own restaurants now, he wants his own staff to feel empowered to put their heart into delivering hospitality. “The moment you walk into the door, we try to be your friends and welcome you so that you feel special, and we’ll treat you like we’ve invited you to our house.”
Global pandemic or not, a little empathy goes a long way, too. At Atoboy, former general manager Ahris Kim says they were fortunate to have a number of faithful regulars stop by for outdoor dining, takeout, and ordering merchandise online throughout the past year — as well as welcoming newer regulars who love frequenting the restaurant.
Her advice to diners, especially now during a pandemic? “Be open minded to whatever concept the restaurant will have to pivot to, ” she says. “It’s not going to be an overnight change. And if you love that restaurant, support them no matter what. If we want restaurants to become what we loved prior to last March, we have to let them sort everything out in order to prosper for the long run.”
She adds, “Hopefully we’ll continue to have guests who are empathetic to the day-to-day challenges that restaurant workers are going through and so they’re not only supporting those restaurants by becoming patrons, but also just emotionally understanding the reasons for some of the rules in place and the limited resources they may have available.”
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