Regulars are an important staple in most successful venues, providing not only sales, but a constant customer presence that can be built off of. But as simple as this concept is, the acquisition and maintenance of regulars is much more complex than most operators realize.
With increased loyalty comes increased expectations, which if not met can turn even the most devoted patrons into vocal detractors. Use the following guidelines to effectively develop these relationships.
Redefine “Taking Care”
The novice solution to building regulars is to simply “take care of” them. But what does this really mean? It can seemingly have have any number of embodiments. And while most of these will be simple examples of good service, there are many details within these interactions that are not so obvious. These must be addressed early and correctly in order to maximize these efforts.
Get a Name
Acknowledgement Developing regulars starts the moment they walk up to the door. For this reason there should always be a host or some other employee greeting everyone (by name whenever possible). Beyond this, any action which anticipates and welcomes the guest is helpful. The value of this increases with the level of personalization, with having the guests' drink/table ready being the most common example.
Comp What You Can Giving away product is an easy way to build regulars. But as quick as this method is, it is equally as fleeting, with those coming in returning only as they long as the comps keep coming. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy regulars an occasional drink, but relying on this sends the wrong message and is not a sustainable business plan, especially since non-comp related services are often worth far more to guests than monetary discounts.
The Little Things Most people who can afford to eat and drink out all the time could care less about saving a dollar here and there. What these people really appreciate are things the money can’t buy, such as always being able to get in, having a place to sit, and being able to watch their game. Within reason, always do what you can to accommodate these things. And remember, the more proactive you are the more impressed the recipients will be.
Gauge the Level of Engagement Most regulars come, at least partially, for the interaction with the staff. For these people make sure you fulfill this expectation by initiating conversation and including them in other conversations that are occurring around them. But note that this desire to be involved is not always present, with many regulars frequenting a venue for the privacy. Either way, figure out what type of experience the customer would like and deliver it.
Staff Accordingly Certain employees are prone to attract regulars than others. This can be both for their demeanor and service abilities, as well their pre-existing following and physical attributes. Whatever the reason, maximize this factor by having these employees work days, shifts, and station where you need regulars to come in.
Educate Your Staff Have a list of VIPs and other valued customers that frequent your venue and make it available to the staff. This should NOT include anything detailed or personal, just a name and any specific instructions that will allow these regulars to receive more personalized service.
Train Your Customers As important as regulars are, they can also be quite a nuisance if they begin to feel entitled, expecting comps and exceptions to the rules. The good news is you can train them … yes, train them. This may sound weird out of a pet / exercise context, but it is 100% accurate. Many regulars will attempt to push the boundaries regarding what they get and how they treat the staff, but by sticking to your guns on what they can and can’t do you they will eventually fall in line as a good customer, or leave. And while the loss in business may hurt, the losses will come in other ways should they stay, as it is best for any regular that is going to be problematic to not be a regular at all.