Welcome back….We’re thrilled you are here!

As hospitality industry professionals we recognize how fortunate we are to welcome back frequent diners and dedicated clientele into our establishments.  “Regulars” as this special group are often referred to as, are the heart and soul of many businesses, and their continuous support is a huge compliment to your staff. 

In some circumstances frequent diners may become more familiar with your food and beverage offerings than perhaps even some staff members, and therefore not even need to look at a menu when visiting.  This situation poses the question “are your frequent diners less likely to experience FOH staff utilizing suggestive selling techniques as an educational and sales tool as say they are for a new guest to your establishment”?

Most service training manuals stress the importance of the initial greeting that waitstaff worldwide are trained to utilize. It is however primarily designed specifically for first time visitors, not frequent diners.

More often than not our regulars become part of “The Family”, and conversations lean more towards a personal exchange rather than a traditional Waitstaff/Guest experience.  Obviously, part of the reason this person or persons has become a “regular” is that they appreciate the fact that they are recognized, they have an understanding of their favorite menu items, and perhaps they have favorite food or beverage items that they gravitate towards.  They also are not interested in an “Elevator Pitch”,  each and every time they step into your operation.

However, It’s not a “one size fits all” when serving regular guests.  Operators need to continuously train staff so as they have the tools to recognize the needs of guests, in this case frequent diners,  perhaps before the guest consciously is aware themselves.

I myself am a regular at a handful of restaurants, and quite often after the initial greet and friendly banter, there is seldom any conversation regarding new menu offerings, specials for that day or beverage features.  This is not just a disservice to me, but also to the establishment as they are potentially loosing the opportunity to increase sales.

While conducting staff training seminars, have you or anyone on your management team ever posed the question to your staff “are any of you regular patrons at an establishment”?  “And if so

what is your expectation when dining somewhere two to three times a month”?

It is quite certain that you will get an array of answers, and highly unlikely that any of them will mention anything about the importance of a server or bartender simultaneously suggestive selling while engaged in thoughtful conversation.

In today’s world many of us are hiring folks that have never experienced thoughtful restaurant service consistently, or perhaps even understand the importance of repeat customers.  

Training practices should embrace the idea that FOH staff  are not just “order takers” and “food runners”.  Before ever stepping foot in the dining room the mindset should be understood that waitstaff and bartenders are professional “Guides”, hired to lead patrons through an experience, while at the same time utilizing techniques that suggestive sell and to some degree educate.  Constantly remind your teams that being “Down to Earth”, “Humble”, and “Unpretentious” are just as important life & service traits as is being “Happy”, “Sincere” and “Outgoing”.

So how do you implement service standards and practices to better enhance frequent diners overall experience?  This answer may be found within your team.  Are you currently an operation that has certain team members requested when patrons make dining reservations?  If you are…..congratulations,  because these service members can perhaps lead by example when training other staff members.  What traits do these folks possess that is attractive to regular clientele?  Observing their interactions with their “regulars”will showcase some obvious explanations, but mostly the not so obvious. Most definitely however, other team members should witness this seasoned professional interacting with their guests in a sincere manner.  It is a balancing act of remembering the little things the guest appreciates while at the same time engaging the diner in thoughtful conversation.  To this extent remember, regular customers in your establishment to some degree have an interest and desire to be “part of the family”.  They are curious about the inner workings and dynamics of your organization and they are sincerely interested to know that perhaps your pastry chef just returned from a workshop in Paris, or the bartender just won a mixology competition. These “subtle” conversations quite often result in increased sales because their curiosity will trigger them to want to taste a new dessert or cocktail offering which may or may not even be on the menu.  Quite often we assume we know what our frequent diners flavor profiles are, and that is a mistake.  Yes, many regulars drink and eat the same exact items on every visit.  However, trust is another reason patrons become regulars, and when they trust, more often than not they will step outside their “normal” dining habits to experiment,  which in turn leads to an elevated experience for them and increased sales for you.  And never forget, regulars are very transparent to their friends, family and coworkers regarding their “relationship” to your establishment.  And Yes, even in todays world of social media and technology, their is no better recommendation than word of mouth.

Entertain Deliciously!

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