This post was originally published on January 18, 2012 on Forbes.com.
It's famously been said that “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” When it comes to giving yourself the edge in any situation, you can’t put a price on the access, insider information, and home field advantage that come from being a regular.
When I lived in Dallas, I’d frequent a steakhouse called Al Biernat’s. As I’d pull into the parking lot, Danny, arguably the best bartender in town, would pour my drink. By the time I got inside, a glass of scotch would be saving my spot at the end of the bar, usually next to someone he knew I’d enjoy meeting. Danny knows a little bit about everybody that comes to his bar and is perhaps one of the best professional matchmakers in Texas. There have been more than a few occasions where Danny knew that a couple of regulars should get to know each other and made the introduction over the next round of drinks.
Here in New York, being a regular is even more of a challenge as drinking and dining is considered by some to be a competitive sport. I’ve spoken to General Managers at some of Manhattan’s most renowned restaurants and asked them the simple question: ‘What’s the best way to get a table here?’ Their answer always includes some variation on “make sure I know who you are.” There is nothing better than walking into a crowded restaurant with a potential business partner and being met by a smiling face and a “Great to see you again, Mr. Ellwood.”
To gain this kind of access and win professional home field advantage, where do you start? Here are four ways to quickly achieve the status of "a regular":
- Be Consistent: Especially in the beginning, make sure sit in the same section of the restaurant or same side of the bar.
- Don’t Explore the Menu: Know what your drink or your “favorite” dish is and order it each time you go in. A good bartender or server prides themselves on knowing their best customers’ preferences and being a step ahead. Make it easy for them.
- First Name Basis: Ask for the staff’s first names when ordering and be on a first name basis with them as quickly as possible. It is amazing how far “Thank you, Danny” will go when paying your bill.
- Tip Well: In the same way that the staff at a restaurant has nothing nice to say about a bad tipper, they do speak favorably about a good tipper. If you become the person that everyone wants in their section, you become a face everyone in the restaurant will look forward to seeing.