How to Become a Regular at a Restaurant

The restaurant world is abuzz about regulars this week. The New York Times recently talked to William Herz, a regular at NYC Theatre District stand-by Sardi’s for almost 80 (!) years (Forget a favorite table; Mr. Herz even has his own cup.). And, the folks behind legendary Manhattan media magnet Michael’s have started tweeting about the movers and shakers who regularly power-lunch there each day.

While diners love being regulars, restaurants love regulars because they, like every business, depend on repeat business. I spoke with New York restaurateur Dean Philippis, owner of  Mill Pond House and Piccolo Restaurant, whose restaurants are regularly filled with — you guessed it — regulars. He says, “Every time that door opens up and it’s a regular, well, it’s the most flattering compliment a diner can give you.” Such flattery is always recognized by Philippis and his staff. “We make sure we remember their names. We know what tables they like to sit at. We have their drinks on the table before they have to order them. We never take them for granted.” From bringing restless children ice cream while a frazzled parent enjoys an entree or dashing out for slice of pizza for a picky young diner, he says, “It’s about the consistent level of care a guest receives.”

Obviously, it’s not difficult to become a regular at a restaurant. If you’re looking to speed up the process, it helps to book on OpenTable as it’s easy for the staff to tell that you’ve dined with them previously. Philippis also recommends that aspiring regulars frequent a restaurant on a weeknight. “During the week, there are more opportunities for my staff and me to engage with guests and really get to know them,” he shares. While the Bay Area Food Blog has just posted some fun tips for being a “good” regular, Philippis notes, “Diners shouldn’t have to do anything more than continue to show up to be embraced as a regular.”

Are you or have you been a regular at a restaurant and for how long? What are the perks of being a regular? Tell us your story here or join the conversation on Facebook.

State Your Complaint: Restaurant Critics; Restaurant Designs; Restaurant Menus; Restaurant Websites, and Being Treated Like a Regular (Huh?)

State-Your-Complaint* Will a Twitter campaign take out your least favorite critic? Doubtful, but one tweeter is trying, taking aim at Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila. [Grub Street Los Angeles]

* Phil Vettel stews over restaurant design flaws. I would concur with the oversized menus being a problem. I never know what to do with them if I just want to enjoy a cocktail before ordering but am sitting at a tiny table for two. Suggestions? [The Stew]

* Menus are less-than-appetizing at many restaurants, as far as Baltimore Sun blogger Laura Vozzella is concerned. She doesn’t mention my new pet peeve, which is seeing the word “foraged” on menus (Way too precious and fetish-y for me, thankyouverymuch!). [Dining@Large]

* Restaurant websites come under fire for a few of the right reasons. [Eater PDX]

* Restaurants come under fire for all the wrong reasons, thanks to the Chicago Tribune‘s Christopher Borrelli and his resentment at (GASP!)  being treated like a regular (when he is, in fact, a regular). Here’s a bit of free advice, Mr. Borrelli: If you don’t appreciate that restaurants or the barristas at your local Starbucks are able to anticipate what you’ll order, stop ordering the very same thing every time you dine out or grab a coffee. Live a little! Try something new — but not out of spite, because that’s just plain silly. That is all. [Chicago Tribune]