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Being irregular...uh, a regular

An article (and posts about the article, whatever they are called..."antePosts" maybe) is making the rounds purporting to hold the secrets to becoming a regular at your local eatery. The theory here is that if you act a certain way you will become a regular and then you will get special treatment. (The writer that lurks in my head wants to know why it's called a being a regular if the goal is to be treated irregularly.)

Sure, it's nice to be a regular at Cheers, I guess, if you want everyone to know your name, but what's really in it for you? 

Urban Monarch lists a few benefits of being a regular thusly (my comments inline):

  • Ability to order special items (out of season, non menu) (this strikes me as a pain for the staff and I can't see doing it without calling ahead.)
  • Immediate seating (oh, so you are those jerks who like cutting in line? I don't want to be a regular at a place that does this to new customers)
  • Complimentary drinks / desserts (As a small business owner, I can see how this works. I comp work for people on occasion.The moment it looks like someone expects it, I am done.)
  • Discounts (see above)
  • Recognition and social proof (OMG the ego... I had to look up social proof and once I did I decided that it's not something I'd ever claim as a positive...it's got two bullets for common applications: marketing and seduction)
  • Dependable location to entertain guests / meet up with friends (I'll give them this, but only to a certain point; get a new waiter or a cook having a bad night and all that dependability goes away)
  • Warmly received and well respected by staff (Maybe the first, don't count on the second. I once worked at a place where the biggest tipping regular was greeted with smiles while we tried to hand him off to someone else through our clenched teeth, because he was a self-enitled snob who had very high expecations of what his "big tipping regular" status bought him)
  • Having the server bring you the ‘regular’ (how much trouble is it to order something? Besides, the only place I order the same thing often enough for it to be my regular is an espresso place)

Moving on to the "how to" portion...   

I'm not sure if these have anything to do with Steven Shaw's book Turning the Tables, although they do have a lot in common with what I recall of his tips.

  • Go to the restaurant often, some might say regularly
  • Tip really well (20% and up) and always the same
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Smile and don't be a jerk (well, except for cutting in line, ordering off menu, and that status thing)
  • Check your expectations for certain preparations at the door and go with the chef's unique interpretation of the meal. (even out of season and off menu?)
  • Kill the cellphone (okay, we can kill the cellphone)

This all seems really basic. Smile, say please and thank you, and so on. Didn't you learn that before you started school?

Another suggestion is "Work with the same knowledge set as the restaurant. (Know what sushi is hip and what is pop, what dishes are authentic and which are americanized)"

Hip sushi? Is this part of that social proof thing?

Another amusing thing about the posts I read was the comments, not so surprising since comments are often as interesting as the original article.

One commenter points out that you should tip your bartender because they have "...knowledge of ingredients (”No one puts vermouth in vodka martinis these days, but I’ll do it if you want…”)..." Oh please, are you buying the martini you like or the martini that one of the idiotic overgrown-boy's magazines says to buy? If I ordered a drink and the bartender responded that "nobody drinks that" their tip would disappear back into my pocket, never to return. Which is what I would do to the bar. Never return.

Another commenter, this time at Lifehacker, points out that they are treated like a regular at the grocery store; since they shop with children in tow, this may be more useful than a bartender who remembers that you drink your martini the trendy way.

Maybe this just shows how out of touch with the entire restaurant scene I am and means I should get out more often. Restaurants are where I find food and drink, not family and friends; those I bring with me. Or maybe it says something about the larger culture that being seen as a regular consumer of a particular brand is truly desirable.

I think I'll stick to my regular routine and be a decent person, like I am most of the time anyway; tip decently (have trouble with the math? double the 8-9% sales tax, round up and add a buck or two); and treat the staff at restaurants like they are professionals and I am a customer. Beyond that, I have no expectations. Just like a regular person.

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