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4 Secrets to Create "Regulars" Out of Regular Customers

This particular post originated on my Deseret News column, but I thought it made sense to reprint it here too.

Repeat customers are the lifeblood of small business. I don’t think it matters if you own a local restaurant or a hardware store, small business owners love “regulars.”

Over the years I’ve become a “regular” at a number of places, but a local Mexican restaurant in Sandy—La Costa—is a great example. My wife and I eat there at least once a week. We usually roll in about the same time every Monday night. Although my wife argues that I could use a little more variety in my life, I like the food and the service. The manager waves at me as we come in, the busboy smiles, and the waitress says, “I’ve got your fajitas cooking, your guacamole will be right out, and here’s your diet soda.” She then looks at my wife and asks, “What are you having tonight?”

My family suggests I try something different on the menu, which I did before I settled on the fajitas. I’m one of those guys who believes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’m not bored with the fajitas yet, so I’ll likely stay with them until I am.

I wish I could take credit for discovering the delicious food at this authentic Mexican fiesta for my taste buds, but a friend introduced me several years ago—and I’ve been a regular ever since. Although there are other restaurants my wife and I regularly visit, La Costa is different—and no, I’m not on the payroll, I’m just a “regular.”

What does it take to create “regulars” out of your customers? Here’s how:

  1. Do what you do better than anyone else: If you’re a restaurant, the food has to be good. I take it back, good isn’t good enough, it has to be great. It has to be so good it makes me want to come back again. The guys at La Costa make great food. I can’t think of anything I’ve had on their menu that wasn’t delicious—I just happen to be on a fajita thing right now. If you can’t be great at what you do, you’ll never create “regulars.” My Dad’s business depended on “regulars” to keep the doors open. Although he sold bolts and nuts—the same thing you could buy from any industrial supply or hardware store—the point is, you don’t have to be a restaurant to create “regulars” out of your regular customers. My Dad worked very hard to be the best at what he did, much like my waitress at La Costa.
  2. It’s not about how much it costs, but how much it costs is part of the equation: There are dozens of places I could go on Monday night that would probably be cheaper than La Costa (the same is true for more expensive restaurants), but what I pay for our dinner at La Costa is fair. They don’t cut corners with the quality of their food, but I don’t have to second mortgage my home to eat there either.
  3. Be friendly: My Dad used to tell me, “For most of our customers, you (I drove the delivery truck) are the only person from our company people will see on a regular basis. He encouraged me to be friendly and respectful to the people at our customers’ businesses. That advice has been good advice over the course of my entire career. My waitress, the bus boy, the manager, and everyone at the restaurant were friendly from my first visit. Good food and friendly service brought me back for the second and third time—eventually turning into a weekly culinary ritual.
  4. Remember that I’ve been in before: Long before I became a “regular” they remembered I’d been in before. They didn’t have my fajitas cooking or my guacamole on its way, but they would greet me with something like, “Nice to see you again.” They made me feel welcome and acknowledged that I was a repeat customer. Unlike Cheers—where everybody knows your name—I doubt they know mine, but they recognize my face, know what I like to eat, and bend over backwards to make me feel welcome.

I think the thing I like most about La Costa is that they didn’t go out of their way to make me a “regular,” they just won me over doing what they do for everyone that comes in. What’s more, I’ve noticed over the years that I’m not their only “regular” by any means. There are a lot of us.

If you like good Mexican food and great service, you won’t be disappointed. And, you’ll see for yourself what it takes to turn your regular customers into “regulars.”

Author: Ty Kiisel |

 

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About the Author

  • Ty Kiisel

Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon. Ty writes about small business financing and other best practices for Lendio, in addition to sharing his passion for small business every week on Forbes.com. He's also the author of the book, Getting a Business Loan: Financing Your Main Street Business.

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Comments

  1. Once you have a regular, treat them like gold. Don’t assume they’ll always wait until you’ve served everyone else.

    Often regulars become like ghosts to servers. They see them so often, they think they’ve already been served and go on to the next person, or completely ignore the regular as if they don’t see them.

    Don’t make your regular feel like part of the staff by getting their own coffee, or clearing their own dishes. They will go elsewhere when the opportunity arises.

  2. The overall observation is absolutely true to the core and is the basics of a successful business. While small business owners go through a lot of stress, they should not let that be reflected in their products or services. The customer walks into the door not to hear or think about your problem, but to have a good time and be treated for what is fair and they pay for. However eventully the regulars will almost be like a family and they will share some good thoughts that would make your business grow exponentially..So smile for your regulars