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davythefatboy

Regulars - love 'em or pain in the neck?

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We like being regular at restaurants for the hospitality. We don't expect freebies (and sometimes are

annoyed when they don't fit our picky tastes or use up room we were saving for a desert so good we are

happy to pay for it).

As a rule, if we complain about food in a restaurant where we are regulars, it's not really because we

care if we get something else (we're generally overfed), it's because we care about the restaurant and

want to give them useful feedback - we think that feedback from a regular will be trusted.

But it frequently doesn't work that way - last night we had some super mediocre squash ravioli at a

restaurant where I usually have spinach ricotta ravioli. The pasta was simply weird - mushy, doughy,

downright unpleasant. If it was my first visit to the restaurant, I wouldn't return. Oh, the chef and

the manager were both off that night.

What I heard back from the waitress was that she didn't try it, but the kitchen said it was "fine".

They gave me a different entree (and didn't charge for either one), and also didn't charge for a slice of

their delicious cheesecake that I had ordered.

And I went away unhappy - I wasn't looking to save a buck -I'm a regular because I like the food

and the hospitality. I just want this restaurant to thrive. So it was very disappointing that my

feedback on the ravioli was blown off and they will serve the same messed up ravioli to others.

Are regulars usually over-priveleged jerks who don't have a clue and want a deal, or are they usually

fans of your cooking who you trust to tell you when it's off the rails? Or is there no usual?


Edited by davythefatboy (log)

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There is no usual, some are trusted 'friends'...some are a pain in the ass.

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~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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One place I worked at, we had several regulars who hung out most of the day because we gave free refills on coffee at breakfast. They would order one pastry and coffee and take up a table from 8am til 3pm, constantly fussing about things, mostly seeking someone to entertain them. They also happened to be boring, closed minded bigots without much education or life experience, so, they weren't fun to talk to.

 

Then we also had a couple of Sunday morning regulars who were fans of the cooking and happened to be interesting people with cool sounding jobs and fun hobbies who were always interesting to chat with. I personally appreciated when they'd catch a problem, I try really hard to make everything great, when I mess it up, I want to know. Our owner didn't enforce the standardized recipes I had written along with the original menu and let new employees 'be creative' whenever they felt like it, causing wildly fluctuating quality and inconsistent flavors. I'd complain about the new employees' (untrained teenagers, hired because they'd work for minimum wage) sub-par food and the owner would tell me to stop trying to stifle their creativity. I really enjoyed it when the regulars would complain about the 'creativity.' One couple walked out, never to return when they tried the new, more cheaply made hollandaise sauce (watered down and suddenly super spicy -made with a ton of black pepper and cayenne), complained, and was told that I'd been taken off hollandaise duty permanently. Having customers tell the FOH staff that they would not return unless I had full control of the kitchen felt good for me; the owner didn't understand the message and has been scaling back her business as it gradually slows and slows and she doesn't know why.

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What a great topic! Davey - the best way to avoid the unwanted freebie problem is to wait until after you've paid your check to point out the problem. Or, in the situation you mentioned, send a private email to the chef/manager after you leave. If they are pros, they will appreciate the feedback.

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"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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the best way to avoid the unwanted freebie problem is to wait until after you've paid your check to point out the problem.

If you leave 80% of your entree on the plate at a place where you are a regular, it's pretty unlikely that no one will say a

word until you get your check, although it can happen.

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Remember that a gift is as much about the giver as the receiver. When I screw up, I comp; and often I overcomp. Its because I feel bad, recognize my mistake, and want to make sure there is no confusion that the mistake was unacceptable. Simply say, "I really don't want anything comped - just making sure you know that things aren't normal tonight." And if its a night off for the chef, tell the chef via email so s/he can fix it. Regulars pay me back nightly by filling my seats and referring more customers. That's all I need from them.

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One place I worked at, we had several regulars who hung out most of the day because we gave free refills on coffee at breakfast. They would order one pastry and coffee and take up a table from 8am til 3pm, constantly fussing about things, mostly seeking someone to entertain them. They also happened to be boring, closed minded bigots without much education or life experience, so, they weren't fun to talk to.

 

Then we also had a couple of Sunday morning regulars who were fans of the cooking and happened to be interesting people with cool sounding jobs and fun hobbies who were always interesting to chat with. I personally appreciated when they'd catch a problem, I try really hard to make everything great, when I mess it up, I want to know. Our owner didn't enforce the standardized recipes I had written along with the original menu and let new employees 'be creative' whenever they felt like it, causing wildly fluctuating quality and inconsistent flavors. I'd complain about the new employees' (untrained teenagers, hired because they'd work for minimum wage) sub-par food and the owner would tell me to stop trying to stifle their creativity. I really enjoyed it when the regulars would complain about the 'creativity.' One couple walked out, never to return when they tried the new, more cheaply made hollandaise sauce (watered down and suddenly super spicy -made with a ton of black pepper and cayenne), complained, and was told that I'd been taken off hollandaise duty permanently. Having customers tell the FOH staff that they would not return unless I had full control of the kitchen felt good for me; the owner didn't understand the message and has been scaling back her business as it gradually slows and slows and she doesn't know why.

Too stupid to succeed.  Paging Gordon Ramsay....

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Too stupid to succeed.  Paging Gordon Ramsay....

I actually brought in DVDs of the BBC Kitchen Nightmares show and tried to loan them to the owner, but she never bothered to take them home. I also tried occasionally asking things like 'did you see KN last night?' but nobody there watched the show.  Oh yeah, we didn't do cost cards there, either.

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Regulars pay me back nightly by filling my seats and referring more customers. That's all I need from them.

Exactly. Occasionally you get one that develops an intense sense of entitlement based simply on the fact that they dine at a place frequently... but I find that to be very much the minority. Feedback on food quality should be taken seriously regardless of how often a person eats in the place. Even if you 100% know they're incorrect, if it's not right to them, that's what they're going to tell others.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I've been a regular at a local neighborhood restaurant since the month it opened almost 10 years ago.  With the exception of a handful of customer favorites, the menu is highly seasonal with most dishes rotating in and out on a weekly to monthly basis.  Because they are constantly trying new dishes, a wonderful quality in what is basically a nice neighborhood joint, I don't see any need to offer my $.02 on a dish unless something just came out of the kitchen horribly wrong -- which I think has happened maybe 1 time in 10 years. 

 

I do, however, try to provide positive feedback on dishes that are particularly great or to occasionally request a past favorite be brought back at a seasonally appropriate time.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't of course, but I think this is a more useful way for regulars to provide useful feedback. For example, they tried a lamb tongue dish for a fairly limited time that was just insanely tasty, but was potentially a bit of a stretch for a suburban restaurant.  After getting lots of strong feedback from mostly regulars, they brought the dish back for a more extended run on the menu.

 

And just to with agree with Davy, the idea of someone wanting to be a regular at a restaurant as a means to get freebies or special treatment makes no sense to me.  If anything I want to pay full price for everything at my regular spot because I want it to succeed financially.

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Our regulars can be both! We love the money they bring for catering and word of mouth, but when they ask for a specific catering within our 2 week time period to get the proper ingredients it can be obtrusive.  Regulars provide positive and negative feedback that you have to sort through.  With the positive you have to see what you did correctly for that particular night to appease them.   With negative feedback you need to weed through it and sort out if it is a preference or an actual mistake of the food being sent out.  I had a regular send me their allergy list which is 4 pages long the other day, I merely replied back to their email and said we would accommodate you with a chef's choice selection of an appetizer, entree and dessert, but other than that it would be silly and time/money wasteful to hold back service for a 5-10 minute pickup for 1 person in the restaurant.  Seconds are minutes, minutes are hours.


Chevan, apparently. 

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I mean, answer is sorta both? I've had great regulars, as well as terrible ones. People are going to be people, regular or not.

 

The last kitchen I ran, I had one regular in particular who would come in all the time to try the specials, would write about the new dishes on her blog, would give me feedback via email or twitter, good or bad - always made sure to bring people who would spend money and not expect free shit, would always pass word around about the restaurant - was just an all around great contact to have with feedback.

 

Then there was another couple, who would only come in for brunch, yet would complain, moan, write nasty things *every* week, and I mean every week. No matter what they ate or drank, they were intent on complaining in attempts to get free things. Even going so far as to say they wanted their whole check comped because their poached eggs were 'still runny' on their benedict. Another time was that their bloody mary was 'a bit too heavy handed with the tomato' and that it 'shouldn't have bacon in it', even though I believe it was listed as having such right on the menu..

 

You deal with good and bad, I don't think it's one way or the other.

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Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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No matter what they ate or drank, they were intent on complaining in attempts to get free things. Even going so far as to say they wanted their whole check comped because their poached eggs were 'still runny' on their benedict.

People definitely do that. My ex sister-in-law once tried to get the entire check for our table of 6 comped because the server, exactly as she should have done, told us up front before we'd even looked at the menu that they were out of baked potatoes and it was going to be a while before more were ready. "Well I wanted a baked potato, I think our meal should be free." It was embarrassing to the point that I told her I'd pay her part of the bill if she'd just shut up. It was also the last time I went anywhere near a restaurant with her.

 

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I used to have a "work buddy" that went out to lunch hours with me to restaurants.

 

What a prima dona! She was always so demanding of the servers, that anyone else with her couldn't get even anything close to marginal service, and I always had to cover her tip.

 

We went to many of the same restaurants on a regular basis. Having worked front of house years ago, it was obvious to me that at some places where management allowed it, as soon as we entered, the waitstaff was vigorously foisting off the bad table on the least senior server.

 

I'm glad that association has ended.

 

It's was so embarrassing, and always ruins the experience for everyone involved.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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