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The Craft

The ultimate resource for alcohol beverage news, trends and reports for bars, distributors and suppliers.


Repeat guests and regulars are the heart and soul of bars and restaurants. You've heard the old 80/20 rule: 20% of your customers create 80% of your business. In fact, repeat customers will spend up to 67% more than new guests. Marketing your business to all and branding it well through both social and sidewalk advertising is crucial to running and expanding a profitable establishment, but there's no denying the importance of customer loyalty. Let's take a look at some tips and tricks to keep those regulars coming back, again and again.

Keep Things Consistent

For good reason, we’ve included this as our number one tip. Repeat customers aren't just dollar signs, they're the backbone of your operation and should be treated like family. There's a familiarity with family that takes time and trust to build. To create that with customers, it's all about consistency. Consistently offering quality service and products, standardizing recipes, and promoting routine service operations is essential to developing long-term brand loyalty. But that doesn't mean things have to be stale. When making updates to your menu or operations, be sure to do them with the same level of care and consistency. It also helps to properly communicate changes during staff meetings. Regular customers expect the same thing each-and-every time. Nothing's worse than going to your favorite spot to realize they dropped your go-to draft beer or lunch item. Keep the regulars in-the-know and you'll see their faces time and time again. 

Stay in Touch with Your Customers

Even when your customers aren’t physically at your establishment, you should be part of their day-to-day lives. This means engaging on social media platforms and building up your presence and camaraderie with patrons. Creating honest, 1:1 relationships happens over time, so it helps to keep building that connection even when they aren’t at your place. You don’t need us to tell you how big that can be. By properly using these platforms, your establishment can stay in the forefront of their minds.

Another way of making a guest’s visit especially remarkable is good old-fashioned snail mail. Direct marketing, especially in local neighborhoods, can remind patrons that you're part of their community. Whether you're communicating your availability to host events or just reminding them to swing by for happy hour, it's always great to stay top of mind. Including some exclusive perks or coupons is also a great choice to get friendly faces to come back around for another pint or bite to eat.

Support Your Community

Speaking of community, supporting it is the best way to remind customers that you're more than just another business. Buying from local purveyors, for example, is a great start. Locals supporting locals helps breed loyalty and support. Did you know that 76% of adults said they'd more likely visit a restaurant that offers locally sourced food? Even just highlighting a few local items on a nightly basis can make a huge difference. Also, take part in local festivals and markets—either through sponsoring or attending—because these events can help build up relationships not just with patrons but other businesses and make you stand out. Being philanthropic and present for routine neighborhood events gives you visibility amongst locals, who are most likely to become regulars.

Create Visibility and Make Guests Feel like VIPs

When we say "create visibility," we mean that your staff should be able to physically see every one of your customers. Set up your establishment in a way that makes this possible. Hosts and hostesses should know when a customer is running low on a drink and needs a refill, or is finished with their plate, or is ready for the check. Keeping people happy by anticipating their needs is the first step to making every guest feel like a VIP.

Creating visibility also does wonders for when a regular is in the building. You can get to them sooner, strike up that jovial and welcome conversation and let the other patrons know that this is the kind of warm and friendly place they should frequent more often. If a regular is able to enter and leave entirely unnoticed, well...they certainly won’t feel like much of a regular.

Regulars are a restaurant’s best friend, and they should feel that way. Making them the VIP each time they walk in can be anything from a free drink (more on that later), or just the occasional checking-in from waitstaff and management. This extra bit of attention is going to make your regulars feel truly special and keep them coming back. What’s more, when regulars are treated exceptionally, guess where they’re bringing their friends?

Give Away Freebies

Probably the most obvious on our list, but we’d be remiss not to include it. People like free stuff. A lot. There’s really no two ways about it. Especially if they’re out on the town, expecting to open up their wallets, that occasional freebie means a lot. Giving away the occasional drink, shot or appetizer can go a long way towards bringing people back into your bar. While you want to avoid doing this too often (thus spoiling the magic of the freebie), an occasional and well-placed comp item is always a good idea.

And really—how much does it cost you, if the occasional freebie creates a returning guest? Maybe you lose five or ten dollars in drink sales for one night, but you’re creating long-term brand loyalty over potential years.

Build Up Your Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs come in all shapes and sizes, but no matter the rollout you choose, they can be the thing that makes a customer go from a "one-time" or "once in a while" visitor to that coveted "regular." Rewards for frequent guests can fall into different categories, like tiers for reaching a certain number of visits that grant blanket savings, or instant spend rewards for reaching a certain payment threshold per visit. These discounts or rewards can vary from cheaper drinks to exclusive menu items or even free products. It’s easier than ever to get these going in your establishment, thanks to digital proliferation and the prevalence of convenient POS systems. It’s also more beneficial than ever. Statistics show that 79% of consumers say that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with brands. These programs add value to each visit for your patrons, while also encouraging further spending. It's the definition of a win-win!


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