Welcome back to another edition of Bar Stool Talk.  This one goes out to my roughly 22 true followers, or as I shall now refer to you as my regulars.  So pull up your barstool as I administer this weeks dose of vital information on “Regulars”.

  • What is a Regular?

The word regular describes anything that takes place with some sort of pattern or consistency.  Not unlike that guy who, without exception, stops for a drink at the same bar every day on his way home from work, or the married couple who faithfully shares a booth every Thursday for date night at their favorite local taproom/restaurant while the kids spend the night with their grandparents.  That last one was quite specific, but you get the idea.  This week we’re discussing regulars at bars, how they become regulars and the most effective way for owners to keep them coming back.

  • Who are the Regulars?

As human beings, we tend to be creatures of habit anyway.  Therefore, becoming a regular somewhere can sometimes happen unknowingly, simply out of our habitual nature.  It can also be by choice, where a conscious decision is made to frequent a place until no one can deny your earned badge of regularity.  Whether it’s the drinks, food, people, or overall atmosphere, something about the place keeps bringing you back.  Literally, the only requirement to becoming a regular somewhere is just showing up routinely and on a consistent basis.  That means anyone can be a regular at any bar if they want to be, whether they realize it or not.  Having said that, there is a catch.  If bar owners aren’t careful, sometimes having a lot of regulars combined with poor management skills, could cost them more then they gain.

  • Who’s the Real Beneficiary?

Most bar owners can expect a surge of business on Fridays and Saturdays, but they’d be unwise to become dependant on those two days to keep the bills paid.  This is where regulars come into play.  Regulars help fill this void of business they call Sunday through Thursday.  Good owners know the importance of making their regulars feel welcome and appreciated by recognizing their loyalty, but doing so requires some balance between giving and taking.

It may be tempting for a bar owner to allow the bartenders to pour their most loyal regulars a little extra for each drink.  Even if it is just a half ounce of liquor or an ounce or two of beer, it adds up quickly and really only helps the bartender gain better tips and the customer gets a better buzz.  The owner, on the other hand, is losing a little bit of money with every drink served that little extra.  Over time, the regulars begin to expect this treatment every time until eventually, it gets to the point where it starts going unnoticed, and the bartender develops a bad habit of over pouring for more and more customers, costing the bar even more money.  In this scenario, the regulars and the bartenders come out on top as the beneficiaries leaving the owner wondering where all the inventory is disappearing to.


Cricket’s Tavern, displayed liquor inventory.

So what is the best way for an owner to acknowledge his or her appreciation for their regulars business and not lose a little on every drink?  After 4-5 hours of mediocre research over the past 6-7 days or so, it appears that the most successful bars on occasion actually give their most loyal customers a drink on the house.  That’s right, one free drink, no strings attached, but not too often.  The reason behind this, and why it works, is simple.  The customer feels like a million bucks on those occasions and will surely continue coming back, the bartender reaps some reward usually with a better tip, and the owner has more control over his or her loses while not worrying about the bartenders developing any money-losses habits.

For all of my regulars thinking of someday opening your own bar, consider this bit of priceless information, from someone with no bar ownership experience, my free drink to you.  To the rest of my regulars, know that your support does not go unnoticed.  Thank you and see you next week.


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