Turn Regular Customers Into Raving Fans

In the last post we talked about the changing nature of today’s customers, how they move at warp speed, yet still crave meaningful interactions.  Today, we’ll talk about the ideal customer relationship you have both on and offline.


When I was in college I started working at a little restaurant in Montclair NJ called Mexicali Rose.  Among all the fancy bistros in this upper class town, our place stood out as something different.  Nothing on the menu was more than $13.95, we made our money on turnover, and won “Best Mexican Restaurant” from NJ Magazine for 6 straight years.  It was one big party and people LOVED it.  The reason?

My old boss, Dominick Restaino was a master at making you feel welcome and important.  He created an experience for the customers from the moment they walked through the door, greeting them with a smile, handshake, and a promise to get them a table (on Friday and Saturday nights we were so packed, people waited up to an hour or more to sit down).

Part of the experience was getting a glimpse of the life Dominick put out on display.  The wall of the waiting area was plastered with old photos of both his and his wife’s family.  She was Costa Rican and he was 100% Italian, but putting those pictures out made you feel like you were stepping into an authentic Mexican family place .   Put that together with the loud music playing, Mexican chachkas everywhere, and a wait staff that was having as much (if not more) than the customers, and you can imagine why we had so many regular customers.  Mexicali practice good business tactics in the midst of having a great time: community building, transparency, and serving the needs of the customer while keeping the business profitable.

Regulars:  Creating Repeat Visitors to Your Website

When people feel wanted, a part of, and listened to they become repeat customers: regulars.  Dominick became a very rich man in those five-short years I worked for him because he knew how to keep things fresh and reach his customer.  His menu was huge, it was always being updating (while keeping the favorites), and he experimented.

I learned a lot from Dominck and saw a method behind his success that applies to any business.  Especially those thinking of doing social media.  This series of posts will go through these methods in more depth, but as an overview, here they are:

1. Serve YOUR market – Dominick knew his target was locals who wanted a party rather than the standard fare of a fancy bistro, which 25 other restaurants were doing.  He knew he could attract the same market as these other businesses by doing something different, while at the same time serving a market in the area that was under-served, namely people looking for a less expensive meal that was still a restaurant experience, i.e. not a slice of pizza.

Finding your market means knowing who your customers are before trying to sell to them, understanding and speaking to their buyer personas, and choosing the best way of communicating with them.

2. Find the right schtick – The inside of Mexicali was kitsch, festive, and fun – the environment matched the party.  Rather than going for the elegant, trendy, or expensive Dominick knew the key to making the diverse crowd he attracted feel comfortable was to make the landscape as diverse as the customers.  Everywhere you looked there was something else to look at, and it was not randomly thrown together (although it gave the appearance of being so).  I can’t tell you how many nights I sat there on a ladder while Dominick asked me to move this vase over two spots and switch that doll for another one.  Like his menu, the environment was also kept fresh and fun.

With your business, do the things that make sense while pushing the boundaries a bit – perhaps a hairdresser shouldn’t do a weekly podcast on haircuts, but a photo blog might be ideal.  In this section we’ll talk about branding, social media tools, and the human beings behind your marketing machine.

3. “Mi Casa Es Su Casa” – Dominick invited regulars into the world of his inner circle, making them feel at home, connecting them, and rewarding them. As I mentioned above, the pictures of family around the restaurant, the stories told about how dishes were conceived, and the lengths Dominick would go to make sure you had a great time in his “home” made you feel like you could put your feet up and relax.  Also, he always rewarded repeat customers: free appetizers or desert, glasses of wine from his personal collection, cigars, and gift certificates.  If you were a NooB who was friendly and had a good time in his place, Dominick would also reward you.

Make your customers feel “a part of” and treat the most valuable ones like gold.  Follow the formula for Pareto’s 80/20 principle, which we’ll discuss in a later post and focus on profitable customers over a volume of customers. In this section we’ll discuss how to do that, talk about loyal customers v. lots of window shoppers, rewarding and building trust, and connecting the dots.


  1. I work a swing shift for Dominick now, and I must say, this is absolutely correct. No matter what other businesses in the area say about Cuban Pete’s (his newer restaurant), it is the hottest place in Montclair because of all the points outlined above.

    • Very cool Anthony. Dom taught me a lot of great life and business lessons. Making customers feel individually special is something I use with clients and my kids. : )


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