This is part of the reason one of my favorite restaurants is a (gasp) chain, the Texas Roadhouse. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a casual chain with such delightful service. The secret seems to be their phenomenally low staff turnover – there are "kids" there that’ve been there for their entire college years.
We live 70 miles from that restaurant, so it isn’t like we’re there every week, more like once every three or four months, but it never fails that when we go in, we’re greeted by name or at the very least asked where the kids are if they aren’t with us. One guy used to wait tables and now tends bar, and he came over the last time we were there and asked where the kids were (ok, gotta brag – they love my kids, because they see three kids come in and cringe, but unfailingly end up complimenting us on their manners) and anyway, said "It seems like yesterday that we could seat the five of you at one table, with all three kids on one side of the booth!" They’re now 8, 13 and 14, and I realized that he’s been there since my youngest was in a high chair. Anyone who has worked in the business knows that’s just amazing.
We’ve joked that the Roadhouse must have surveillance photos of their customers for use in training, because when one hostess graduated and moved (she was there for at least three years), the new hostess said "Oh, you’re the Flanagans, right?" It was actually borderline paranoia inspiring, like "what’re we doing that we’ve earned some kind of reputation?" LOL
On the other hand, my husband goes to a locally owned place every other month when the corporate big-wigs come to town, and he was just saying that it’s amazing – they always go with a group of about 7-10 people, and have never been acknowleged as "regulars" in any way. But they’re a local "institution" and get away with it.