Mystery shopping in your restaurant is a valuable tool for monitoring and evaluating service consistency. With so much going on at any given time, it’s sometimes hard for managers to maintain an objective point of view. Obtaining a “floors-eye view” of your staff will help you stay on top of problem areas where they really matter — in the eyes of your guests.

What’s the Mystery? Be Specific

Mystery shoppers can help provide a meaningful evaluation of your guest service, but only if they’re prepared when they go in. Provide your mystery shoppers with specific direction a day or two before they’re scheduled to visit your restaurant. If they set out to “look for everything,” you’re likely to get feedback that is too general to be of much help. Letting them know ahead of time what you’re specifically looking for will ensure you receive the feedback you need.

Remember that shoppers are observers, not critics. Instruct your shoppers accordingly, making sure the forms they use ask for specific observations rather than subjective ratings. Posing the question “Did your server make helpful suggestions? What were they?” is a better approach than having the shopper grade the server’s overall suggestive selling performance.

When designing your mystery shopping form, incorporate the points of evaluation that are most important to you and your operation. It should be designed to be filled out by the shopper but scored by a member of your management team. That way, the measurements of service quality will be more accurate and consistent from one form to the next.

Prepare Your Mystery Shoppers

When recruiting friends to go undercover in your restaurant, lay a few ground rules to make sure the evaluation of the server’s performance will not be biased or compromised in any way. Here are some tips to pass along to people mystery shopping in your restaurant:

  • Don’t ask leading questions about the server’s job or personal life. Keep all questions limited to product knowledge of the menu.
  • Don’t “blow your cover” by quizzing servers at length. The point of a mystery shop is to get the most impartial results possible.
  • Don’t invent obligatory complaints. But, if you have a valid complaint, go with it!
  • Don’t fill out any portion of the survey in the restaurant. Protect your anonymity so that it can be used again in the future.