I love to mystery shop restaurants. Getting paid to eat seems like the best job ever! ;o) Here is a follow up to my article on mystery shopping restaurants with more tips to make your restaurant shops easier and your reports better:
Read the guidelines right away, and schedule the shop as soon as possible. Make sure you follow the guidelines for how many people may go on the shop, and whether children are allowed.
Make reservations before the day of the shop. Many shops require that you call ahead to verify hours of operation and make a reservation. Do not wait until the day of the shop to call. You may find out that they are not open on Mondays, or that there are no tables available. Call at least a few days ahead.
Do your research. You may be asked to come up with a question about the menu to ask your server. You will almost always be required to order different items. Go to the restaurant’s web site and download a menu as part of your preparation for the shop. You can plan what each of you will order, and think up a question to ask. Also, if the menu includes prices, you can plan your budget.
Show up on time for your reservation. Being “fashionably” late may mean that your table is not available when you arrive. That may have a negative effect on the score the restaurant receives.
Do not make special requests regarding seating, unless it is specified in the guidelines. Turning down the table you were offered and requesting a booth may overload a server or create other problems.
Make sure your companion is properly trained for the shop. They should know what to order (or what not to order), how to behave on a mystery shop, how they can help you, and what not to do. Doing things such as ordering before the server can make a suggestion affects the integrity of the shop. As the pro, it is your responsibility to train any “civilians” who accompany you.
Get accurate timings with a digital voice recorder (DVR). A DVR can capture when you order, when items are served, when a satisfaction check is performed, when dishes are cleared, etc. Although you should still get timings in other ways (such as with a stopwatch or digital watch) the recording is a nice backup.
Be aware of laws regarding recording. Look them up here: http://www.rcfp.org/taping If you are in a two-party consent state, you can still use the recorder. Just make sure you are not capturing the voices of others. Set it up so that yours is the only voice recorded, or use sounds (such as tapping the mic) to capture timings.
Keep your report comments as objective as possible. Food always brings out opinions and emotions, but they do not belong in your reports. The salad was not “poor” just because you do not like artichokes.
Give realistic answers to the competitive questions. Some reports ask things such as who you see as the primary competitors to this restaurant, or where you would have eaten today if you had not come to this restaurant. Answers to both questions should be based on the type of food and price category. Saying you would have eaten “at home” or a fast food restaurant is not the answer they want.