Real Talk

Overview: Restaurant Mystery Shops

As an RBG shopper, the typical step after confirming assignments for restaurant mystery shops is reviewing the shop guidelines. Many of the instructions are boilerplate, such as attention to detail, discretion, objectivity, etc. but a number of reports have additional rules and restrictions you have follow to make your report complete and acceptable.

Although some guidelines may seem overly restrictive, there is a good reason for all of them. Understanding why they are important to the client and RBG gives you insight into the purpose of mystery shopping and makes the job more interesting.

Time Frames

While many Restaurant Mystery shops can be performed anytime during business hours, restaurant and bar shops in particular will often require you to shop during specified hours. The client usually wants shoppers to visit locations during peak business hours so they can see how the staff performs during busy times. If you visit these venues during off hours and you’re the only customer, you’re more likely to experience a different level of customer service than if you are part of the lunch or dinner rush. Dinner evaluations may have shopping hours that end an hour or two before the restaurant closes so you’re not being served during closing procedures, which often distract from customer focus and limit menu options.

When a shop requires you to spend a prescribed amount of time in the bar or restaurant, the purpose is twofold. First, you shouldn’t appear rushed, as typical patrons don’t drink, dine and dash. In addition, if you hurry through your visit, there’s an increased chance you’ll overlook details or forget to assess the restroom or other areas covered in the report.

One Drink Limit

This rule exists for several reasons. Since too much liquor dulls the senses, if shoppers could drink as much as they wanted, the accuracy of reports details is likely to diminsh. Also, if a shopper overindulges, the importance of appearing as a non-descript customer is compromised. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, RBG and their clients don’t want anyone breaking the law by driving while intoxicated or endangering themselves or others.

Food & Drink Guidelines

If a restaurant is featuring a new promotional item or running a special on existing menu items, you may be required to purchase those selections as part of your shop. This is often required to test the product knowledge of the server.

Children & Guests

Many quick service and fast food shops have no restrictions on children accompanying shoppers. In fact, if special services such as coloring books are part of regular service, a child may be required to accompany you on the shop. However, for sit-down dining restaurants and bar shops, children are often restricted. It’s not a case of excluding children but simply a matter of distraction. When you have to be attentive to details, the presence of children increases the chances of your attention being distracted. This also applies to many hotel, valet, real estate and retail specialty stores.

Guests can also be distracting, which is why the majority of hospitality shops (restaurants and hotels) have guidelines that limit the number of guests to one. It’s easy to stay focused on timing and details with just one person accompanying you but the chances for missing something increases with each guest you add to the group.

Signs & Packaging

If you shop quick service, drive-thru and take-out restaurants, you know that reports often have questions regarding signage on restaurant walls, POP displays, reader boards and menu boards. While these questions may seem unrelated to your service reports, clients need to know that costly promotional materials are being displayed properly. The same logic applies to packaging. Custom packaging is a big part of overhead, so clients need assurance their name and logo are prominently displayed on cups, containers and bags.

Knowing the reasons certain questions are asked on reports gives shoppers a clearer understanding of why information is gathered. Your concise and clear answers to every question on reports are vital to clients being able to improve their service and increase profits.

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