Using ‘Secret Shoppers’ to Improve Your Business

There are a variety of different tools, practices, measures, and means to find out just how you’re your restaurant is performing. You probably solicit guest feedback through a website or online review site, you may put comment cards on the tables, and managers may visit each table to ‘touch’ the guests and make sure all is going well.

There’s another very effective tactic that not many guests know about, but that can be an owner’s best way to get objective (not emotional) feedback…using a Secret Shopper.

So, what exactly is a secret, or mystery, shopper and when is it time to utilize one?

A secret shopper is an outside party hired to provide an unbiased, detailed intel report measuring everything from service, to flow, to customer experience, to food quality and the like. It’s a restaurant wellness check-up if you will.

So, when is it time to call for backup? It’s when you feel as though the guest is leaving your restaurant without the experience you intended and you’re not getting enough feedback from the guests you have.

The decision or need to hire a secret shopper can manifest itself in many ways from just that inkling when you survey the room or speak with guests to the reality that your dining room is not filled to capacity with every service … especially with loyal, returning patrons.

In fact, according to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America, utilizing mystery shopping programs are generally good business because:

  • even though unhappy customers are likely to tell friends/family about a negative experience, they’re unlikely to complain directly to servers or management … they just won’t return
  • it provides an unbiased, overall picture of the restaurant and brand in order to help determine if customers are receiving the intended experience
  • secret shoppers help identify training areas that work well, and those that need improvement
  • feedback from secret shopper reports grows staff awareness of the program, and it will most likely increase staff performance levels across the board

In the end, investing in a trained secret shopper could be worth it if there are doubts about guest satisfaction – as the feedback is designed to offer an invaluable snapshot of your business and the tools to evaluate and monitor all relevant areas in order to maintain continued success.