Using Mystery Shopping to Improve your Customer Service in your Restaurant

Using Mystery Shopping to Improve your Customer Service in your Restaurant

Reality shows like Undercover Boss, Restaurant Stakeout, and others are based around objectively gathering information to improve business. Everyday diners are the lifeblood of a successful restaurant and improving customer service is the best way to ensure your restaurant has a line out the door. Even without a camera crew and a television show, you can use mystery shoppers to improve your customer service.

What are Mystery Shoppers?

A mystery shopper is a hired individual who poses as a customer to evaluate the business based on service, sales, and skills of the employees. Mystery shoppers often evaluate competitors as well to give business owners an even comparison of their closest competition. The objective of mystery shoppers may be to increase sales, create marketing strategies, or identify business pitfalls.

How to Get Started:

The first step in mystery shopping is to identify the goals of your business. What do you want your mystery shopper to focus on? What do you hope to achieve? Use these goals as the foundation to create a mystery shopping questionnaire. A combination of questions that the mystery shopper will answer about your business, and your competitors. The questionnaire may include assessing the service, employees, sales techniques, management, appearance, cleanliness, time, accuracy, etc. Once the mystery shoppers are hired, they are given a deadline to complete the assessment and return.

Using the Results

The results of mystery shoppers give managers and owners an inside look into what really happens in their restaurants. Because the focus should be on the customer, an honest and objective assessment from the customer's point of view can be invaluable.

Positive evaluations can be used to provide employee recognition and incentive programs. The negative results from a mystery shopper evaluation show you the red flags of your business. This may include where to focus marketing efforts, increase training, or make external changes.

The most common uses of mystery shoppers include:

  1. Analysis of competitors.
  2. Review of internal processes and procedures
  3. Evaluate Staff Performance
  4. Evaluating Point of Sale Material

Mystery Shopping Contractors

If heading up your own mystery shopper program seems overwhelming, there is help available. Mystery shopping contractors directly hire and train mystery shoppers. When searching for a contractor to assist in your mystery shopping program, look for those certified by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). The MSPA has 275 members worldwide and approximately 1.5 million mystery shoppers in the United States. The average cost for a program can be from $50 to $500 per shopper per visit.

"Any company that has a customer can benefit from having a mystery shopping program," says Christopher Warzynski, vice president of Beyond Hello, a mystery shopping company in Madison, Wisconsin with a database of over 400,000 shoppers in North America and Europe. In a volatile economic environment, restaurants can't afford to lose just one customer. If the locals decide to go somewhere else on a Friday night, that cuts into your bottom line. Knowledge and insight provide through mystery shoppers allow managers and owners with the tools they need to make necessary changes, create effective advertising, to ensure that their restaurant remains the best in town.


  1. comment authorMajeed Abdoulae Jan 30, 2020

    Great article. Yes, it's actually a wonderful idea to use mystery shopping to improve customer service in a restaurant. Because a mystery shopper can measure correctly what happens, how the salesman or the shopkeeper behaves, how they serve food, any activities against the rules, etc. So, the restaurant can solve every issue by using the collected data by the mystery shopper. There are many good mystery shopping service providers who are doing a great job now.

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