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What Do Mystery Shoppers Look for in a Restaurant?

Restaurant mystery shoppers are given specific instructions on what to evaluate. However, they usually don’t take a physical checklist with them, as this would signal their status as mystery shoppers. Their criteria usually include cleanliness, staff friendliness, food quality, wait times, whether the check is correct and correct change is given.

More specifically, mystery shoppers typically judge:

Exterior cleanliness: The first impression starts when the customer arrives at your restaurant, so the mystery shopper looks there too. Are the sidewalk and parking lot clean? Is the landscape attractive, grass mowed and flower beds weeded? Is the building painted and in good repair? Like it or not, people judge a book by its cover, and restaurants are no different. Curb appeal plays a major part in a person’s opinion of your establishment.

Interior Cleanliness: Mystery shoppers are checking this out carefully. They’re keeping note of the cleanliness of the floors, tables, under napkin dispensers, menus, around sugar dishes, and restrooms. In fact, the restrooms are one of the biggest factors in how a patron sees your establishment. So you can bet the mystery shoppers are paying careful attention here.

Friendliness: How are guests greeted? Do all staff seem happy for their business and willing to do everything necessary help make their visit enjoyable? Even things like whether the server suggests drinks, appetizers, and if he or she upsells are all monitored.

Food quality: Are food and drinks the appropriate temperature? Are they fresh and presented well? Sometimes the mystery shopper is directed to make a specific order. Other times, they have the discretion on what they’re supposed to order.

Wait times: This just isn’t about how long people have to wait before they’re seated. They also don’t want to wait too long, or be rushed, on when the drinks and appetizers arrive, to entrees and desserts. It can’t be too long or too short. The check also needs to arrive at the appropriate time.

The check: Is the amount correct? Did the server give you the correct change? And did the server ask whether you wanted the change, or were you even allowed to make that choice?

The bar: Bar mystery shoppers have additional criteria. For instance, they’re watching to see whether the bartender free pours or uses a jigger. They also watch whether the bartender puts their money in the cash register or in their pocket.