Things to look out for while mystery shopping at a restaurant

Here are some tips for deciding what you look should look out for if you're mystery shopping at a restaurant.

Mystery shopping at a restaurant is a favorite among shoppers for a number of reasons. For one, it gives you the opportunity to try out new restaurants in your area. In addition, these assignments are great for part-time shoppers who already lead busy lives, like stay-at-home moms or full-time students. That's because you can knock off your work assignment while eating, killing two birds with one stone.

Though it may have its pros, sometimes restaurant assignments are the most difficult. They require an extremely good eye for detail and a constant awareness of what is going on around you. Here are some tips for deciding what you look should look out for if you're mystery shopping at a restaurant: 

Keep an eye on all employees
If you're dining at sit-down restaurant, it's easy to forget to be mindful of your surroundings. Often times, when working on a dining assignment, mystery shoppers put too much of an emphasis on their waiter or waitress and ignore all the other employees. Because your job is to report customer service overall, go out of your way to cover all areas of the restaurant. Strike up a conversation with the host or hostess. Look at the tables around you, too. Just because you're getting good service doesn't mean tables in other sections are and vice versa.

Trying new foods while mystery shopping can be fun, but try not to overdo it.Experimenting with new foods while mystery shopping can be fun, but try not to overdo it.

Order something you're familiar with
There are some cases when you are assigned to order a specific meal in a restaurant. However, you generally are given the freedom to get what you want. Though it can be fun to experiment with new foods, try not to go too much out of your comfort zone. If you order duck but have never tried duck before, it can be difficult to present your company with a helpful opinion down the road. You could dislike the dish and not be able to tell if it was under or overcooked. You are not a food critic, so always keep in mind how this can effect your main goal as a mystery shopper. Feel free to be a little adventurous, but remember ultimately what your job is. 

Take a trip to the bathrooms
Dining at restaurants isn't limited to the table. When mystery shopping, be sure to check in on the bathrooms. Just like you would survey an aisle in a grocery store for its cleanliness, you should do the same in a restaurant bathroom. These places should be maintained and clean for the overall customer experience. Here are some examples of things you should keep an eye for:

  • An "Employee Must Wash Hands" sign.
  • Soap dispenser that is filled.
  • Stocked paper towels, toilet paper and hand dryers that work.
  • Any messes or stalls that may be out of order.
  • Slippery or unclean floors without signs.

Keep an ear out
Sometimes the most valuable things to report are not from ourselves, but from observing others around us. Maybe the people you're with are experiencing bad service, but you are not. If you brought someone with you to a fast food mystery shopping assignment, ask how his or her customer service was. He or she may have had a different experience than you did. This can be vital information to note in your reports. 

Pro tip: Although mystery shoppers are often able to bring their family, significant others or friends with them, you should probably limit the amount of people you have for restaurant assignments. That way, you'll do your job to the best of your abilities without any distractions.