Tips for mystery shopping at restaurants

Some of the most popular mystery shopping assignments are at restaurants.

Some of the most popular mystery shopping assignments are at restaurants. Eating for free with a friend, getting paid for it and helping businesses improve their customer service practices all make these assignments desirable. Before you run off to your first restaurant job, though, be sure to consider the following:

Check out the menu
If you're vegetarian, vegan or have any special food requirements, be sure to take a look at the meal requirements before you accept a job. You may be asked to order an appetizer or meal you can't have. This would put you in a sticky situation and hinder your ability to fulfill the requirements of the job.  

Many restaurants will have full menus available online. Do yourself a favor and inspect the menu before you take the job.

Friends and family
Before you get on the phone to excitedly ask a friend out for a free dinner, look at the job description to see if you're allowed to bring a companion. Many clients will leave this up to you, but some will specify that you cannot bring anyone. If you're uncomfortable sitting in a restaurant alone as a secret shopper, it's okay to pass on these assignments in favor of those that will allow you to have some company. 

However, if you think you might be distracted by chatting with a friend over drinks when you're supposed to be taking notes, treat yourself to a meal out alone and focus on the task at hand.

It's all in the details
These secret shopping assignments may be enjoyable, but they still require you to recall specific details, such as a server's name, his or her attire and the state of the bathroom, among other aspects of the restaurant. You might want to lay off on the drinks when you're out to dinner so you can stay sharp. 

You'll also need a reliable way to take notes. A phone is ideal for discreetly jotting down your thoughts, but a notepad will do the trick, too. 

When you write a report is up to you, although most companies need the document submitted within 24 hours of the assignment. If you go to a movie after the dinner assignment, will you still be able to remember specifics the next day? Consider filling out the questionnaire as soon as possible in order to create the best report you can.