Secret Shopper in a Restaurant: The Pros and Cons

February 01, 2018

While posing as an ordinary customer, in reality, the secret shopper in a restaurant is on a mission: they must observe the establishment, evaluate it, and draw up an accurate report. What are the advantages of such a concept? Are there any disadvantages to bringing in a secret shopper? Let’s take a look.

Advantages of using a secret shopper in a restaurant

As you know, a company’s revenue generally depends on the satisfaction rate of its customers, and this is even more true in the restaurant business. A dissatisfied customer is a customer who won’t return and who won’t hesitate to share their bad experience. Indeed, studies show that an unhappy customer is more likely to share their opinion than a satisfied customer. That’s why your establishment may find itself with negative reviews and comments on social media and other distribution channels, even though only a few people were dissatisfied with your services.

Thanks to the secret shopper, the restaurateur can get an objective opinion on their business: service, atmosphere, meals, menu, etc. Everything is analyzed in detail, so you can improve what isn’t working.

The presence of a secret shopper therefore offers many advantages: the owner of the premises receives constructive comments that allow them to move forward, the agency that organizes the secret shopper visit can propose areas for improvement, and the restaurateur can know what’s going on when they’re absent (if the secret shopper comes on a day when they’re not present). In addition, the mere fact of knowing that a secret shopper may show up from one day to the next motivates the manager and their team. Everyone strives to improve themselves, and the restaurant therefore gets a second wind.

Franchised companies often use secret shoppers, because the restaurant owners have to promote the brand and must not under any circumstances deviate from the charter provided by the network. In this case, the secret shopper helps verify that the restaurateur isn’t committing any faults and is following the charter of the brand that they sport.

Disadvantages of a secret shopper at a restaurant

It’s rare that a restaurateur doesn’t appreciate a secret shopper’s visit when they initiated this visit themselves. For their part, managers of franchised brands are often more sceptical and sometimes even resistant to the idea of receiving a secret shopper in their restaurant. In fact, this method is sometimes compared to espionage and is viewed poorly by restaurateurs who feel like their hands and feet are tied. In effect, they may do everything possible to make sure that their restaurant is appreciated by the customers, but the secret shopper points out certain details, considering them to be errors. In such cases, the restaurateur feels like they’re losing their freedom; it seems to them that their work isn’t being assessed at its fair value and is simply verified from a charter.

Finally, it’s sometimes the case that the mystery shopper arrives right on a day when the restaurant is in trouble (sick employees, delivery problems, etc.). In such cases, the restaurateur may be penalized by their franchise even though this was an exception. Indeed, it’s hard to prove that this was a passing mistake and that not every day is the same.

Overall, the presence of a secret shopper in a restaurant is quite appreciated, because they’re a stepping stone towards an improvement in the products and services offered. Restaurant owners therefore shouldn’t hesitate to use this method to increase their revenue.