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How to Become a Restaurant Secret Shopper

How to Become a Restaurant Secret Shopper
Secret shopping is one of the many tools used by companies for market research. The main aim of secret shopping is to better customer service and improve product/service quality. This CareerStint article will tell you how to become a restaurant secret shopper.
CareerStint Staff
Things You Must Know
  1. Payment depends on how you perform.
  2. Legitimate companies do not ask for a fee.
  3. You have to manage the taxes.
Secret shopping, or mystery shopping as it is popularly called, is a widely-used technique by companies to analyze their products and services from a neutral perspective. A business hires mystery shoppers from market research or secret shopping companies to pose as regular customers and use their product.
However, the service providing company may not be aware when and how they are being tested. The shoppers submit reviews back to the company that hired them. In the paragraphs below, you will learn how to become a mystery shopper for restaurants.
What is Secret Shopping?
  • Many are aware of secret shopping, many are not, while there are a significant few who have not understood the term completely.
  • It is basically a tool used by companies since a very long time, to help them improve their customer service.
  • This is how it works: there are two entities to be considered here - the mystery shopping company and the actual business/company.
  • The latter hires the former to test their product and submit a review.
  • For example, consider a restaurant. In this case, the restaurant owner will hire a secret shopping company. This company will send secret shoppers to pose as a regular customer and visit that particular restaurant.
  • The customer is given instructions regarding what he needs to do, i.e., how he needs to behave, what he needs to observe, etc.
  • The customer notices and observes everything. The restaurant staff will not be aware though, that this customer is indeed, a secret shopper.
  • Later, the customer writes a feedback and submits the same to the secret shopping company, and they in turn submit the review to the restaurant owner.
  • If the reviews are fairly good, the owner will work on maintaining them. If the review is bad, he will work on improving the service.
  • The hospitality industry, restaurants, convenience stores, department stores, hotels, car dealerships, amusement parks, theaters, clothing stores, cruise lines, gas stations, etc., hire potential mystery shoppers.
How to be a Secret Shopper for Restaurants?

General Requirements
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Exceptional observation powers
  • Sharp memory
  • Attention to detail
  • Presence of mind
  • Very good written and oral communication skills
  • Access to a camera, mobile phone, and a laptop with internet access
  • Good time management
Research and Registration
  • To avoid unnecessary complications, conduct a thorough research. There are lots of scams out there; many companies pose as mystery shopping websites and try to extract money from aspiring shoppers.
  • To begin with, understand that no company will ask you any kind of payment to join them - no registration fees or training fee or anything.
  • Also, understand that you are an independent contractor. You will not receive any employee benefits, except for travel expenses, when you review for big hotels. Otherwise, you are virtually working per assignment, and you have to fill out the taxes yourself.
  • Also, sign up with as many companies as you can. There is no rule that you have to work only for one company. Of course, if and when your annual income exceeds the limit, you have to dutifully fill out the tax forms and submit them to the IRS, but meanwhile, you need not restrict yourself to just one company.
  • Also, keep this job as a second source of income. You may not be paid much if you are a fresher. There is no stability or security in his job.
  • While undertaking research, make sure the company is a member of the National Association for Retail Marketing Services (NARMS), the Independent Mystery Shoppers' Coalition (IMSC), Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), or the International Association of Service Evaluators (IASE).
Understand the Job

Next, understand your duties. As a restaurant secret shopper, your job duties will include:
  1. Observing how long it takes for the food to be delivered.
  2. The ambiance of the restaurant.
  3. The quality and quantity of food served, and whether it is worth the price.
  4. The cleanliness and hygiene of the restaurant.
  5. The compliance to be followed - if the staff follow the dress code and greetings, etc.
  6. The staff behavior - remember their names, service, body language, greetings, etc.
Organize
  • Once you get the job, you have to prepare yourself accordingly. Do not dismiss this work as minor-league and take it lightly.
  • Prepare an Excel sheet with the details, such as the company you work for, the restaurants you are sent to, the payment per assignment, the current status, etc.
  • Prepare your equipment. You will need a laptop with reliable internet connectivity, a camera, and a mobile phone.
  • You need to have a tiny camera if you are planning to record everything.
  • You have to pose as a customer, so you cannot take out a notebook and pen and start writing a review. You will need to be smart enough not to let anyone know that the restaurant is being reviewed.
  • At such times, use your smartphone. Jot down your observations in short points. No one will realize that you are doing some important work, they will be under the impression that you are merely using your phone.
Do what You are Told
  • Do not be overconfident or try to act smart. This is exactly the kind of behavior you need to avoid, or else you may blow your cover.
  • Your company will give you clear instructions regarding what you need to do, how you need to act, what you need to say, etc.
  • For instance, your boss might tell you to order a particular dish on the menu. Make sure you order exactly that and not something else.
  • You may also be told to behave in a particular way with the staff. Do as you are told; do not start chatting unnecessarily.
  • Remember, if you do not act the way you have been ordered to, you will get no payment.
Write an Honest Review
  • Once you are done with your shopper stint, come back home and start writing.
  • Write everything you observed, right from the food to the hygiene to the staff.
  • Make sure you are not too sarcastic or too over appreciative. Be critical and honest.
  • You may even be told how to phrase your review. Follow the instructions accordingly, prepare a report, and submit it as soon as possible.
  • As per your company rules, your salary will be sent to you via PayPal or check.
  • Also, remember that some companies require you to pay the bill first, and the amount will be added to your salary and sent to you. Be careful with the negotiations.
Salary
  • Secret shoppers do not earn a fixed salary, for they are more like independent contractors and are paid per assignment.
  • Generally, you are paid for your review, and your expenses are covered by the company as well. This includes the restaurant bill, tip, travel, etc.
  • However, for this, you have to make sure your company is legitimate.
  • Secret shoppers are not employees, and therefore are not entitled to any benefits.
  • The compensation varies heavily as per the type of restaurant and the company you work for. According to certain reviews, a fresher in this profession can earn between USD 7 to USD 20 per assignment.
  • With experience, you may be paid between USD 20 to USD 100 per assignment.
  • Reports suggest that if you are lucky enough to find a good company and are well-experienced, you may be able to make between USD 5000 to USD 10,000 per year. For a part-time job, experts suggest that it is a fairly decent figure.
Off late, mystery shopping has been a controversial issue, with scams on the rise. It is entirely up to you to carefully analyze and choose the company. If you are not very sure about the legitimacy of the company, do not risk registering with the same. If you are smart and cautious, being a mystery shopper can fetch you a decent amount as a part-time job.