The pressure in the world of food delivery is high. Many traditional restaurants started delivering meals in 2020. With increased competition, the restaurant industry is aware of the need to continuously improve. Delivery times, prices and the quality of meals: a real battle has started. But how do you identify areas in which there is still room for improvement? Perhaps, the use of a mystery guest might be worth considering..
Mystery guests: what do they do, and why?
We are familiar with mystery guests, mainly because of their distribution of the well-known Michelin stars. Still, many restaurants hire a mystery guest, mystery shopper or inspector for their own investigations. They generally do their work anonymously and behave like a ‘normal’ customer (Hesselink & Wiele, 2003). Mystery guests are trained in their profession and use a checklist as a basis for their research and feedback. They then share this feedback with the company that hired them. In this way you, as an entrepreneur, are given concrete tools and areas of improvement to work with.
The goal of mystery shopping differs per situation. Mystery guests can be used by the government, for example, to enforce the alcohol age, or to check whether customers are treated equally. Furthermore, mystery shopping can be of value to businesses such as casinos or campgrounds, but also to delivery restaurants, traditional restaurants, cafes and hotels. Essentially, by using mystery guests, any type of business can properly measure the quality of their service or product delivered to the customer (Wiele, Hesselink & Iwaarden, 2007). Mystery guests can additionally conduct research to objectively make a comparison between competitors by having them order from your own restaurant as well as from your competitors. This process is called ‘benchmarking’.
Benefits of mystery shopping for delivery restaurants
An important benefit of mystery shopping is the quality of feedback provided by mystery guests (Wiele et al., 2007). Mystery guests are trained in what they do so they can empathize with the customer, recognize key points and are practiced in the way they share their feedback. They share these findings, after consultation, in the form of a report of which the pre-composed checklist is the basis.
Unlike scheduled inspections, unannounced visits and/or orders by mystery guests allow them to enter the “daily reality” of a delivery restaurant, without the employees treating their order differently from other orders (Stoopendaal, 2015). This gives a delivery restaurant the opportunity to receive honest feedback.
A third benefit of mystery shopping is the independence of mystery guests. Since they are paid for honest, objective feedback, they benefit from giving it. In other words, they have no reason to distort reality or embellish it. This is where mystery guests differ from friends, family or guests who often find it difficult to be critical.
Mystery guests in the hospitality industry: a step-by-step plan
With a simple Google search you will quickly find several providers of mystery guests, also deployable in the hospitality industry. That the concept is known and used among traditional restaurants is obvious. However, we are surprised that it is only sparsely used by delivery restaurants. In comparison to the traditional catering industry, delivery restaurants only receive limited feedback from their customers. This is exactly why mystery guests can be so valuable for delivery restaurants!
In case you would like to use a mystery guest as a delivery restaurant, it is important that you go through a number of steps (Wiele et al., 2007).
Step 1: Setting goals
Do you want to scrutinize your own delivery restaurant, make a comparison with your competition, or perhaps both? Based on what you want to accomplish with mystery shopping, you create a checklist. During this step, as a restaurant, you would do well to use the knowledge and expertise of the agency where you hire one or more mystery guests. They already have a lot of experience in drawing up the goals, a checklist and the research itself.
To give you an idea of such a checklist, here are some examples of questions that might be included: “Were you greeted in a friendly manner?”, “Did you have to wait long for your order?”, “How did the staff respond to your complaint?” Note: while creating a checklist, walk through the entire customer journey, from start to finish!
Step 2: The mystery shopping itself
Make sure you schedule multiple (takeaway) orders on different days and times. This way, you can be sure that the mystery guest’s experience matches an average customer experience at your delivery restaurant. In addition, consider whether the mystery guest is independent, objective and anonymous. If you have any doubts because you already know him/her, for instance, then consider bringing in another mystery guest.
Step 3: The final report
In the third step you receive the report of the mystery guest including his/her findings about your restaurant and/or those of your competitor. Take the time to discuss this report with the mystery guest. During this discussion it is important that you are open to criticism and ask questions when necessary. Next, you can start implementing concrete changes based on the report. At this point you should always pick up the previously set goals so that you are actually working towards these goals.
Despite the fact that mystery guests are mainly used by traditional restaurants, their use is possibly even more interesting for delivery restaurants! You will receive honest feedback and concrete areas of improvement. Do you have any questions about the use of mystery guests? Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020-8202196.
Thank you for reading,
- Hesselink, M., & van der Wiele, T. (2003). Mystery Shopping: In-depth measurement of customer satisfaction. Erasmus Research Institute of Management, 1–12.
- Stoopendaal, A. (2015). Mystery Guests 2: Begeleidend evaluatie onderzoek vervolgproject IGZ-ouderenzorg. instituut Beleid & Management Gezondheidszorg, 1–83.
- Wiele, T. V. D., Hesselink, M., & Iwaarden, J. V. (2005). Mystery shopping: A tool to develop insight into customer service provision. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 16(4), 529–541.