When one thinks of a “mystery shop program” in the quick-service restaurant industry, what generally comes to mind is a business that engages an organization to arrange to have an individual (typically one pulled from a database of thousands of shoppers) to visit a restaurant as a undisclosed customer. Unfortunately, this type of service is likely performed by someone with little to no industry expertise and is narrowly focused on the basics of a single transaction. As a result, the report that is ultimately produced has limited insight and usefulness. 

However, if the mystery shop visit is well designed and the person performing the function has quick-service industry expertise and relevant skillsets, they will possess the perspective necessary to provide a much greater level of meaningful feedback and be more likely to detect actionable insights across a broad range of areas.

The insights that are obtained from having a robust, quality mystery shop program can be leveraged to help monitor, improve, and even help to transform a business. The areas that are highlighted during a restaurant visit provide the business with not only the customer perspective of a single transaction but can also yield valuable additional insight across a span of different areas where action may be needed.  This includes situations that may require strengthening adherence to procedures as well as leveraging different practices in order to be in an optimal position to reduce costs, increase sales, and maximize business performance. The valuable feedback obtained can also be used to recognize the actions of a strong employee as well as to drive accountability. 

In addition, the utilization of a mystery shop program can also serve as another way to display to your employees and your franchisor that you are continuously monitoring and investing in your business in order to take it to the next level. 

In these challenging times where customers have higher expectations and more choices, it is essential to provide a positive customer experience that exceeds expectations. Execution at the highest level in all facets of the business is critical. 

Sales opportunities must be maximized, food costs actively managed, precious payroll dollars strategically deployed, and procedures must be strong. It is only by successfully executing on all of these elements that businesses are able to keep their valuable customers, and have the ability to grow and thrive.

These are areas where a robust mystery shop program that is performed across different dayparts and days of the week can provide an additional means by which to help identify and monitor situations in need of attention. Of course, a mystery shop does have its inherent limitations such as the fact that the access and visibility of the individual performing the function is limited to that of a typical customer. Accordingly, it is very important to be cognizant of the fact that while a mystery shop program can be valuable to an organization, it is by no means a substitute for any of the comprehensive reviews and inspections that are required or already routinely performed in a restaurant. 

In summary, all quick-service restaurant businesses can benefit from adding a quality, robust mystery shop program to their organization. The feedback and actionable insights that are obtained can serve as the spark to ignite transformation in a struggling restaurant. Likewise, a high-performing business can also benefit from a mystery shop program in order to monitor and maintain its strong performance. 

Peter DeSarno, CPA, MBA, MS is the President of Actionable Mystery Shop Insights LLC, an organization offering customized mystery shop programs that provide a valuable independent perspective and actionable insights which can be leveraged to maximize your QSR & Fast Casual business performance.  He is an industry veteran with extensive business experience and the perspective of having worked in management / leadership positions on both the franchisor and franchisee side with two iconic QSR brands.  He has also provided consulting services and advised countless franchisees in the restaurant industry.  In addition, he leverages his expertise to create, develop and teach college level classes on the subject of franchising. Should you be interested in learning more about his organization and the services that they provide, please visit actionablemsi.com or you can reach out to him directly via email at peterdesarno@actionablemsi.com.

Outside Insights, Story