For those of you who are new to Mystery Shopping, I have found not only is this a great way to make a little money, but it’s probably the #1 way to enhance your lifestyle in terms of dining out. Over time I will tell you about various company’s, how to contact them and what to expect.
For those of you who don’t know what Mystery Shopping (AKA Secret Shopping or Customer Service Evaluation) is, it is a simple concept. Businesses need to measure how well their employees are responding to their customers’ needs, how well they understand their product, as well as issues such as cleanliness, timeliness, etc. For example while doing a restaurant evaluation (and understand that different companies look for different issues), you may be asked to remember the names of your host/hostess, server, bartender, manager (or a description of each). You will be expected to comment upon the friendliness of each employee, the flow of the meal (did the appetizer arrive within 7 minutes of having ordered it), as well as your servers’ ability to upsell (were you offered coffee and dessert after your main course). You will be expected to comment upon the lighting, music and cleanliness of the restaurant and make a special trip to the rest room to see if it is clean and well stocked. Was a manager visible in the restaurant and were they interacting with the staff and/or customers. As the title of the position states…you are to remain a MYSTERY, a SECRET and NEVER let it be known that you are there to evaluate (unless you are doing what is called a “reveal” shop…but, we’ll talk about those another time). When you arrive back home you will type up a report that can be anything from a simple checklist to a minute by minute narrative. You will be expected (in most cases) to send a copy of your receipt in as well (to prove that you were there). Oh, you will also have to sign a contract with the company promising NOT TO REVEAL which companies they represent, so when you read my articles, don’t expect to learn the names of any of the places being shopped!!!
What you can expect for providing this service, is a free meal (usually reimbursed within 45-60 days) and in some cases a small pay (usually in the $5-$10 range). I find that the nicer the establishment the lower the pay. It really has nothing to do with how labor intesive the actual shop (including the report is). For example a HIGH END steakhouse may only reimburse, but a drive-thru fast food restaurant or donut shop will leave you with a few $$ in your pocket. Personally, a $150 reimbursement at a FINE DINING RESTAURANT enhances my lifestyle, so I’m happy.
So, on to my FIRST secret source!
If you love steak and enjoy dining at casual steakhouses (and you will know which one it is when you check out their site) check out Focus On Service. They are a wonderful company out of Massachusetts, but represent a casual steakhouse that can be found in 29 states. So, go fill out your application and wait until an opportunity arrives in your area.
My favorite sources for half-price (and lower meals) are usually from LOCAL companies that provide gift certificates at a GREAT price. In my area (South Florida) there’s a great company called South Florida Dines
that offers gift certificates from Vero Beach to Miami, FL. If you don’t live in the area, but plan to visit (as so many do in the winter months), check them out as the gift certificates don’t expire for 90 days. I understand that some of the chefs highlighted will be sharing their recipes in the coming months as well.
Look at Half Off Deals to sign up for alerts when certificates go on sale in your area. They seem to be a clearinghouse of great meal deals and are affiliated with radio stations around the country (so no need to constantly check your local radio station’s website to see what deals they’re offering). I signed up for their e-mail alerts, so I get regular e-mails from them with deals that I may have missed.
And for those who are dining at home tonight, don’t forget that you can always Print Free Coupons at Coupons.com. It’s always free and they have HUNDREDS of coupons available all of the time.
So, enjoy your dinner and BON APETIT!