Pranay Mehta (name changed) was busy scrolling his phone dedicatedly while sitting at his newly launched restaurant in Gurugram. It was a Saturday evening with the restaurant running houseful, waiters busy serving the guests and bartenders busy tossing the cocktails one after another. However, what made Mehta tensed was the mystery audit score that he was looking into his phone.
“We have opened six months ago, our score is 72 percent, which is decent but I’m not satisfied. I have announced a 15 percent salary hike to all my employees as soon as we reach the score of 90 percent,” he discussed. Mystery shopping audits is a serious matter for restauranpreneurs who chase after perfection and quality. While not all restaurants and cafes in India opt for mystery audits but few who use the service regularly have claimed several benefits.
Mystery shoppers are usually freelancers. They visit the location by pretending like a customer and note the things they have been asked to measure. Then, they report the data to the mystery shopping company, called mystery shopping agency which compiles and analyzes the data gathered from the different locations to help their clients.
Any shortcomings in restaurant performance may be the reason why customers don’t want to repeat their experience and, which is even more crucial, spread negative opinions about it. Hence, problems with revenue, a decreasing number of visitors, and a higher rate of rejected orders.
“Mystery Audits are important to ensure that the guests are receiving the same guest experience in all of their branches and chains also in the franchised ones. The owners through them can gauge how the restaurant employee treat guests and make the journey inside the restaurant a better one. The cleanliness of the entire place (dining area, lobby and kitchen) is extremely important for any place that is serving food. if a customer feels this is lacking, they will never come again, that's why this kind of audit is necessary to maintain the brand standard,” Dhiraj Shetty, Assistant Food and Beverage Manager of Sanadige Delhi commented.
A freelancer mystery auditors from FloorWalk on a condition of anonymity commented that, unlike online reviews where there are mostly uninformative details regarding limited areas of the business, reports written by mystery shoppers are replete with information one can actually use in making management decisions.
“The behaviour of employees is also taken into account. Noteworthy individuals who made the dining experience much better may also be forwarded to the client. The same goes for staff who are showing unprofessional work ethics. Reports are usually required to be submitted within 24 hours after their site visit. This ensures all their observations and experiences remain fresh on their minds while they’re writing it down,” he informed.
Moreover, it helps in recruitment, training and stakeholder management. Some business owners use their own staff and have them play the part of the customer. However, this method has proven to be ineffective, unnatural and biased in many ways.
Newly opened restaurants can take advantage of this service to spot areas they can improve early in their operation. Those who have changed their menus, altered their delivery methods, or updated their overall service may also benefit from mystery shopping programs.
“Doesn’t matter the restaurant was full the previous night, but there were quite a few unhappy customers. Hence, restaurants tend to make the best possible experience for every customer,” Nishant Kumar owner of Ministry of Sound Noida commented.
At Ministry of Sound, Noida and sister properties, the management use automation software and techniques, lean management processes, quality personnel to mitigate the above-discussed scenario. “We blend art, engineering and consumer behaviour to develop a great experience, for what our customers love us for. As the audit affects all the departments, we hold regular meetings, striving to keep all our customers happy every day and night,” Kumar further added.
In India, the mystery shopping business is in its infancy but quickly picking up pace. The industry is estimated to be worth around `70 crore and employs over two lakh people on a part-time basis. Many brands have realized a few bitter truths about their standards after such an audit.
At a time when companies are being forced to innovate and improve their quality of service in response to rising expectations of customers, the mystery shopping industry appears to be finding takers across business segments.