I’m often asked “Rob, what do you think of mystery shopping?”  It’s an interesting question to pose to a CMO as mystery shopping traditionally is the domain of COO’s. But I think it’s important because when I spend marketing budget to drive traffic into restaurants, I want a great ROI. That only happens when my operational partners deliver a great experience. So here are three reasons why I like mystery shopping.

It’s usually done by trained professionals. When you hire a reputable mystery shopping organisation, they have high standards in recruiting and educating their mystery shoppers. It’s a core competency of theirs and one that is worth paying for. If you don’t believe me, send your friends and neighbours into your establishment and ask them what they think. I can promise you will not get an unbiased viewpoint nor will the information be that actionable.

It’s better at measuring operational standards. If your operational standard is to deliver food to the table within 14 minutes of ordering, you won’t get that from a guest satisfaction survey. In that format, all you can ask is “Did you receive your meal in a reasonable amount of time?”  The person is completing the survey after the meal and in all probability was not timing the delivery. With a trained mystery shopper, you can ask them to time the delivery to see if your standard is being met.

You can see whether your brand standards are creating great guest experiences. I like using the two methodologies together so I can see whether what I train on makes guests want to come back. Did I meet the mark or exceed it?

As I often tell those new to the restaurant and retail marketing world, if you are marketing Coca-Cola, you really don’t have to worry about the quality of Coke in the can. But in the multi-unit retail world, you do have to understand execution for food quality, service, speed and execution. Mystery shopping is a great tool to have in your toolbox to both optimise opportunities and manage risk.

Rob Crews has spent a career growing retail brands. He has been a CMO at QSR, Fast Casual, and Casual dining companies, created global programs for Wendy’s and Church’s Chicken, and most recently led Ovation Brands to a successful sale of the company. He is a highly sought-after speaker and consultant in the multi-unit retail space.