We all know how important online reviews are in the modern restaurant industry, but they shouldn’t overshadow a much more traditional form of feedback.
Secret diners remain a fantastic way for restaurateurs to place a fresh pair of eyes and set of tastebuds on their business.
The premise is simple; for a fairly small investment, a secret diner can be hired to enter your establishment randomly in order to experience the service, food and overall ambiance. In return, they’ll provide a no-holds-barred report on what you’re getting right – and what needs work.
If you’ve never employed the services of a secret diner, you may be wondering why you should bother. And the answer is simple – secret diners review a number of key areas that benefit significantly from impartial judgement.
Here’s what they review:
Your restaurant’s curb appeal
Secret diners score restaurants on the availability and proximity of parking, the landscaping, visibility and overall visual appearance of the exterior.
First impressions count. What kind of impression is your restaurant making?
How long do diners have to wait upon entering your restaurant before being acknowledged?
Secret diners will evaluate the greeting they receive, how comfortable they’re made to feel and the process through which they’re taken to find an available table.
If no tables are available, they’ll be keen to see how the staff handle the situation and the options they’re given while waiting.
The quality of service
Service staff are at the coal face of the restaurant operation, and have a great deal of responsibility placed on their shoulders as a result. Unfortunately for them, that means they’ll be placed under significant scrutiny by secret diners.
A secret diner will carefully monitor the service sequence; do waiting staff follow the correct procedures when left to their own devices? Is staff gossiping prevalent? Are suggestions made based on a solid knowledge of the menu, and how well do the team handle objections or odd requests?
The results from this element of secret dining are vitally important for staff training.
The cleanliness throughout the restaurant – from the entrance to the washroom – will all be taken thoroughly into account by a secret diner.
Additionally, and although they’re unlikely to enter it, secret diners have a knack of spotting signs of uncleanliness within kitchens, too. It’s as if they can see through walls!
It goes without saying that a secret diner will assess the quality of both the food and drinks they’re served, but they’ll also look at the wider aspects of quality control.
Presentation, the time taken between courses and evidence (or lack thereof) of finishing touches (i.e garnishes) will all be taken into account and included in the final report.
Specific issues (identified by you)
Special audits can also be carried out by most secret diners, and focus on issues identified by the restauranteur.
You may already have one or two aspects of your business with which you’re less than happy. However, you’re perhaps too close to the business to make a rational decision on how to tackle the issue, which is why asking a secret diner to idiot check your concerns is a smart idea.
Perhaps you think waiting staff are taking too long to seat people, or you have a nagging doubt that the latest dessert menu doesn’t befit your restaurant’s heritage. Whatever your concern, a secret diner will help validate it and offer a solution, if required.
We’ve hopefully convinced you that secret diners are a worthwhile investment, but if you’ve had prior experience with such a service and would like to share it with our many readers, tell us more in the comments section below!