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Is there still a place for mystery dining?

Is there still a place for mystery dining?

Outdated. Expensive. Limited. These are three words I tend to hear when people tell me their perceptions surrounding mystery dining.

In fact, many lump mystery dining together with mystery shopping – believing the whole idea of mystery-anything falls short when it comes to thorough analysis; that it provides only a snapshot of the full picture.

To some degree, they’re right.

For someone who works at a company with a strong focus on mystery dining (it’s how the business started, after all), you might think this is a bit of a strange thing to say.

But it’s true: integral as it is, mystery dining does only form one part of what we at HGEM call Guest Experience Management (where the GEM in our name comes from). It’s not that mystery dining is outdated – I think there’s still very much a place for it. It just needs to be used in the right way.

Those working within hospitality might have negative connotations with mystery dining because they’ve had bad experiences when using it in the past – it may have received poor engagement, created a negative culture, or lack of proactivity from their supplier may have lead to the scheme becoming stagnant.

So what does good mystery dining look like? It’s kept fresh. It adapts. It supports incentives and helps reward successes. It measures the things that need to be measured.

For example, you can only measure if a guest is greeted within a certain amount of time, or if your guests are offered a drink straight away, through mystery dining. While I appreciate these elements might not make or break the guest experience, they could be important to you operationally – and affect your top line sales results.

I often get asked: "Who are the mystery guests?". The answer is, they're just normal people who enjoy eating out and don't mind giving up their own time to provide feedback on their experiences. We have a thorough application process which all assessors have to go through before we let them represent us within our clients’ businesses. Anyone can apply, but we keep in touch with our assessors regularly and provide feedback on each report to ensure quality and consistency are maintained.

Our mystery diners are essentially your eyes and ears on the ground: they measure standards to help support your team, as opposed to perceptions. We match your brand with a variety of diners – families, couples, old, young – as it’s important to represent all walks of life, just as your customer base would be in “real life”. Thanks to the high level of engagement from our on-boarding team, the briefing stage is spot on to make sure we build questionnaires to measure your key objectives.

And, most importantly, HGEM’s mystery dining can be used in conjunction with employee surveys (to help motivate the team), online reviews (to monitor reputation), and guest feedback (which measures perception). We call this The GEM Framework.

When all of these elements come together, it creates a full and comprehensive picture. Measuring all aspects of Guest Experience Management gives balanced feedback via qualitative, quantitative, objective and subjective data.

This data is presented within our platform, The Hub. Designed to help busy managers quickly benchmark their performance, we display all of our guest experience measures in a way that allows you to easily identify areas in which you can improve.

When these improvements are made, the higher service standards, product quality and brand perception will inevitably lead to a higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a typical benchmark companies measure to evaluate and improve customer loyalty (or how likely they are to recommend you to their friends and family). Needless to say, an increased NPS will lead to increased ROI.

But enough of the acronyms. If you’d like us to show you how we could help improve and manage your guest experience, please get in touch today.

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