Q. Why is this lesson important?

A. Most chain restaurants and bars will contract with a “Secret Shopper” company. Count on it. It may be internal, but you can bet they send out people on a regular basis to observe employees – and check up on their managers.

What I’m trying to stress here is that you never know who is sitting at your bar. “Consistency” is the bartender’s best friend, and if you treat all of your customers with care you’ll never have to worry about this.

And, when the managers call you into the office to discuss the latest “spotters report,” you’ll know what they’re talking about. Hopefully, it’s great news – and they’re giving you a raise!

Will anything about spotters be asked in the interview?

A. Probably not. Customer service will certainly pop up. Knowing about spotters is for your own benefit – and fully understanding that you should never let your guard down. You are being watched!

Secret Shoppers, or Spotters, are hired by the bar owner to come in and observe the bar’s employees as they go about their business. They are an independent “third party” that has no stake in the business. They show up simply to give an unbiased opinion on how the bar is run.

Sometimes called “Mystery Shoppers,” these people can also be found at banks, department stores, grocery stores – anywhere that customers are served or serviced.

Sometimes, bar owners may have a list of very specific things that he wants the spotters to look for. Things that they believe are troubling: Bad attitudes, theft, drinking on the job, etc.

Bartender Drinking Behind The Bar

The bar owner pays these people (reimburses), for the cost of their dinner and drinks – plus whatever they negotiated to perform the service. Sometimes it by the hour – but usually the job. Anywhere between $25 – $100.

They will come in, usually as a couple, and order drinks at the bar. They may then head off to the dining room for dinner. They might return to the bar after dinner. You just never know. Many times, they simply sit at the bar and order drinks – and if that’s the case, one of them may have only one or two drinks and then switch to plain soda.

They are assessing the business. The bar owner doesn’t want the spotter’s opinion – he wants facts.

Many spotters will ask the bartender questions:

  • What kind of drink would you suggest before dinner?
  • What’s your favorite item on the bar menu?
  • Does the dining room have a special tonight?
  • What’s your favorite dish here?
  • Can you send two more drinks to our table in the dining room?

They may also REALLY test you:

  • I can’t taste any alcohol in my drink. Can you put some more vodka in here?
  • It’s our anniversary – can we get a free drink?
  • You hook me up and I’ll hook you up.
  • Why are your drinks so expensive?

They’re simply assessing how you would react to certain customer complaints or requests. Again, the bar owner may have instructed them to ask these questions.

As a bartender, you just never know who’s sitting at your bar! Always assume that someone is watching you. In the case of spotters – they’re watching you closely.

Some of the things they’re looking for:

  • Suggestive Selling
  • Bar cleanliness (especially restrooms)
  • Correct pricing of all food and beverage items
  • Theft
  • The Staff’s Demeanor (you better not be rude!)
  • How long did it take for someone to acknowledge them?
  • Did you introduce yourself?
  • Is the staff drinking on the job?
  • How fast was the service?
  • Personal grooming and appearance of the staff
  • Did they have to wait for their check?

In my experience, by far, acknowledging the customer right away and presenting the check in a timely matter are two of the biggest complaints that bar and restaurant patrons have. You can bet that spotters are looking at this closely.

My Personal Experience with Spotters:

As a manager and/or bar manager, I have never personally contracted with spotters to check out my bar. However, when I worked as a manager for a theme restaurant chain, we would get reports from spotters who had been in our establishment. We never knew – the corporate office sent these people out and never informed us. That’s the way it works.

Secret Shoppers Drinking Wine

These reports usually came in the form of a checklist. The corporate office dictated exactly what they wanted the spotters to check up on – and they went down the list and made their comments and observations. Pretty simple.

And, here I go again, the two items at the top of the list were how fast they were acknowledged – and how long they had to wait for their check. Think about that.

In a nutshell – if you’re always doing your job, you have nothing to worry about. Treat everyone the same – and provide them with great customer service so they enjoy a fantastic customer experience. It’s that simple.

If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:

Next Lesson: Bar Managers vs. Bartenders

Previous Lesson: Examples of Great Customer Service

Back to the Course Start Page: Basic Bartending Course