Mystery Dining & Guest Feedback


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Welcome to my musings: A recount of service disasters and service wins as observed my lovely Silent Customers and the many folks I talk to who are as passionate about great hospitality as I am.

There will be no naming and shaming but I will share what customers are saying they would like to see more of, what underwhelms them and what they perceive to be great value.

I will also write down my own thoughts, musings and opinions and hope that you will share yours with me too via, Facebook, at the end of each post.


8th Nov 2017

Condiment Sachets: Ingenious, money saving gems or infuriating packets of pointlessness? 

I get the existence of condiment sachets: They are hygienic and save on waste and washing up but..... read more.


7th November 2017

Review sites: Do some businesses make it too easy for customers to use them for revenge? 

As someone who runs a feedback company I'm paradoxically very lazy at posting on review sites... read more   


6th November 2017

Passive aggressive service recovery: Does it work? You tell me! 

I dragged myself to a well know phone store last week for a long overdue upgrade. I know this can be done online but I just wanted a human being to show me three options and transfer the data..... read more


27th October 2017


Internal work conflict: Who's right?

If you need to make some changes in your organisation but no one can agree on who, what and how. Should you go with your gut and/or the team member you think is right? more


25th Aug 2017

How sophisticated is your customer journey?

Contrary to common belief, mystery dining is not a tool to beat people with... read more 


21st April 2017 

Marketing stuff: Not much uptake? Try this....

There are very good reasons for why customers do not react to marketing that's on menus... read more  


19th April 2017

Steak: Is it actually any better from our local butcher or are we just being food snobs?

Now, don't get me wrong, I love shopping in my local butchers and farmers markets, more    


8th Feb 2017

Cauliflower Cheese; A standard part of a Sunday roast or a side-order? 

Cauliflower Cheese, for me, is an absolute MUST for a Sunday more 


7th Feb 2017

Is it acceptable for restaurants to take pre orders for large tables?

Tables of twelve and more, you would think would be welcomes by restaurateurs but you could be more   


23rd June 2016

Complaining: Are you a 'kind complainer' or a 'vitriolic complainer'?

As well as mystery dining and learning solutions we run a complaint mediation service. Recently we had one of the most lovely complaint letters I have ever read... read more  


22nd June 2016

Cappuccino: Why are we so bad at this in the UK?

I cannot fathom why, when there are more coffee shops than humans on our high street these days, we still fail to grasp the concept and ability to make a decent cappuccino in the UK... Read on   


6th April 2016


Marketing: Why only 33% of customers see posters.  

Marketing is always the lowest scored section in our Silent Customers reviews. See how one solution can cover all on    


5th April 2016

Do we treat smaller restaurant chains differently? 

I have been working with a company who have grown from 4 sites to fourteen in the last few more  


3rd April 2016

Check-backs: Are you a fight or flight customer?  

Check-backs are always an interesting point for discussion in our Engagement Workshop. The point of a check back more  


8th December 2015

Are your managers lecturers or teachers? 

At The Silent Customers our focus is on enabling teams to learn about customer more   


7th December 2015

Why is Okay NOT Okay?!

I'm often asked why our reviews score down when a Silent Customers says their expectations were met but not exceeded. Read more..   


21st October 2015

Are you 'coaching' your teams or simply just hurting their feelings? 

Our reviewers are very careful to ensure our Silent Customers deliver feedback as kindly as possible... read more  


10th April 2015

Trip Advisor: keeping it REAL

In 2011 only 14% of diners, we asked, looked at Trip Advisor. In our recent survey this went up to 40% so should restaurant owners start panicking?... read more 


9th April 2015

2015 customer survey results

We asked customers the same questions in 2011 and 2015. To see the results click here.  


20th January 2015

Why patronising your customers will leave egg on your face

In the last six months I sent emails to two companies where I have felt that my hard earned money has not been well spent with them and both times the response has infuriated more 


19th January 2015

Water biscuits: Why?

Last week a heated debate arose among the temporary inhabitants of our ski chalet when I suggested that cheese was better off enjoyed without the logistical need of a water more   


9th January 2015

What comes first: service or systems? 

Is this the chicken and egg question of the restaurant world?... Read more 


8th January 2015

What happened to tablecloths in restaurants?

Once upon a time setting a table was akin to making a bed.... read more 


16th December 2014

Check backs: Investigation or interrogation? 

‘Checks-backs’ are one of our service benchmarking questions. The reason for check-backs are simply to give the server an opportunity to correct any issues before too much of the dish is consumed....but Read more


10th October 2014

Business coaching: Where do YOU need to be? 

I've been lucky to have worked with some very effective coaches in my adult life. Some have been my employers and some have been professional coaches... Read more 


30th September 2014

Receptionists: Advocates or Saboteurs? 

Every business has ‘receptionists’. If you run a restaurant your receptionists are your waiters. If you run a pub they are your bar staff. If you run a team of people it may be wise to look at your ‘receptionists’ and ask yourself who are your advocates and who might be your saboteurs!? Read more


11th July 2014

Optional gratuities automatically added to restaurant bills: Are we becoming more accepting?

I was told that 'TIPS' came from: ‘To Insure Prompt Service’ and were paid up front to bank clerks to guarantee that, if you were in a hurry, you would be served ahead of others… whether that is true or not is debatable but it does sound plausible. Read more 



10th July 2014

To touch or not to touch?

When I was running a customer service workshop recently I was asked by a delegate if it was ok to touch a customer. Now clearly he didn’t mean in a ‘current news scandal’ kinda way, but it was a question that, whilst I knew exactly what he meant, posed some debate among the group. Read more


16th April 2014

Salt & Pepper on tables: Yes or No?

A Silent Customer recently noted that they thought salt and pepper on the tables was becoming antiquated. Read more  


10th April 2014

Criticism is a gift: Is it? 

Criticism is a gift...I hear this so often and it drives me mad....Read more 


1st January 2014

Are your customers missing the blindingly obvious? 

Silent Customers focus on delivering subjective narrative because it reflects a true and honest customer experience but as a consequence (and probably why many other mystery shopping companies don't do it) it sometimes upsets tenants and managers who find it hard to believe what the Silent Customers are saying. Read more


18th December 2013

What does social media + disgruntled Chef = ? 

This. Read more


10th October 2013 

Should business meetings be less formal these days?

My other half and I recently acquired a puppy. Whilst he has been a joy to behold his separation anxiety has been less than music to the ears of our poor neighbours so, when my partner had to take business trip to Hong Kong and I needed to attend a meeting, I had to consider whether it would be ‘professional’ to take Bob the puppy with me. Read More


5th September 2013

Should you leave an angry or sarcastic response on Trip Advisor when a customer leaves negative feedback?

The answer is ‘Yes’ if you want to come across as supercilious and arrogant. ‘Yes’ if you want the person who has complained to rub their hands in glee at your faux pas and a super big ‘yes’ if you want to scare off potential new customers and sabotage your own business. Read more 

29th July 2013

Wooden boards & Slates: Is it time to bring back plates?

I can’t remember the first time I had a burger served to me on a bread board but it seems a very long time ago. 

Since then, myself and our Silent Customers have had a variety of food stuffs presented on blocks of wood, slates and, of late, I have noticed, an influx of rather bizarre faux slate platters made out of plastic. Read more

25th July 2013

Are you a sulky teenager or a screaming toddler when it comes to disappointment?

I know I am the former. Read more

26th April 2013

Are pubs that don’t cater for women sabotaging their own business?

As I am in fact a women, in writing this blog you might think that my opinion will be biased. You could be right, but it's not because I want every pub to look like a trendy wine bar. NOOOOOO… far from it! Read more

19th April 2013

What is 'traditional' Pub décor supposed to look like anyway?

There is no disputing that pubs that have had a professional makeover do better than those whose interiors resemble the pub in Shameless. Read more

27th March 2013

Is being forced to eat a burger with a knife and fork a sin?

A silent customer recently expressed a slight displeasure at receiving a round burger that was stacked very elegantly and held together with a skewer.  Her ‘beef’ with it [excuse the pun] was that it collapsed into its separate elements as soon as the skewer was taken out rendering it impossible to pick up and take a bite out of it. Read more 

20th February 2013

When were you last blown away by a great customer experience?

I am rarely impressed by my dining / service experiences but last weekend I wanted to weep with joy after a Saturday night out at a little Brakspear pub in Goring in Oxfordshire. Read more

7th February 2013

The cost of the lost: How much are you worth?

I worked out roughly how much I have spent in my local pub over the last 10 years and it came to £18,000 just me!!

Publicans and restaurateurs spend lots of time and money trying to find new customers yet the irony is that if they could SEE the cost of the lost they would spend more time and money training their staff instead.

Most restaurateurs and pubs do not have a clue how much any of their regular customers have spent or are likely to spend with them because unlike a veterinary practice, an opticians or Tesco’s they simply don’t have the systems in place to know anything about their customers never mind what the are worth to the business.

There are so many affordable systems available to measure customer loyalty and the cost of upset customers and yet very few see the value of it. However if they could see that the loss associated with an average pub customer is £24,500.00 they might think differently. Read more 

3rd January 2013

How I used customer feedback in 2012

Whilst there is a common belief that complaints are a gift we also need to understand that the way feedback is delivered influences how people react to it. Although it is unrealistic to expect customers to be our cheer leaders when we drop the ball, jeering expletives from the side-lines is not going to motivate anyone. Read more

2nd January 2013 

Would you ignore your friend if they were two feet in front of you?

My best friend and I decided to patronise a pub recently taken over by new tenants. We had arrived early in the evening and as we were the only customers we decided to have a pre-dinner drink in the bar. During this time we asked to see the function room and made small talk with a team member about the décor. Soon afterwards the chef and the tenant walked in to begin their shift but even though we were the only customers in the pub, just a few feet away, neither acknowledged us with a smile nor said good evening. Read more   

11th December 2012

When is a burger not a burger?

When it’s a burger cut in half and served in a whole burger bun!. Read more

17th November 2012

Should we report disparaging posts on Trip Advisor as 'inappropriate’?

I was off to one of my favourite local restaurants on Saturay night and prior to going noticed that they had a link to Trip Advisor from their Facebook page.

I was horrified to see what a local person had written: Read more.... 

8th November 2012

Just how S.A.F.E is your pub or restaurant?

Four elements are required to create a secure and loyal customer environment:

• Service (pro-active, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable)
• Ambience (warm lighting, contemporary décor, sympathetic acoustics and ambient temperature)
• Food (balanced flavours, quality ingredients, cooked with care and presented with consideration)
• Ergonomics (fluidity of movement and space)

Read more.....

2nd November 2012

Why do less than 50% of pubs offer second drinks at the table?

One question our Silent Customers are always asked is whether they were offered a second drink? This question is often met with varying degrees of head scratching from both tenants and silent customers alike; “But it’s not that kind of pub” I hear them cry.  Read more and cast you vote...

18th October 2012

Waiters who verbally list specials at your table: Customer engagement or Mensa test?

Recently, a Silent Customer expressed her annoyance when a waiter hastily regurgitated the list of specials rather than offer them to her on a menu or a specials board. The result was that she could only recall the first menu item and only the main ingredient of it. ....Read more and cast your vote

16th October 2012

When is a pie not a pie?

When it's a casserole? ..... Read more and cast your vote 

28th September 2012

On-line public review sites: To reply or not to reply?

We all know that public review sites like Trip Advisor do nothing to discourage subjective ranting, but given that they are here to stay, what is the best way to respond to a customer who has left disparaging comments?... Read more and cast your vote

19th September 2012

Is the customer always right?

I spent many years terrified of customer complaint letters coming via head office. The best one (and I wished I had kept it) was written with similar hilarity value to the famous virgin complaint letter sent to Richard Branson about his in-flight meals. The list of errors that myself and my team had performed was nothing to be proud of but the poor customer had made it seem so farcical that once I had dried the tears of laughter away – I had to phone him just to thank him for his hilarious delivery of our short comings! I almost forgot to apologise. Read more and have your vote

3rd September 2012

Are our expectations of formal dining just too high?

Casual dining is on the increase with many of us preferring to eat out a couple of times a week in cheaper establishments rather than blowing a day’s wages on posh nosh and an eye wateringly priced bottle of burgundy.  But is this purely driven from the burdening guilt of recession fever or is it that formal dining just does not meet our expectations anymore?  Read more and have your vote

30th August 2012

How important is it to ask for customer feedback?

In a recent customer research survey we asked 500 diners how important they thought asking for feedback was:  70% of customers we asked said that asking for feedback is 'Very important'  23% said it was 'Quite important'  3% said they were 'Not sure' and 4% said it is 'Not important' .... read more 

21st August 2012

Should vegetables be included in the price of a pub main-course?

Waiters often forget to mention that the main course the customer ordered doesn’t automatically come with green veg. It is something that comes up time and time again on both our Silent Customer audits and via our online customer feedback....  Read more and have your vote:

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