Advice on fine dining reports

First, I would like to thank everyone that responded to my posts all your suggestions are very helpful and those that PM'd me very much appreciated!

So I've done two upscale fine dining shops now, both companies required a very detailed narrative with exact timing of when things occurred. One report came back with specifics: Like when did the party next to me pay? When did the gentleman to the right of us pay? When did my guest finish his drink?

First, I'm very grateful for the smart phones so I can take notes. When I used to do fine dining shop, I have never been asked so many detailed time stamps of every move, and that was before smart phones came about, so good thing I wasn't asked...

The main issue is if I were to dine at any of these fine establishments on my own I normally would not pull out my phone to text or do anything on the phone, I find it rude and if I were out with my friends or family the attention should be on them not on the phone.

So how do you keep track of all the times?? Do you jot it down quickly on your phone?

My lunch meal on Friday, I had to jot down so many time stamps on my phone, trying to be discreet was not easy.

Any advice on how you guys do this is greatly appreciated...

I hope you are all having a great Father's Day!

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I use an Android app called Mystery Shopwatch for all my timings. I put the app on my BF's phone also so he can take the timings every once in awhile. I put him to work for a free meal.
I do a lot of fine dining, and I use the Mystery Shopwatch app too. I have a Galaxy S6 with a tech21 case that actually closes over the screen of the phone, so I leave the watch running with the phone case closed. Every time something happens, I just hit the volume button on the side of the phone and it vibrates once to let me know it has recorded a timestamp. To everyone else, though, it just looks like my phone is sitting on the edge of the table; there's no chance of anyone seeing what's on the screen and figuring out that I'm timing the meal.
Later, when I write up my report, I know that I started the clock when I walked in the door, timestamp #1 is when I was seated, #2 is when the waiter showed up, #3 is when I ordered the drink, #4 is when the drink arrived, #5 is when I finished ordering food, #6 is when the first course was served, and so on.

"The future ain't what it used to be." --Yogi Berra
I'm guessing "do 4-5 quick easy jobs and just pay instead of writing that 2 hour report) isn't a viable answer? winking smiley

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Where I live, most all diners are all their phones throughout their meals, so I don't think it's unusual.

The best advice I can give is:

-Don't be so worried about being rude. You have a job to do and you are better off being slightly rude than not having the pertinent details.

-I tell my guests that I will be on the phone for a good portion of the meal. That lets them off the hook so that they can be texting or using FaceBook, and we just look like many of the other diners in that case. If you are taking notes and your guest is just sitting there...that's when it looks the most rude.

-Sit with you back to the wall at any restaurant and be sure you guest knows to give you that seat. You can see the server coming & going that way and not be taking notes that they can see.

-Develop a shorthand for your notes. Most of my notes are VERY short, and indecipherable to others ("20 m10sbg c&w" means to me, "At 7:20 PM, a male, 5'10", short black hair with glasses, cleared and wiped down the table."

-Try to practice remembering 2, then 3, then 4 interactions before jotting them in your notes. I usually makes the notes when I have 3 or 4 timings to notate.

-Put your guest in charge of names. You work on the timings and have your guest collect names if the staff wear name tags. If not, leave it to them to ask the name in conversation, in exchange for their free meal. It will make you less suspicious...Your the one on the phone and they're the one looking at everyone's name tag. Have them text you the staff names and that will also help with timings.
A good tip I learned on here is to use a digital voice recorder if it is legal (one party consent) in your state. You get all the timings when you play it back. I note a few timings like when dinner was served and finished. That lets me skip through 20 or 25 minutes of the recording. It also helps with greetings. I mumble descriptions into it, etc.
I find that a voice recorder with an hour and a half of talking and background music to go through to get timings is too much effort when doing the report. I find its easier to pick up your phone as soon as the server turns away and snap a picture with a free spy camera app like: [play.google.com]

It looks like you just picked it up to read a text and set it back down if someone is watching.

You have the photo time stamp and an angled picture of the table.

It's much faster to determine what took place as far as plates, drinks, check arrival and payment times.
Snap a photo on the way in and out as well.

Of course, nothing beats video. You can get lazy with video and forget your even doing the shop.
Audio recording is great (1 party/2 party who cares?), don't forget to talk to yourself though and narrate your visit. It can be a pain listening to that hour plus recording. For that you need another app that can playback at higher speed.

Mystery stopwatch is cool but you must remember what each mark is.

"Shop it" is awesome. It works better on Apple than on Andriod though. It is still worthwhile on android though [play.google.com]
One nice thing about the android version is that you can also use the volume buttons for marking the time.
Thank you for all the tips...

Stevesocal, I like your short hand... I will need to develop my own shorthand for notes too!

The last lunch on Friday, I needed pictures of beverages and entrées, so I ended up just taking pictures of everything from appetizer to dessert, as if I'm going to post online so I had time stamps of all the food deliveries at least!!! But I still had to quickly jot down when they came to check on the meals... Good news is I just got my score back and I got a 10 so I'm excited that I texted myself all those time stamps...

I will go download an app, I have an iphone and read another post on the app that someone on here developed!

Thanks again!
I mentioned it in another thread on this same topic a year or so ago but I use an app for the iPhone called Notemaster.

It's a simple notetaking app that I think I paid $3 for, but what I love is that it auto-publishes my notes to Google Docs, so it's seamless to open the notes on my laptop at home, or share notes with my guest if they want to help out on hotel shops. It's also rock-solid, and I never worry about losing notes because it backs up straight to the cloud....
I guess that you don't care that making an audio recording in a 2-party consent state without the consent of the other party is a felony. This has been discussed at length in this forum. You might be willing to take the chance of being the subject of a criminal prosecution, but I for one won't. The fee for the shop does not begin to make this worthwhile. The bill for a criminal defense attorney would be formidable, and just having the arrest on my record is not something I want. Let alone spending time in jail. [www.dmlp.org]
@quiettime wrote:

Audio recording is great (1 party/2 party who cares?), don't forget to talk to yourself though and narrate your visit.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
...and since the OP posted in the Coyle thread as one of their shoppers, I would say that you reference their particular rules for recording shops regardless of the consent laws. If they feel like your level of quoting and detail is ranging on close to having a recording, they take issue with it.
@myst4au wrote:

I guess that you don't care that making an audio recording in a 2-party consent state without the consent of the other party is a felony. This has been discussed at length in this forum. You might be willing to take the chance of being the subject of a criminal prosecution, but I for one won't. The fee for the shop does not begin to make this worthwhile. The bill for a criminal defense attorney would be formidable, and just having the arrest on my record is not something I want. Let alone spending time in jail. [www.dmlp.org]
@quiettime wrote:

Audio recording is great (1 party/2 party who cares?), don't forget to talk to yourself though and narrate your visit.

Yeah I don't worry, I'm probably a 1 party state, who is going to prosecute something like that?

Of course use your own discretion and assume your own risks.
Best thing to do is take a 20 yr old with you. They text constantly so the waiter will never even notice when they send you a time stamped text with what ever happened. smiling smiley

Seriously though, send a text to your companion. It is so commonplace now nobody even notices.

~~*~~*~~*~~ kal ~~*~~*~~*~~
Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just forget to load the film.
Myst4au,

Recording a private conversation could be breaking the law, if the intent is to use the recording against the party being recorded. The other party can not sue unless the recording is first used against them. Next one must clearly prove a conversation was private and not public.

I guarantee food critics record their restaurant visits, without revealing themselves. We have the same rights, in a public place, press does not have some special rights other citizens do not have.

Using a recording for timing does not violate other party laws

My posts are solely based on my opinions and for my entertainment, contact a professional if you need real advice.

When you get in debt you become a slave. - Andrew Jackson
Isaiah58 - This has been discussed many times on this forum. The other party does not have to sue you, it is a criminal offense and the district attorney represents the state. That is how it works in a criminal trial. If the waiter (for instance) sued you, it would be a civil trial. How likely is it that you will get prosecuted? I don't know. You are entitled to play the lottery, and you are entitled to decide to record a conversation in a two-party consent state without the consent of the other party. I personally choose to do neither of those.

I am curious as to how you know that they food critics for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Wilmington News Journal record their restaurant visits. Do you have privated communications from them?

A restaurant is not a public place. It is a private place, just like Walmart is a private place. Both the restaurant and Walmart and banks and gas stations allow you to enter their private venues. A public space is a sidewalk or a street. Even the parking lot of a shopping mall is a private place which is why they can hire private companies to tow your car away and charge you a fortune to get it back.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
Every state has different language and some of it is very vague. Some states allow recording any place that there is no expectation of privacy and is open to the public. Some statues are in a very gray area and the website everyone references to always takes the most conservative interpretation of the law, even if there is no criminal prosecution ever in that state to set precedence. Some define the "wiretap" very narrowly and others leave it open for interpretation.

Turn off the audio and just record video and your good in every state.
I have learned to just do a draft text message or three, takes about 1-2 minutes, then it is stored in outgoing text messages. Times, names, decor, etc.
Does everyone know that you can actually send yourself a text message? If you do that, the time stamps are there and can't be overwritten the way that a draft text message could.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
@quiettime wrote:

Mystery stopwatch is cool but you must remember what each mark is.

"Shop it" is awesome. It works better on Apple than on Andriod though. It is still worthwhile on android though [play.google.com]
One nice thing about the android version is that you can also use the volume buttons for marking the time.

Thanks for this tidbit!!! I have "Shop It" on my phone and just tested this. Worked great! I live in a one-party state and have always worn my MP3 hidden. I just forget about taking notes. I do talk to it a lot (Oh here's the food already! Thanks for refilling that drink.)

When you learn, teach, when you get, give. Maya Angelou
That's how I send myself all the pictures I need for the shops. I have "imessage and texts" linked on my phone, ipad and desktop, all Apple. Then as I text the pictures to myself on my phone it pops up on my computer as well, I just drag it to the desktop from my "imessage/text" window on my desktop, and upload in sassie. That's the simplest way I've found to upload any documents needed for shops.


EDIT: I meant to quote Myst4u " texting to yourself"

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/25/2015 10:46PM by aayaey.
This has been a very helpful thread. I used to record the whole darn thing and text intermediate timings but I listened back for some of them and hated it. I hate listening to myself talk.
I downloaded Shopit but huge disappointment, mostly user error. I forgot to save the shop when I was done and email it to myself, so when I got home it was completely gone!!!! I could not find it anywhere on the app. I must have brushed the garbage button somehow... Other thing that everyone mentioned is that it's easy to make multiple time stamps, I had to jot notes right away mistake mistake when I accidentally hit the screen. Thank goodness this shop did not ask for detailed time stamps. I just have a few times remembered.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/26/2015 06:52AM by aayaey.
@aayaey wrote:

I downloaded Shopit but huge disappointment, mostly user error. I forgot to save the shop when I was done and email it to myself, so when I got home it was completely gone!!!! I could not find it anywhere on the app. I must have brushed the garbage button somehow... Other thing that everyone mentioned is that it's easy to make multiple time stamps, I had to jot notes right away mistake mistake when I accidentally hit the screen. Thank goodness this shop did not ask for detailed time stamps. I just have a few times remembered.

A tip for using shop it. When I am waiting for the server to greet me I type "greeted" but I then wait to send it until she walks up to the table. I then type "drinks ordered" and send when she walks away and then type "drinks" and wait for them. This way all you do is tap send and set it down when she comes back.

Tip two
If i forget to pre-type my timing mark I will tap the screen for a mark and then quickly make a note as soon as I can. Like "Mark 2 app arrived"

Tip three
If you are worried, turn your screen brightness down and it is very hard for someone to see what you are doing.
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