Deciding when a restaurant shop is worth taking a guest with you

Sorry for the long subject line. Today I completed a wings shop. I took my young daughter with me. The reimbursement is eighteen dollars and we were extremely careful about what we ordered. Despite that, our tab with the tip came to about ten dollars over that figure and then we had to pay for parking. It didn't seem worth it to me. Am I better off going alone on these shops? One person can eat for under eighteen dollars. Tomorrow the two of us are going on a burger shop and I think the reimbursement is really suited for just one person. How do you guys handle this?

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I look at restaurant shops as being a not-for-profit way to have lunch or dinner with my sweetie and this secures his patience and cooperation with shops that are less convenient. There are some non-restaurant shops I do that because of the timing he needs to deal with the nightly livestock duties alone. A possible thing but a lot more work that should be shared. Keeping his attitude positive towards my shopping is for me a very worthwhile goal.

Sometimes we are over reimbursement, sometimes we aren't. Sometimes the fee + reimbursement barely cover the costs, sometimes they don't. Sometimes we go over reimbursement by ordering more or more expensive than what is required. They always will require a report and some reports are easier than others. I just go with the flow because it is overall worthwhile.

There are some meal shops that I cannot take another person. I don't usually take these unless I will be out shopping the area anyway at the appropriate time because the fact is that I do not like to dine alone.

When we do a dinner shop or a substantial lunch shop, it means I do not need to fix dinner, use my grocery supplies or clean up afterwards. That for me is a benefit, even if the shop is making me no money or even costing me a couple of bucks.

If I were doing shops to keep the lights on I would have a substantially different attitude.
It depends. I almost always take someone with me. Sometimes I pass up shops because the reimbursement falls too short of the cost to make it worth it to me. Or sometimes I do dine alone. I seldom take shops that require me to pay parking unless parking is reimbursed. Since you have not mentioned any clients OR MSCs, I will use a couple of clients as examples.

When I do a Wingstop, the reimbursement is $20 and I can feed two regardless of time of day. When I do a Buffalo Wild Wings, the reimbursement is $18 with $5 pay. If we eat at lunch, there is a Fast Break Menu that gives you an entree and a side. By drinking water instead of a paid beverage, the total comes to right at $18, including meals, tax and tip.

A lot of burger places, like Five Guys allow reimbursement for one. At Five Guys, I can stay within the reimbursement amount. Any pay I receive goes toward paying myself for my guest's meal. Some burger places, like Shake Shack, require that if you take a guest, the guest's meal is on a separate ticket, and reimbursement is for one diner.

Back in the day when I used to shop Cheesecake Factory, a dinner shop was a $40 reimbursement. That was barely enough for 2 meals (the smallest), tax and tip with no beverages. Because my family loves Cheesecake Factory, I usually took those shops and all 3 of us went. Our total for 3 adults was usually about $72 with tax and tip and only one paid beverage, or $90 with 3 beverages and appetizer. We significantly went over the reimbursement, and I considered the $40 like a "half-price coupon." That is the only restaurant I can think of that I was willing to add significant money to eat.

Usually, when I contemplate taking a food shop at a new-to-me place, I Google the restaurant and look at the menu. I look to see what the menu options are and how much everything costs, figuring whether the reimbursement will cover what I want to eat. I make my decision from this, depending on whether I like the food or not - I never take shops if I don't really like what I'm eating, because, since the reimbursement is part of the payment for my services, it would have no value to me if I didn't like it.
I look at the restaurant website menu carefully and calculate if I am able to take a guest and still be under reimbursement. I figure the cost of tax and tip as well. If I like the numbers, then I accept the shop. I do not accept first and then figure the cost second. Most fast food shops are reimbursement enough for one person. I usually go alone and only bring a guest if I treat the meal as more of a "snack" or I have more than one place to hit throughout the day. If it is a restaurant, then it is usually enough for a guest. But, I still research the heck out of the menu online beforehand.

When I started mystery shopping, it was a little bit of trial and error. Many times I was trying a restaurant for the first time. I would take a shop to experience the restaurant and then never take it again. Not because the food was terrible or anything, but just not worth my time. There have been countless times where I would be sitting in an establishment, eating the "free" food and thinking, "Yeah, this is pretty good, but I would never pay for this stuff."
OP, is this something that you would have ordinarily done with your daughter? Or are you trying to make a little extra income? Checking the menu beforehand will tell you if you will make a profit on your shop. If you would be eating at a similar establishment with a guest anyway, no big deal, just less out of pocket. If you would not, then going solo is the way to maximize your earnings.
It also depends on whether you can afford to go a little bit over, and the age of your daughter. If you can afford it and she is old enough to have lasting memories of going out to eat and having some special time with you alone at a restaurant, then it's worth going over the reimbursement a little to make her feel special. Try that one fast casual restaurant that Marketforce has. You can get two small burgers, share a little fry, and get a drink and a water cup and might go just a little bit over, but not $10 over. I have always gone alone for that one so not sure. The wings shop you are talking about (if it's the one I think it is) also offers a carryout shop that is super easy and you can go pick up the food. That way you can bring it home. It's a lot easier to stay under budget if you aren't buying drinks. I think even the soft drinks at most restaurants are $2 each or more.
I'm not a fan of restaurant shops because of the timings and when you're allowed to actually do the shop. Take outs require a recorded call, plus everything else.

I've only gone over one shop which I did by myself. I ended up with a mediocre steak dinner and a shrimp appetizer. For the $8 it ultimately cost me it was alright. I wouldn't do it again unless I was an hour drive from home.

The reimbursed shop plus fee was a royal pita. Recorded phone call, timings and pictures were required. I'd do it again, but now I know I want a bigger bonus because the location either doesn't get filled, has been flaked or needs a reshop.

It really depends on what you think is worth it. If I could arrange a restaurant shop where I could meet my brother and we went over the reimbursement; it would be worth it because we need to meet and discuss finances for the family business anyways. Knowing how both of us, going over the reimbursement would cost less than getting 2 meals at a fast food joint.

Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning; the devil shudders...And yells OH #%*+! SHE'S AWAKE!
The carryout wings shop does not require a recorded call. The only timings are the time you enter, the amount of time it took the cashier to process your order, and how long it took to receive your order. It's super simple and easy.

Edited to add: no photos required, either.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/04/2016 09:26PM by JASFLALMT.
We always buy a larger item and split it. It can be done smiling smiley Even if something looks delicious and you think you want every single bite, you don't have to over do it. The red restaurant shops are way too stuffing for me. Their food lasts me two meals ever time. You can always ask for a plastic knife on those shops and if you upsize those to a large, it's usually just pennies over the cost of reimbursement or sometimes you have left over. Plus the knife part is within guidelines to ask for at the window. Depending on guidelines though, don't be afraid to order one meal and say something ahead of time like "We'd like to split a.... would you be able to bring me an extra plate so I can put hers on it ? " Usually most will be happy to help. they may think your lower spending means less of a tip, or they may have kids and understand completely!!! But if you're nice, they will bring ya an extra plate. And I'm not saying they do this... but I've found that when I mention sharing with a young guest.. sometimes my plate seems extra portioned... hmmmmm coincidence? I mean in so much that... my mashed potatoes looked like a whopping helping and my slaw looked extra heavy too. Many places will also offer complimentary kids drinks. Not all of course. All that aside though, splitting is a great way to make sure you don't overeat, that you spend less, and that you're making a profit. You can always tip extra if you have it. I did a shop where I could spend up to $15 with gratuity. Turns out, the item I was required to get that day was on special... meal was $7ish and the waitress got a bigger tip than my meal cost! I tipped all the way up to the max on it. Plus she really was pretty dang awesome.

Does the company you're doing these for pay for parking? I have one that ALWAYS covers my tolls & parking for me on shops. Pretty awesome! Usually, I'd park farther away but if they pay for parking, I dont mind to go ahead and pay for it to get reimbursed. I do like to park farther away most of the time unless guidelines say otherwise. It helps me path my way in and check out the lot and see if folks are congregating outside. Some shops ask that. But I'm on a tangent. I only shop about $100 worth of shops a month, but when you grab up $5 shops, it takes a few to get there tongue sticking out smiley

The MSC I do the wings shops does not pay for parking. MF pays for parking and tolls but this is a different MSC.

The MSC I do the wings shops does not pay for parking. MF pays for parking and tolls but this is a different MSC.

Bummer!!!!! Next time, if an option, maybe ask for a little bonus and tell them nicely that they require a parking fee? Some companies will work with ya! I told MSI that I had tolls and pointed out the highway route I had to take and they almost always accept my PAD request when I make note of the tolls.

No, it's not me that had to pay the parking fee, it was the OP, queenie. I rarely do shops where I have to pay for parking, but I have been shopping a long time and am well-established. Back when I first started shopping in the early 2000's I occasionally did shops downtown where I did pay to park. These days if I were to do a cluster of shops downtown where I would have to pay for park, I would pull a walesmaven and find some parking garage/lot shops to do.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/04/2016 11:02PM by JASFLALMT.
Good advice so far. Does the burger shop allow you to be reimbursed for a second person?

Sounds like you are new to this. It is very important to fully read all instructions, guidelines and surveys. There are way too many ways to mess up; costing you money and having reports rejected.

@queenie1 wrote:

Sorry for the long subject line. Today I completed a wings shop. I took my young daughter with me. The reimbursement is eighteen dollars and we were extremely careful about what we ordered. Despite that, our tab with the tip came to about ten dollars over that figure and then we had to pay for parking. It didn't seem worth it to me. Am I better off going alone on these shops? One person can eat for under eighteen dollars. Tomorrow the two of us are going on a burger shop and I think the reimbursement is really suited for just one person. How do you guys handle this?

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
Usually, I try to be aware of the menu prices and that alone should give you an idea if you're able to gift a guest with a free meal and not have you go over your reimbursement limit. My roommate and tenant living with me understands this well knowing when I don't invite him to one of my shops, it's just because my project limits me to going solo, I don't have the reimbursement limit to cover him or both.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 30 year old male and willing to travel! Badged for Denver International Airport.
I look at it like this - you have to eat. And even eating at home costs money. So if for $10 you can go out to a nice meal, have a quick report, and not have to do dishes, why not? Of course, not going over is ideal, but paying a little here and there is fine with me. The place we go over significantly is Texas Roadhouse, my husband's favorite. We spend about $25-$30 out of pocket every time we go, but we also take a family of five, and it makes it much more affordable for me to come home and spend the half hour filling out the easy report. I refuse to order the cheapest thing on the menu to stay under reimbursement. I already have to record timings and such, why eat something I don't really want too?!

Doing what I can to enhance the life of my family! I LOVE what I do smiling smiley

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2016 06:04AM by ShopSouthTexas.
I would not ordinarily have gone to this place, which was Five Guys, on my own and school hasn't started yet, so it was a fun thing to do with my daughter. I guess the way of looking at this kind of shop is that it didn't really earn me anything but was very close to a free meal and an activity. For the most part, I like to MS for the additional income but am still pretty new and getting a feel for which kind of jobs to take.
I did two fast food shops this past weekend. The first BWW was about thirty minutes from home but a couple of towns away from where I was doing two other shops so it seemed worth it. I had never been to the town where BWW was located and was surprised that I had to park in a lot which cost two dollars and then there was a toll for $1.75 on the drive home. The second was Five Guys and it was located in a strip mall with free parking and there were no tolls. I guess I have to be a little more selective in the future.
So, was it worth it to share the time with your daughter?

There are some food shops that bringing a guest on can complicate things. It is pretty much a personal choice though.

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

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2016 12:58PM by isaiah58.
I eat out about once a week anyways. If I take a restaurant shop with a $40 reimbursement, I consider that $40 I don't have to pay out of my pocket. The last thing I worry about is staying under the reimbursement. I want to enjoy my meal, or at least let my guest enjoy their's, lol.
$28 for you and a child to eat at a casual wing place? What did you eat? I do these shops all the time with my children and I've never gone $10 over the reimbursement for just 2 people. Did you order alcohol? If you have to pay for parking on top of that, and you're not reimbursed for parking, I'd say the shop is definitely not worth it.

The carryout wings shop does not require a recorded call.

It depends on the restaurant. B-Dubs does not require the phone call to be required. Buffalo Wings & Rings, however, does.
My daughter had a kid's meal which was $5.29 and I ordered the snack wings with no beverage just water. That was supposed to cost about eight dollars and change. I then decided to order the chips and salsa which cost $4.79. When the bill came, I noticed I was charged for a small order of wings which was $11.79. I didn't say anything to the server but I would not have ordered the chips and salsa if I knew I was getting charged 11.79 for the wings. The total with tax came to $23.70 and I left a 4.50 tip. So no alcohol was ordered. If I ever do another BWW shop again, I'll be more careful and also I now know to be aware of parking and toll costs.
Next time, queenie, go at lunchtime M-F and ask for the Fast Break Menu. All the entrees on it are $5.99/$6.99/$7.99 and come with a choice of sides. I went Thursday. My guest ordered the Snack Wings and Fries for $7.99, upgraded ($1.50) to a Small Wings order. Also came with raw veggies and dip. I ordered a Chicken Buffalito with chips and hot sauce for $5.99. We drank water. With tax and 15% tip, the total was $19.00. It was plenty of food for both of us and only $1 over. If I had stayed with the snack size wings, we would have been under reimbursement. The weekday lunch is pretty much food for the money.
I combine the fee and reimbursement when I go with two people We usually get in under the total amount. The wings reports are the easiest I have encountered.

Do not read so much, look about you and think of what you see there.
Richard Feynman-- letter to Ashok Arora, 4 January 1967, published in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track (2005) p. 230
When we were driving across country I used restaurant shops to feed me and my son for nearly nothing. I don't do jobs that are just reimbursement for the food, I only do the ones that pay shopper pay + reimbursement (which means I don't get to go to Texas Roadhouse very With the reimbursement and shopper pay we ate a few times for nearly free. Restaurant shops, IMO, are not for making money, they are for eating.
I recently took the wrong guest with me on a food shop, and even though he knew it was a reimbursed meal, he was clamoring to eat and asking questions during the photos. It made me nervous and unhappy, because I had a lot on my mind, and didn't need to keep explaining to someone that the photos had to happen before eating.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/2016 08:26AM by Robin2.
Why wouldn't you mention that you were charged incorrectly to the server? It's not uncommon for regular customers to do this. I did a B-Dubs and they overcharged me and I brought it to the server's attention and my bill was corrected. The msc was fine with it.
I honestly just consider it a free meal. I don't expect to make anything off of them.

Red Lobster and Olive Garden are NOT fine dining!
There is a lot of good advice above but as many have said it all comes down to your personal likes and dislikes and the financial reason you are shopping. I always check menu prices and think about parking fees before accepting a shop. If I invite a guest because I would like to treat my guest I can go over budget a bit for the treat, but if it is because I do need a partner for this shop I always explain the budget and ask the other person to throw in some money if it goes over budget due to them wanting a more expensive item than the budget allows. Taking along your young child is a whole other ballpark. Them throwing in money is actually you throwing in money so you need to figure out whether you want to spend the extra and work for the reimbursed part of the meal.
For the high end restaurants I do not accept them unless I can stay under budget or close to it. For me it is not worth it to go way over budget for a meal I enjoy but would not otherwise pay for due to the fact that the main reason we go over budget is the requirement to order a high priced dessert, high priced wine and pretty expensive appetizer which are items I generally would not order when eating out on my own dime. Well, yes the wine but not at $12 a glass! I can get a meal I love elsewhere without a mystery shop for the over budget amt.
I always look at the budget first even on fast food where you can go alone usually and figure out if I can "afford" a second meal.
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