$125 Restaurant Reimbursement

Hey all,

I've got a $125 lunch reimbursement coming up. I checked out the menu. The entree I'd like to order will cost about $15 and my wife plans to order a $25 entree. Appetizer & dessert will probably be around $10 each. So that's around $60 before tax + tip. We aren't interested in the priciest items on the menu. I'm vegetarian and the options for me are minimal.

What do you all think... should we order a bunch of random appetizers or bring some desserts home with us? $125 for lunch is crazy to me! I checked with the company: they confirmed that anything we order beyond the requirements will be covered up to $125. "Can I have 5 chocolate cakes to go? Thank you!" ha!

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LOL! Such a dilemma... we all should be so lucky! Is there an option for more guests? Another person's meal would fit into that budget.

If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music. - Gustav Mahler
I say max it out and leave a very generous tip!

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
@Shop-et-al wrote:

LOL! Such a dilemma... we all should be so lucky! Is there an option for more guests? Another person's meal would fit into that budget.

That is great advice! I will see if my best friend and her boyfriend will be nearby on that day. Wifey may want it just to be the two of us though.

I am used to $50-$60 restaurant reimbursements. We did one for $90 at a wine bar, but it was brunch and neither of us really drink, ha. Mint.com emailed me to tell me I spent $92.00 on alcohol...I was very confused immediately after receiving that email.
Usually you are not allowed to order to go items

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
@HonnyBrown wrote:

I say max it out and leave a very generous tip!

Hi Honny! Nice to "see" you! I believe the guidelines state what % of tip is reimbursed. Boo. I am a generous tipper, so if I'm mystery shopping at a restaurant, I will leave the mandated amount on my CC for proof and then some more in cash.
@bgriffin wrote:

Usually you are not allowed to order to go items

Thanks for pointing that out! I didn't know that. I have definitely ordered to-go items (milkshakes!) at a different restaurant, but for the same MSC. The items showed up on the receipt as "to-go" and I was concerned, however I was fully reimbursed! The milkshakes weren't part of the ordering requirements, so maybe that's why they were okay with this.
I'm going to give you advice counter to some of the others.

First off, I would check the guidelines carefully before inviting another guest. Most restaurant evaluations require specifically 2 guests unless it's otherwise clearly stated. Very few allow four guests. If others even sit at your table or split a check, there's a good chance the number of guests will be reflected on the receipt and you could have the shop declined.

Now as far as the reimbursement goes, the fact that you are not a drinker and a vegetarian is generally going to make your average meal cost less than others. That's not a bad thing or an excuse to run up the tab with additional items. It a way to be memorable with the MSC by not running up a tab and leaving a professional impression. When I was a scheduler and editor, one of the biggest issues I ran across was shoppers trying to over-tip, over-order and make sure they could spend every last dollar of the allowed reimbursement. That leaves a bad impression the restaurant client, since they are the ones footing that bill.

Perhaps be a be a breath of fresh air for the MSC, have that $60 meal, write a quality report and see if you get better opportunities from them in the future....
I appreciate you sharing your perspective with me, Steve!

The instructions definitely state that I need to bring *at least* one adult guest along, no children permitted. So, I could have additional guests. It probably won't work out to invite someone else along anyway. I wouldn't want to be thinking about all of the details required, writing notes on my phone, etc. I usually go with either my wife or my best friend only. They are both aware of my hobby and we will say things to each other like "Did you see what Lina posted? Let me send it to you" (or whatever) while we take notes. It would be a little awkward to have more people there for that.

I have been mystery shopping pretty casually for 1.5 years. I only made about $120 in cash pay last year (mainly phone shops) and the rest were restaurant reimbursement shops. I would love to do restaurant reimbursement shops every week, but my wife (the main person I can ask to come along with me) is not as thrilled about mystery shopping as I am, ha! After getting a stomach ache because we had to order dessert, she limited me to 1 restaurant shop per month. My best friend was into it, but she just moved to another borough.

I wonder...for a casual shopper like me, if anything I do would cause the MSC to offer me "better" shops. I see some "upscale" restaurant shops available that go up to $250 and have also seen "upscale" hotel shops. I'm not interested in a hotel shop (my cat would miss me!) and the high price restaurant shops are all in Manhattan (I shop in Brooklyn, Queens & Long Island only). Maybe they are already offering me the good ones? I don't know.

@SteveSoCal wrote:

I'm going to give you advice counter to some of the others.

First off, I would check the guidelines carefully before inviting another guest. Most restaurant evaluations require specifically 2 guests unless it's otherwise clearly stated. Very few allow four guests. If others even sit at your table or split a check, there's a good chance the number of guests will be reflected on the receipt and you could have the shop declined.

Now as far as the reimbursement goes, the fact that you are not a drinker and a vegetarian is generally going to make your average meal cost less than others. That's not a bad thing or an excuse to run up the tab with additional items. It a way to be memorable with the MSC by not running up a tab and leaving a professional impression. When I was a scheduler and editor, one of the biggest issues I ran across was shoppers trying to over-tip, over-order and make sure they could spend every last dollar of the allowed reimbursement. That leaves a bad impression the restaurant client, since they are the ones footing that bill.

Perhaps be a be a breath of fresh air for the MSC, have that $60 meal, write a quality report and see if you get better opportunities from them in the future....
Being limited to vegetarian offerings only, eliminates many of the pricier offerings on the typical upscale menu. You may find it challenging to max out your reimbursement level being a vegetarian and not a big drinker.

As long as you enjoy your meal and feel that the $60 is fair compensation for your efforts performing the shop, who cares if you leave some money on the table?!

Having said that, I love a big, expensive steak or seafood dish and my dining companion and I rarely have trouble maxing out the reimbursement levels offered.

In either your case or mine, as long as we are satisfied with the overall experience, then we should consider the goal achieved and the outing a success...no?!

"We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl -- year after year..."
Which MSC is this for, knowing this we can provide better advice.

I agree that you must thoroughly read the guidelines as to any restrictions on what you can order. I would guess that the reimbursement for about half of the full service restaurants I shop is significantly higher than one would normally spend.

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
I don't have experience as an editor and scheduler so everything here may be totally wrong. But numerous clients try to under-pay fees and/or pay inadequate expense money, so I'll be fair and honest with clients but I'm not giving them a "donation" by letting them keep money they said they'd pay.
I bet the client already budgeted money to cover the full cost of the meal. So they might not care if you're under budget. In fact, it might hurt them being able to get enough money in their next budget. If the client resents any over-ordering etc., remind them the shopper isn't making much money-- and even less if the shopper doesn't get full reimbursement. As for tipping, the client's maximum tip often is below normal standards.
If the client is upset after I wrote a good report and stretched to spend the full amount, clent relations are the MSC's job; they get paid for that.
Those high fees sometimes are false advertising to get you to sign up. So you have to check the menu to see if you can actually spend that much. Or maybe getting half the potential reimbursement is enough, depending on the amount.
I have done many restaurant shops where I just barely squeaked by under the reimbursement by doing just what you are doing, ordering one veggie entree and one not veggie entree. I enjoy salads immensely so it is fine with me and I would rather personally not spend out of pocket on a shop. Most of the shops I do want you to order at least one entree with meat/chicken/fish so to be on the safe side I always make sure to get at least one of those and at least taste it to have the experience to report on. There is only one shop I did where my experience was equivalent to yours where I easily had money left over. I know the owner of the msc (not in person but by lots of emails back and forth over the years as a mystery shopper for him) and his and other msc I shop for definitely do not want their shoppers to stand out and over order and go home with bags and bags of untouched food. And almost all of them say, as Steve already mentioned, no take home items...that means you can order two desserts for 2 people but you have to look like you really wanted them and at least take a fork full of each before asking to pack them up. If your wife does not want dessert you can certainly be the one to taste both and appear to have wanted it after dinner and then discovered your eyes were bigger than your stomach.
On my shop where the reimbursement was $125 and I ended up spending only $60 and I felt like you do that I coulda, shoulda spent more.. I could have drunk another $30 worth of booze and that would have been okay with the msc on that shop but I would have turned in a terrible report so I did not drink to get drunk just so I could use up the money. In the end I ordered two appetizers, two desserts and a side just to spend some of the money and do not think this would have stood out for 2 diners. My bill was still $60 with tip and tax. I took home half of each appetizer and dessert at least and even some of the main dish. I was stuffed and happy and do not think I stood out to the server as each person just ordered one of each item.
So my advice would be unless you get permission err on the side of reason and do not order more dishes than people in any category. Make sure you seem to have really wanted to eat each item while still there even if you end up "too full to finish". Order what you enjoy to eat and if you want to try to spend more order your second entree off the expensive side of the menu if it is something you "might be too full to finish and take the rest home" and concentrate on eating appetizers you want while in the restaurant. Then you can take half your entree home and eat it the next day and that way spend a bit more of the $125 limit. I ended up with a great meal at my place only spending the $60 and would take that job again even if they reduced the $125 limit to $75. Don't tell them that though. I don't want to spoil it for the shoppers who want 4 hard liquor drinks and the modern day equivalent of pheasant under glass.
@isaiah58 wrote:

Which MSC is this for, knowing this we can provide better advice.

I agree that you must thoroughly read the guidelines as to any restrictions on what you can order. I would guess that the reimbursement for about half of the full service restaurants I shop is significantly higher than one would normally spend.

Hi, Isaiah,

I'd rather not say the company name as I mentioned some client names on another thread last night. I have thoroughly read through the instructions and also sent an email to the person who handles restaurant shops to ask additional questions. But thank you for your offer!
@AuditAce wrote:

Those high fees sometimes are false advertising to get you to sign up. So you have to check the menu to see if you can actually spend that much. Or maybe getting half the potential reimbursement is enough, depending on the amount.

Hey, Audit,

I have done restaurant reimbursements for this MSC for 1.5 years. In the past, I've actually had a bit of a hard time staying at/under the listed amount. I am usually $2-$15 over, but I don't mind much. My guest and I enjoyed our meals (usually, ha), and I would think the restaurant wouldn't mind us spending our own $$ on their food, right? This restaurant for my next shop is in, I would say, a pricier zip code. Their signature dishes are quite expensive and I could see how two people could easily spend well over $100 on lunch.
Thank you for your input, Sandy!

I have never seen a restaurant shop where ordering 1 meat/fish dish is required. I did once sign up for a restaurant at a steak house. I wish they would describe the restaurants better before I sign up for them. Anyway, I figured two things with the steak house: #1 I didn't want to eat there & #2 It might look funny to have someone come in and not order steak. I don't know...I've never actually been to a steak house. I called the MSC and canceled that shop. They were perfectly understanding.

4 drinks?! I never pay attention to alcohol maximums since I don't drink. That sounds like so much to me!

Thanks again for the tips!

@sandyf wrote:

I have done many restaurant shops where I just barely squeaked by under the reimbursement by doing just what you are doing, ordering one veggie entree and one not veggie entree. I enjoy salads immensely so it is fine with me and I would rather personally not spend out of pocket on a shop. Most of the shops I do want you to ook like you really wanted them and at least
Hey Simon,

The survey looks really annoying...moreso than the ones I've done for other restaurants. I hope we enjoy it! I've had a couple not so lovely experiences while MSing-- mainly disappointing food.

And I wouldn't actually order 5 chocolate cakes to go! I was being silly. smiling smiley

@msimon-2000 wrote:


As long as you enjoy your meal and feel that the $60 is fair compensation for your efforts performing the shop, who cares if you leave some money on the table?!

In either your case or mine, as long as we are satisfied with the overall experience, then we should consider the goal achieved and the outing a success...no?!
I once did a lunch with a $150 reimbursement including alcohol only to find out when we arrived that the restaurant did not serve alcohol and the prices would not allow us to get anywhere near the reimbursement amount. I think the final bill was less than half of it. I was a bit dismayed at this and felt it was deceptive on the part of the MSC to advertise such a large reimbursement at an upscale restaurant that wasn't truly that upscale at all. It was an okay lunch with a long report that I probably wouldn't do again...but the popovers were wonderful.

*****************************************************************************
A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.

Zen Shin Talks
I haven't had a popover in forever. Now you've made me hungry and my restaurant shop isn't for another week!

Ever since then, do you check the prices on menus before you visit the restaurant? I was worried about going too much over...and then I looked online and realized we'd likely be significantly under.

I never order coffee and/or tea out at restaurants because I feel like I should just make it at home for myself for a fraction of the cost. But I guess next weekend, I will have a few (non-alcoholic) drinks at the restaurant.

@MsJudi wrote:

I once did a lunch with a $150 reimbursement including alcohol only to find out when we arrived that the restaurant did not serve alcohol and the prices would not allow us to get anywhere near the reimbursement amount. I think the final bill was less than half of it. I was a bit dismayed at this and felt it was deceptive on the part of the MSC to advertise such a large reimbursement at an upscale restaurant that wasn't truly that upscale at all. It was an okay lunch with a long report that I probably wouldn't do again...but the popovers were wonderful.
Yes, I usually try to check prices and menus before accepting a restaurant shop. However, this place was one of many located in upscale stores and the menu included things that weren't offered at the one I was doing and did not mention anything about no alcohol. It was a nice lunch with my hubby, but he was disappointed to not be able to have his afternoon cocktail. I also remember him nearly taking a taste of his food while I kicked him and gave him the evil eye with the server present and before I could take the required photo of the meals. LOL

*****************************************************************************
A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.

Zen Shin Talks
@SteveSoCal wrote:

I'm going to give you advice counter to some of the others.

First off, I would check the guidelines carefully before inviting another guest. Most restaurant evaluations require specifically 2 guests unless it's otherwise clearly stated. Very few allow four guests. If others even sit at your table or split a check, there's a good chance the number of guests will be reflected on the receipt and you could have the shop declined.

Now as far as the reimbursement goes, the fact that you are not a drinker and a vegetarian is generally going to make your average meal cost less than others. That's not a bad thing or an excuse to run up the tab with additional items. It a way to be memorable with the MSC by not running up a tab and leaving a professional impression. When I was a scheduler and editor, one of the biggest issues I ran across was shoppers trying to over-tip, over-order and make sure they could spend every last dollar of the allowed reimbursement. That leaves a bad impression the restaurant client, since they are the ones footing that bill.

Perhaps be a be a breath of fresh air for the MSC, have that $60 meal, write a quality report and see if you get better opportunities from them in the future....

Great advice Steve! You have good insight being an ex-scheduler and editor. Thanks for sharing I always learn something from your post! My two cents, As mystery shoppers we are not to bring attention to ourselves so the question you must ask yourself. Will ordering extra take home items or leaving an extra large tip bring unwanted attention to yourself?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2017 06:21PM by the.avon.lady1.
Perhaps it is because I live in So Calif where there are so many people with all sorts of diet restrictions. Many restaurants offer options outside of their signature menu so that way people can eat together with their friends or family members who are vegan, gluten free, this free or that free. I don't think the steak houses give it a second thought if someone does not order a steak there. And for many of the steak house restaurants I have done usually the compensation would never pay for the steak...even if not vegetarian you would really need to get one chicken and one pasta dish to stay under. I eat at some of these for the ocean view and nice atmosphere. This particular shop I mentioned with 4 drinks had no restrictions on how many alcohols unlike many shops with a limit of two per person. I barely could finish one as their drinks were really strong. But more alcohol would have been the only way I could have beefed up (pardon my pun) the bill to the reimbursement level without looking like i was over ordering to take home. The bar was hopping with people ordering again and again.


@mlzg wrote:

Thank you for your input, Sandy!

I have never seen a restaurant shop where ordering 1 meat/fish dish is required. I did once sign up for a restaurant at a steak house. I wish they would describe the restaurants better before I sign up for them. Anyway, I figured two things with the steak house: #1 I didn't want to eat there & #2 It might look funny to have someone come in and not order steak. I don't know...I've never actually been to a steak house. I called the MSC and canceled that shop. They were perfectly understanding.

4 drinks?! I never pay attention to alcohol maximums since I don't drink. That sounds like so much to me!

Thanks again for the tips!

@sandyf wrote:

I have done many restaurant shops where I just barely squeaked by under the reimbursement by doing just what you are doing, ordering one veggie entree and one not veggie entree. I enjoy salads immensely so it is fine with me and I would rather personally not spend out of pocket on a shop. Most of the shops I do want you to ook like you really wanted them and at least
I'd be careful about ordering "to go". I know it's not allowed on my shops. I'm doing a lunch BBQ next week alone, and my bill will be about 30.00 for lunch with a 60.00 reimbursement. I'd love to get a desert to go, but know I shouldn't as it is stated. I think it's obvious your a shopper, as one woman just doesn't eat that much...60.00 for lunch. I'd email or call and ask to be sure. Always play it safe rather than sorry.

Live consciously....
Yes, most shops don't allow you to order anything to go, although I can't think of any that will not allow you to take home leftovers. So, you could each order a dessert, and, when served, be "too full" and ask for a take-home box. I have taken one bite and then taken home dessert before. Ordering more than one dessert per person, even if allowed, might make you stand out in a bad way, though.
I shop a restaurant and order the required entrée, drink and meal. If there is enough to get an appetizer I order it and take it home. I don't ask for it to go. This is a shop I do own my own and bring home the appetizer for my husband. Never had a problem! This is not a high end restaurant.
I have done shops like that and I figured the really high reimbursement was to cover larger cities or airport locations. I have never tried to max it out for fear of something going wrong and my report being rejected (for any reason...I am always paranoid). I don't want to be out of pocket $120 for a meal that I would not have ordinarily paid for. I just order something new or that I really like and consider it a treat.
I do not believe the high reimbursement is a ploy or intentionally misleading. For example, one MSC recently added a new restaurant group. The location closest too me is supposedly known for its burgers according to their mass advertising, I knew their menu prices. I assumed the reimbursement was misleading. I then checked on the other locations, all different names. Most of them were up scale and the reimbursement better represented the potential bill.

By the way, unless you are familiar with providing comprehensive chronological narratives, tread lightly on commiting to full service restaurant evaluations. The better MSCs provide a $15 to $20 fee, in addition to a proper reimbursement level, for these types of evaluations.

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
Really? Everyone shares dessert? My wife and I couldn't agree on a dessert to share during a shop, so we each got our own. The MSC has emailed me directly twice to see if I'd go back to that same restaurant. I don't think they had a problem with that.

@roflwofl wrote:

Yes, most shops don't allow you to order anything to go, although I can't think of any that will not allow you to take home leftovers. So, you could each order a dessert, and, when served, be "too full" and ask for a take-home box. I have taken one bite and then taken home dessert before. Ordering more than one dessert per person, even if allowed, might make you stand out in a bad way, though.
mizg, Any chance you can find a dining buddy? I have a USPS buddy, and I am sure there are single shoppers (or married with a spouse like yours who does not like to eat out much) who would jump at the chance. One week (or day) it is your meal shop, and the next is theirs...hugs
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