Hi. I recently noticed a few menu collection shops available through the Mintel Mystery shopping company. They "seem" fairly easy and it SEEMS all you have to do is collect the menu from the venue OR take digital photos of it and send it to them to get paid. But, I do have a few questions for anyone who has experience working for them. I DID notice that now if you don't have a digital camera (which I don't own), they are allowing you to ship the menus to them via FED-EX. My question is how expensive is the shipping cost, because I highly doubt they'll reimburse you for that? Also, do these venues openly allow you to TAKE their menus so you can ship them to Mintel without giving you a problem in general? Also, any other comments/opinions of Mintel? Thanks!
I have done a few--not many. If I recall correctly, I was given a Fed-EX account number to ship materials to them if necessary. The problems I encountered with these is that a take out menu does not suffice. These are supposed to be covert shops (or at least were when I did them). You need (needed) ALL menus offered by the establishment for the meal period in question. At some locations this means an entree menu, a kid's menu, a dessert menu and a beverage menu. While some places print up menus on 8 1/2 x 11 that they have no problem with you taking the regular menu with you, most of the locations I have seen with Mintel are ones with oversize menus that are laminated or put in folders.
Ploys I have tried--grandson coming to visit is picky eater. Birthday dinner for gramps I want to send a copy of the menu to my daughter to make sure there is something on there the kid will eat. Outcome: I was given the throw away kiddie menu. Oops. I asked then if I could leave a deposit on a regular menu to run it over to Kinko's and make a copy so the big folks could see as well, since the birthday treat was on them. Outcome: Handed a takeout menu and told that 'everything we offer is on the takeout menu and it is the same price, dine in or carry out'. Mintel did accept that.
I went in once to ask if they could handle an office party of 18. The plan was to 'borrow a menu to show my boss'. Nobody was at the hostess station so after a couple of minutes I picked up a menu to take digital photos. The restaurant was so dark the flash insisted on going off. Rather than disturb patrons and because I still had not been greeted, I took the menu outside to photograph. It started to rain so I thought to heck with it and headed for the car, menu in hand. At home I got wonderful photos. Next day I returned the menu, and this time I was greeted. I thanked them for the loan of the menu, told them that my boss was interested, asked about the ability to handle a party of 18 and mentioned that my boss was concerned that no beverage prices, desserts or kiddie items were on the menu. The host about fell over himself getting me a kiddie menu and a take out menu that listed desserts an beverage costs.
I know some folks haul the menu to the restroom for a photo fest, but that is sort of a commitment to have an unpaid meal there.
Thank you very much Flash for your comments. I didn't realize it's a covert shop. I knew there had to be some kind of catch to it. Based on what you told me, it's just not worth it to me. Are these the ONLY kind of shops Mintel does now? Or do they have other kinds of shops too?
There are other kinds of shops. I am currently involved in a long term one with them that will require a few observations over the next few months with a weekly report. I love their shipping shops, which some months they have and some they don't. Their website allows you to see what they are offering in other states, so I usually look at their home state of Illinois to see what they have cooking elsewhere.
I wouldn't turn down a menu collection because they pay well. You just have to get creative and think on your feet. Your goal is to get the menus for your time frame. I usually grab all available jobs for the same location because the kinds of restaurants I see usually have lunch and dinner on the same menu. If they don't, a question at the restaurant about whether the menu is the same for lunch as for dinner can yield the information and likely the second menu if there is one. I figure that any scenario that has me NOT as the ultimate decision maker but rather just an information gatherer for an attractive size (but not compellingly attractive) group should work.
Something I have not yet tried is to call the restaurant and see if I can get them to email me over a price list for lunch or dinner. If they can't do that, then arrange to stop by and pick up actual menus to be returned after I present them to my 'boss'.
I've done their menu and shipping shops, which you do have to pay for the shipping on and that can get expensive, but they do reimburse and pay fairly quick.
As far as the manu shops go, without a digital camera it can be tough. I asked and was told they don't necessarily have to be covert. I've done it all different ways. Once I said I was from the "menu company" and just did it. I had to get a menu at a bagel restaurant which at one location I used my cell phone camera for, pretending I was playing with it. Once at another location they caught me taking the photos and the owner was so very rude to me, it was borderline scary (In Union NJ). If it's a sit down restaurant you can go to the restaurant and eat there, it's easier to, uh, "lift" the menu, but you will need to get all of them which can be hard unless you are already familiar with the establishment's menu.
So while it's easy in theory, it can be a bit tricky. I've found the staff at Mintel to be nice and have never had a problem with them. One of my favorites.