Mystery Shoppers go Undercover at Heathrow Airport

Caterer Eurest Aviation is using ‘mystery shopping’ to monitor and drive service standards within the 22 catering concessions that it operates at Heathrow Airport. The company serves some 76,000 airport and airline staff and contractors and has achieved a 7 per cent growth in food and drink transactions annually.

Eurest, a division of the £1.9bn Compass Group, has annual revenues of £20 million and reports an 80 per cent share of the market for concessionaire welfare provision in UK airports. This encompasses the full demographic spectrum of ‘white/blue collar’ restaurants for airline crew and executive teams, to fuelling the construction workers behind Heathrow’s perpetual projects, the latest of which to reach completion is Terminal 2.

React, a division of Lodge Service, provides trained mystery shoppers who visit Eurest’s food service outlets at Heathrow, which include Costa and Starbucks amongst the brands it operates.

Assessor teams can visit outlets at any time, 24-7, to carry out discreet checks, dressed appropriately such as in airline uniforms or hi-vis jackets. They sample the service and then evaluate and  report on staff performance against key parameters for hygiene, presentation and service standards.

React also provides ‘integrity testing’, to identify any non-compliant activity and check that cash and card transactions are conducted correctly at the point of sale. The detailed reports React provides highlight any security, safety or commercial risks and confirm that catering staff follow the agreed practices for which they are trained or if additional training support is required.

The mystery shopping audits include questions specific to each unit and brand, for example to check compliance with a franchisor’s catering and brand presentation requirements.

If Eurest receives any customer complaints they can be checked against the latest audited report for the outlet to see whether this is a ‘one-off’ issue or if systems and processes need further attention. Additional questions can then be included in the next audit.

“In a highly competitive trading environment, Reacts’ independent service audits are invaluable in winning and retaining business because they support the credibility of our service delivery. We can talk to commercial clients with total confidence in our standards, regularly auditing 12,000 food and drink transactions daily at Heathrow,”

“React turns around its reports fast, which means we can immediately respond to any issues that they discover. Also, their teams can react promptly when we want help with specific problems we may
be encountering.”

Performance Standards

React CX audits the following performance criteria, with a ranking score for each outlet:

1. Outlet appearance – number of tills in operation, clean and tidy appearance, tables cleared, condiments filled, and other service features

2. Unit observations – prices displayed, description tickets, hygiene (for example if gloves are used where required), sample ‘sell by’ dates, and the overall impression

3. Point of sale customer service – queuing times, friendly greeting, correct uniform, description of staff member, if staff are talking to each other, purchase details and quality of food, any upsell, offers and promotions

4. The purchase – recorded correctly, receipt given, correct change, extra shot/ketchup charged if applicable, staff manner, speed of food preparation

5. Overall – till secure or manned, access secure to staff areas, staff eating or drinking if unauthorised, staff taking items without paying and any other comments overall