Mistie Boulton is the CEO and Founder of EyeSpy Critiquing & Consulting, a restaurant and hospitality consultancy in the Bay Area.
In 1999, I was the regional manager of 15 restaurants and I wanted an objective way of measuring customer service between locations and to see how my staff performed when I or the store GMs were not there. The services available then weren’t restaurant focused and didn’t capture the information I wanted.
So, like most startups, I started EyeSpy in my basement, to address a need I saw. Initially, we sent PDF’s to a small group of personal friends and acquaintances that were the first to become a mystery shopping evaluator. I trusted them not only to honestly answer the yes and no questions but also to write details about their experience, so I could understand their interactions and feel how they felt as a guest.
They completed the evaluations and sent them back to us and we input their responses into an excel spreadsheet and over time compiled enough data to see trends. As a GM, I was able to manage my staff’s time so much more efficiently – targeting specific locations in need of specific support and determine where we needed companywide trainings and initiatives.
Service & Value
We improved our service and in turn our profits. These mystery shopping evaluations became a learning tool for management and specific employees. We found that people really appreciated the feedback and took pride in being able to improve their service.
I began to show other industry people what we were doing and EyeSpy quickly had its first few clients. Having seen the impact of the service on my own stores and now have the interest of others, I knew I had the makings of my own business.
I put my computer science background to work and began building my own database to support scheduling, data collection, and sorting. As computing continued to advance so did our system and the clients continued to come. We listened to them and added modules, graphs, and other components with the focus on giving them the insight into their own businesses that they wanted.
Over the next decade, we served some of the most noteworthy restaurants in the Bay Area, brought on quick casual concepts, boutique wineries, hotels, and numerous other service providers who wanted to experience their business as their customers do. EyeSpy became a true partner to many of our clients.
We provided service training, helped build manuals and systems to support strong, streamlined operations.
I was able to hone a genuine philosophy. I concluded that an employee-centric approach was the greatest way to generate sales. Happy employees made for happy customers. Happy customers spent more and returned more often. By considering the employee the first consumer of one’s business sales, guest satisfaction, employee retention all improve.
Happy Employees Make for Happy Customers
I learned that as individuals, all employees, inherently want to meet expectations and do their job well. They valued structure, feedback, and accountability. Having the control and flexibility of our own programming we were able to adapt the database to support this. We built the task management system, the employee review module and other methods of measuring performance. I became a certified Accomplishment Coach and began sharing my strategy and system with managers and owners everywhere.
We continued to refine the tools and systems we used. We brought on our first chef to support the back of the house and our basement-run mystery shopping company grew to a full-service consulting service offering a complete suite of services to hospitality providers.
Clients who have been with us since the beginning will tell you, EyeSpy continues to listen to our clients and evolve our company and services to accommodate their needs. Like adding Health Audits and Staff Training.
We remain focused on the guest experience, increasing profitability, improving operations and building strong employee relations. We not only take great pride in the services we offer but are also fulfilled by being able to have such a positive impact on the restaurant businesses, and individuals who are touched by our services. Let us know how we can help you.