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Mystery Dining

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Mystery Dining logoFree food! Mystery dine at Wagamama, Giraffe & more Shoppers being recruited to dine at big restaurants


Big restaurant chains such as Carluccio's, Wagamama and Leon use mystery shopping companies to keep staff on their toes, and ensure food, service and premises are up to scratch. 

You'll be reimbursed an agreed amount to cover some or all of your costs - and sometimes even a few quid on top. It sounds too good to be true, but this can really work, as MSE Ant found: 'In one busy month, I managed to scoff more than £100-worth of free grub – eating out at least a couple of times a week at big high street chains.'

To sign up, you need to fill out an application online (see links below). You don't need any previous experience, just good written English, a camera (to take a picture of receipts) and access to the internet so you can file your reports.

There are no guarantees you'll be accepted as a reviewer, but if you are, you'll then be able to choose assignments from a regularly-updated list in your area. If you're picky, you might do two or three a year, but some do as many as 20 a month. 

Mystery dining companies

Mystery Dining by HGEM currently works with over 200 clients including restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues. Unlike other mystery dining companies, HGEM reveals the names of some of its restaurants online, including Wagamama, Giraffe and Leon.

Service Scan is a mystery guest company that covers restaurants, pubs and bars, plus mystery shopping at retail outlets and other areas. It's recruiting across the UK, but has specifically requested new joiners in some specific areas (see 'more info' below). 

Market Force offers mystery dining and shopping across the UK, including GBK and Cafe Rouge. Read about MSE Anthony's experience dining out with Market Force in his mystery shopper blog from a couple of years ago.

Mystery dining can be great way to eat out for less or even free, but reports can take up to a couple of hours, so you'll need to weigh up whether you think an assignment is worth it.

MSE Lucia says:

I recently signed up to each of the above companies, and many assignments have come up in my area (though living in London, this wasn't a huge surprise). The types of places on offer have varied, including mostly lunchtime takeaway spots, some chain restaurants and pubs, and one high-end restaurant.

I managed to pick assignments for times that I was planning to eat out anyway, which was a big bonus. In my experience, reports took around an hour and needed to be done by noon the following day, but I think it's well worth doing if you've got the time.

More info

As of Tue 31 Oct, Service Scan was looking for recruiters in the following areas: Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Chichester, Colchester, Durham, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Gloucester, High Wycombe, Horsham, Kent, Leeds, Lewes, Marlow, Newbury, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, Reading, Salisbury, Taunton, Windsor, Witney, Wokingham and York.

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use the money mantras

Before spending, use Martin's Mantras. If you answer 'NO' to any, Don't buy!

Skint? ask:
  • Do I need it?
  • Can I afford it?
not skint? ask:
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  • Is it worth it?
Section 75

Free protection for all shopping!

There's a little-known piece of legislation that turns any credit card into a financial self-defence superhero. 'Section 75' of the Consumer Credit Act means your plastic must protect anything you buy for more than £100 for free, so if there's a problem or the company goes bust, you can still get your money back.

And although Section 75 doesn't apply to debit cards, there is something else to fall back on if you've paid using a debit card, or used a credit card for a purchase under £100. Known as Chargeback, this is part of banks' and card companies' internal rules and not a legal requirement. Read full details of Section 75 or Chargeback, plus how to claim, in our guides.

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