Secret Hopper: Drinking Undercover

Innovation by | Aug 2017 | Issue #127

It all has an air of film noir: You enter the brewery tasting room, order a beer, and settle in. Inconspicuously, you note everything that’s going on around you: how the beer is poured, how the glassware is handled, how you and others are treated by the staff.

But that’s a day in the life of a Secret Hopper—a decidedly beery twist on the secret shopper, someone who acts like a typical customer to report back to the client about their experience.

“We created the idea of Secret Hopper after spending over 15 years running a business in the customer service and food service industry,” says Andrew Coplon, who launched the Virginia-based company with his wife, Stacie, in May 2017. “We have always believed that any outing should be an overall experience, not just a drink or a meal. While beer is the anchor of the industry, any company, in any industry, has trouble surviving and being successful without quality customer service.”

When a Secret Hopper goes “undercover,” they are expected to order a flight, followed by a pint, and pay attention to 25 points that they will later critique in a report.

“These points range from simple observations, like, ‘Was the walkway outside the brewery properly maintained?’ to ‘Did the bartender offer recommendations?’” Coplon says, noting that Secret Hoppers of all ages and beer knowledge levels are chosen based on the degree of detail in their application’s writing sample.

The growing network includes more than 1,300 members and 20 clients, including Flying Dog in Maryland. “Whether a brewery is looking for the viewpoint of a 21-year-old female who is a brand new drinker or a 57-year-old male beer nerd, we can make that happen,” Coplon says.

Each undercover visit costs the client $40, half of which goes back to the establishment when the Secret Hopper buys a flight and a pint.

One thing the report doesn’t critique is beer quality. “We’re going to assume they’re doing a great job with that,” Coplon says. “We want to help with the details that may get overlooked. […] We truly believe that an outsider’s perspective can bring surprising and helpful information to any beer-related business.”

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