Food lovers have given Liverpool city centre’s lunchtime offer a massive thumbs up according to a major mystery shop survey.

Satisfaction levels have reached an all time high according to the survey, commissioned by City Central BID, in which 30 food outlets scored a whopping 89% approval rating – compared to 77% when the survey last took place at the end of 2011.

Of those assessed this January and February, five businesses scored top marks (Bella Italia on Ranelagh Street, Buffalo Jacks in Queen Square, Café Rouge and Carluccio’s in Metquarter and Soul Café in Bold Street)compared to none in the last survey.

Equally, just three eateries scored below 80% and none below 72% – unlike last time when 11 had scores below that rating.

The bars, cafes and restaurants were judged across seven categories from branch appearance to product placement and sales technique. All 30 scored more than 90% in four sections – arrival and greeting, staff image, quality of drinks & food and state of environment & toilets.

Only in sales did the business score below par – at an average 68%.

And the company who orchestrated the survey says a greater push on training in upselling techniques could collectively result in tens of thousands of pounds more being registered at their tills each year.

This trend was also borne out in a wider survey of the city centre’s retail sector in which a further 100 shops were assessed.

In this section customers gave Liverpool’s shops a 81% overall rating – almost equal to the 82% rating in 2011.

But there was a huge rise in those achieving a perfect 100% – 20 in all (one in four of these 20 also achieved 100% last time) – and a record 7 out of 10 shops achieving an 80% or better rating.

Those which got an 80% or better rating were all honoured at the 4th annual Mystery Shop awards ceremony, held in The Athenaeum and hosted by Liverpool actor, comedian and writer Neil Fitzmaurice.

The survey was conducted by North West based market research company Storecheckers, who explained to the businesses that a recent poll in America had found that 66% of people have spent more with companies where they have a history of positive customer service while 55% have declined to ’buy’ after poor service.

Jeff Caplan, Managing Director of Storecheckers which surveys dozens of cities across Britain, said: ‘’Liverpool’s dining experience has achieved a phenomenal approval rating and is among the best that we have surveyed in the UK.

That speaks volumes for how seriously the city’s businesses value their customer and the quality of their food, which is a vital ingredient for any successful destination.’’

Jeff added: ‘’This year’s survey in Liverpool’s City Central area shows an encouraging picture. Shoppers are also receiving a good overall experience, but there is always room for improvement.

‘’What struck us is that in areas where the stores could have extracted more custom from they seem to just overlook. Up selling is a technique that many businesses would do well to train their staff in as they will soon see an impact at the till.’’

HEADLINE AWARD WINNERS:

Star performer in the main shopping survey was jeweller Milton’s of St Johns Shopping Centre – which received the accolade ‘Store of the Year’ for remarkably scoring 100% for the third year running.

BHS on Lord Street, TM Lewin in Metquarter and The Fragrance Shop, also in St Johns Shopping Centre, all received an Outstanding Achievement Award for hitting 100% for the past two surveys.

Also singled out for praise was Matta International Foods, the much loved deli on Bold Street, as the Best Improved Independent Retailer – going from 45% last time to almost doubling its score to 88% this year.

In the Best Improved category for National Retailers, Timpsons, on Richmond Street, scooped that award by going from a poor 35% last year to a an outstanding customer service rating of 100%.

The Best Improved Service Provider was for the team at Thomas Cook, on Church Street, which rose from 57.3% to a perfect 100%.

Ged Gibbons, Chief Operating Officer of City Central BID, which represents 630 businesses in the retail heart of the city centre, welcomed the findings of the survey and urged businesses to take heed of the lessons.

He added: ‘’We’re delighted to see that our food offer has scored so well. As a shopping and tourist destination Liverpool’s appeal has gone through the roof and the dining experience makes a huge impact on people’s impression of the city.

‘’This Mystery Shop survey is priceless because not only does it provide independent data, which our members can use to measure their performance, but it identifies where we can help improve what they do.

‘’With Storecheckers we’ll be supporting our members to take advantage of any training opportunities and help push standards ever higher. After all there are huge dividends to reap both for them and the city.’’

Ian Ward, Chairman of City Central BID, added: ‘’I know the importance of offering a good customer service and its vital our businesses continue to invest in their staff and their products.

‘’I’m encouraged the trend is improving and it’s only right we celebrate those who have achieved a great score but even they cannot rest on their laurels. In this current climate how your staff treat your customers can be the difference to being in or out of business which is why we will be doing everything we can to support our members.’’