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The show focuses on the Mystery Diners, an organization that at the request of certain owners go undercover at specific restaurants and set up undercover stings and unseen surveillance cameras to catch misbehaving restaurant employees in the act. A graphic at the end of each episode states, "Certain events may have been re-enacted for dramatic purposes."
Charles and one of his fellow Mystery Diners meet with the owner(s) at their restaurant to discuss the problem with the restaurant where Charles would learn possible suspects. Charles would then tell the owner that they will come in after hours to wire his restaurant with hidden cameras and microphones. The narrator details where the hidden cameras and microphones were set up and also mention which Mystery Diners will be going undercover as a new staff member or a customer.
Charles and the owner(s) would operate in a nearby control room to see what goes on in the restaurant using the elaborate CCTV screens and audio links which would allow the owners to see what is going on during regular operations. Staff members are monitored and their activities recorded, including aurally.
Mystery Diners are deployed and all are 'wired up' with a two-way comms link to the control rooms as set up by Charles and his team. One team member usually goes undercover and is introduced as a trainee waiter to the staff by the owner(s) (and who may have already spent a number of days at the establishment in advance of the sting). The owners then retire to the control room. Although the owner(s) are usually the contact, this individual can be a manager who is acting on behalf of the owners.
Others on the team appear as regular diners, charting progress of service, quality of food and generally observing the staff to help reveal what goes on during the restaurant's regular operations.
From Season 9, Charles would also bring in one of his private investigators who would show the owner information he found while doing background checks on the employees and details that are connected to the illegal activities.
After seeing enough, the owner would go down and round up the staff members responsible for the problems and bring them to the control room to be confronted by Charles Stiles, which usually ends with the staff members responsible getting fired. There were also some events in which another staff member was manipulated by the troublesome staff member and is spared by the owners. There are also points in which the staff member is just reprimanded or in some cases quits (often by storming out).
Four Months Later/Restaurant Update
In the aftermath during this part, the narrator would tell the viewers what happened to the former employees, the remaining employees, anyone else that was involved, and the status of the restaurant.