Incentives, contests, and rewards are go-to strategies when you want to increase restaurant sales. Many operators tie them to either an overall increase in per-person check averages or an increase in sales of a particular menu item, such as increasing appetizer sales or selling more desserts. Sometimes, though, creating a competition among servers to increase restaurant sales can backfire by having a negative affect on teamwork. That’s when you need to strike a balance by approaching your sales incentives from the team’s perspective.

Restaurant teams operate effectively when all the team members are working toward a common goal. When you add a little extra incentive for the team to reach that goal, you’ll maximize your chances of increasing your overall restaurant sales. Here are some tips on creating front-of-the-house team incentives and contests that get results:

  • Start with the end in mind. Determine your specific desired result before you begin. Then plan and set goals backward.
  • Communicate that goal to your staff in terms they’ll understand. If, for instance, you want to increase appetizer salesby 10 percent this month, don’t tell them, “To achieve this goal, we must sell 1,200 more appetizers this month.” Break it down for them: “If we just sell 40 more appetizers per day, 20 per shift — that’s only two per section, per shift. We can easily achieve this goal.”
  • Don’t set quotas — work together to set goals. If you tell members of the team to sell 10 desserts on their next shift, that’s your goal, not theirs. Team “buy in” to your incentive or contest is critical to its success. Members must agree not only on how to achieve the goal, but also on what behavior is necessary to achieve the goal.
  • Structure sales contests to generate several winners. Reward not only highest check average or highest-sales per hour, but also the most-improved sales percentage. This helps eliminate the “same-server-always-wins” syndrome. Post and update your check averages and sales results at least weekly, but preferably daily, and include each server’s “personal best” high check average. Reward those who exceed their personal best every week.
  • Post a contest board so the team can see its progress.
  • Be creative in selecting prizes: Awards can include merchandise, gift certificates, shift preference, or simply team recognition.

Online Training for Increase Restaurant Sales

Need help training your servers to sell? Our Service & Sales Excellence Waitstaff Training Series is based on the Service That Sells!, a restaurant training philosophy developed by restaurant owners for restaurant owners. Watch the video below or click here to learn more.