A lot of ink has been spilled emphasizing the importance of employee incentive programs. Too often, however, such programs take the form of sales contests that pit employees against one another, which isn’t always the best thing for your restaurant team.

Take a break from the competition. Instead, inspire your restaurant team by celebrating individual and group accomplishments worthy of recognition. Where incentives motivate performance with rewards, celebrations can occur for a myriad of personal and professional reasons.

Revisit your mission statement to find more human and less fiscal reasons to be observed. Employment anniversaries, number of years your restaurant has been open, gross sales landmarks, employee weddings, births, and graduations — all are cause for celebration.

Encourage employee involvement when crafting celebrations related to work performance. Your staff is more likely to execute the desired behavior if they play a hand in organizing the reward.

Design celebrations that naturally link to the desired goals. If appearance is important, reward employees who maintain perfect uniforms with a gift certificate to a local dry cleaner. If you’re looking to sell high-end wines, consider placing a bottle of your most expensive wine at the end of the tunnel. For servers who are always on time, celebrate their timeliness with an extra day of paid vacation.

Vary the accomplishments worth celebrating to keep your crew in a constant state of self-improvement.

Don’t make the mistake of rewarding everything your people accomplish. People appreciate day-to-day celebrations doled out by you or other managers. The proverbial pat on the back and a simple “Great job!” speak volumes.