food and beverage underground

Restaurant Contests Produce Great Results

One of the best ways to create incentive for your staff is by restaurant contests. These not only create teamwork
and friendly competition among your staff, but if designed properly they can be great educational and motivating while being cost effective as well. Food and beverage people love competition.

Including Your Staff

The old stand by is sales contests, which are among the most effective for service. Selling the most bottles of wine, dinner special, or menu item that you want to re-introduce are great items to use, as the increased sales of the items will benefit the restaurant in their own ways.

Most restaurants direct their restaurant contests toward the front of house personnel but there are many ways to get the rest of your staff involved too. For your bartenders have a specialty drink contest where they come up with their own specialty drink, whichever sells best over the period wins. This can also be a great way to spruce up your specialty drink list.

Always try to include your back of the house staff into the picture as well. There is nothing worse than the BOH staff getting frustrated by the FOH getting all the cash every night and then getting special incentives to boot! Try to pair them up with a FOH person for the contest, or even better create contests for them as well. Good contest ideas include creating specials like you did with the bartenders.

Most of the other positions in the restaurant: hostesses, dishwashers, bar backs etc. can be tied to other contests or tied to a volume type of situation. Be creative and find a way to keep them involved too.

Keeping things Fair and Reasonable

Since restaurant contests motivate your staff the worst thing that you can do is make the goals unachievable or the contest un-winnable for some. The things you will have to keep in mind is the number of shifts the different people work, so if you are running a sales contest remember to divide the contest period by the number of shifts worked.

Keep your contests short so involvement stays high. Yes, those nightly contests still can and should be used when applicable, but these longer contests should be kept to around 30 days or so. It is much better to run 12 contests a year for nice incentives than a year long contest that isn’t perceived as even a competition after the first couple months.


Here is where you can be creative. There are several ways that you can cost effectively give great rewards to your staff. You may be surprised how a week or two of writing their own schedule will go over. Talk to your suppliers, especially the liquor and wine reps to see what they can give you (works very well if your contest can be designed around a specific product). With the bartenders have the drink special be with a specific vodka and talk to your vodka rep. Wine suppliers is also a great resource. The supplier may offer magnums, or even may be able to arrange a few days at a vineyard in wine country.

Follow Through

One of the most important aspects of the restaurant contest is rewarding and growing the contest. Make a big deal of the winners at the contest end and have a new contest ready for when it does end. Get your staff involved in what contests they would like to see. This way they staff will already be buying into whatever contest you will run. Always design them so it is a win-win-win situation where the restaurant is better off, the staff is better off and you are better off. It takes a little work, but the benefits can prove enormous.

If you have any contests that you have run at your restaurant let us know so we can give everyone some new and fresh ideas.

From Restaurant Contests to Labor Cost

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