Employee Contests: An undervalued tool

The value of employee contest

An easy to use employee contests feature is frequently undervalued when business owners calculate the ROI on a POS investment. Many Restaurant Manager users have seen real bottom line benefits from their systems easy to use employee contests feature .  Mike Schwartz, Director of Food and Beverage at Pusser’s Annapolis Pub in Annapolis, MD uses employee contests  during the slow season to increase sales of appetizers and boost Pusser’s average checks. Mr. Schwartz reports that “running employee contests was an idea our dealer suggested…that has generated enough sales to cover the cost of the entire system.”  The Smokehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan used employee contests  to launch their customer loyalty program; the employee buy-in from the contest helped the Smokehouse sign up 900 guests for their loyalty program in just two months.

Whether your goal is to increase average checks, launch a customer loyalty or gift card program, improve customer service, or boost morale, an employee contest can help achieve your objectives.  Employee contests help convert your wait staff from a labor cost to a marketing tool by motivating them to up sell. The healthy competition and opportunities for recognition an employee contest provides help boost morale and increase server retention. Happy servers making suggestions to customers about great deals or recommended entrees improves the customer experience.  Employee contests create all of these benefits with a very small cost outlay.

Steps to running a successful employee contest (and how a good POS system can help)

1. Set a business goal

The most successful employee contests start with a specific business goal.  Do you want to see a 10% increase in check averages, sell 200 gift cards in the month of November, or have at least 30% of diners ordering deserts?  The more specific your goal, the easier it will be to plan your contest and evaluate your results.  Your specific business goal need not be shared with your employees, but your contest should be designed with the goal achievement in mind.

2. Design the contest

            Devise a contest aimed at helping you achieve your business goal.  The rules, the teams, and the results should all be designed with your goal in mind. The contest objective must be large enough to help you reach your overall goal but must be low enough to be attainable and motivational. Similarly, the prize for winning must be appealing enough to be motivating while being inexpensive enough not to offset the ROI from the contest.  Remember that recognition can be the most motivational prize you can award so be sure to talk up the contest and make sure everyone knows who is doing the best job. Restaurant Manager makes it easy to share contest stats with your team.  Print employees daily stats on their time slips, post the results to the POS Bulletin Board, or send out a POS email

3. Contest Logistics

                     The Restaurant Manager POS system has several features, in addition to the recognition tools mentioned, that help to simplify contest logistics and make an employee contest successful.   Contest parameters can be easily set up in the Restaurant Manager POS system to make contest results easy to track. Users of the Write-On Handheld mobile POS solution can create up-selling prompts to reinforce contest objectives at tableside. 

Other logistics to consider are how you will make the contest fair for servers working varying hours per week.  The more competitive the contest is for all of your servers, the better over all results you will see. Rather than who can sell the most desserts, for example, you may design the contest to reward most desserts sold per shift to make the contest competitive for servers who work fewer days per week.  The more of your servers that are actively trying to win the contest, the more desserts you will sell.

4.  Analyze Results and Evaluate Success

                     Restaurant Manager’s back office reports allow you to easily track your sales, average checks, and profit margins over time. These reports make it easy to evaluate the success of your contest.  If your contest helped you achieve your business goal, consider running it again.  You will likely have improved results the second time, as servers will have learned best practices from the first contest.  If the contest did not meet expectations ask yourself:

                     1. Was the contest goal attainable?

                     2. Was the team excited about the contest?

                     3. Was the time period for the contest too short to reach the goal?

Author: Remigijus Pavydis