April 11, 2014 Restaurant Management: How to Use Contests to Boost Morale (and Sales)

boost staff morale

Contests aren’t just a way to excite your customers and increase business…they’re also a great way to reward and motivate your staff! If your employees seem to be suffering from low morale lately, maybe it’s time to liven things up with a fun contest. The thrill of competition and the possibility of a reward may be enough to make your staff focus on doing their best work…while increasing sales, of course! Check out a few of these ideas:

The “Perfect Guest Check” Contest:

The best guest check is one that includes a drink, appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Every time a server gets one of these “perfect guest checks,” s/he gets an entry into a nightly or weekly drawing.


Bingo isn’t just for senior centers…it’s also a great way to motivate your employees! Create your own bingo board by filling in the squares with menu items you want your employees to sell—for example, your signature cocktail, a new entrée, or a specific dessert. Whoever gets a row of sales first wins.

Personal Best.

In this contest, employees are really competing against themselves. Figure out the most every employee has sold during a shift. Then, reward employees who exceed their personal bests. Post the results so team members can gain recognition.


Every time one of your employees does some extraordinary—gets a positive comment from a customer, helps a coworker, or goes above and beyond in any way—put his/her name into the raffle.

Ticket Time Dollars.

Contests aren’t just for servers…they can also be for your kitchen staff! First, make sure you have a specific cooking time for every entrée. Then, lay out ten to twenty one-dollar bills and, for every minute cooks go above the cooking time, you take a dollar back. The leftover money is theirs.

Team Challenge.

Contests don’t have to be a solo thing…they can also create team bonds. Assign employees to random teams and then calculate their total sales. The team with the most sales gets a prize.

Your prizes for these contests don’t need to be complex. A small monetary reward, getting out of work early, a prime parking spot, movie tickets, or a special food item are all great rewards. Often, simple recognition for a job well done is a big part of the reward. Whatever you choose, implementing contests at your restaurant is sure to boost staff morale and increase sales!

How to Create a Winning Customer Rewards Program

The ultimate guide for owners & managers.