You already know how this dated list could look. Isn’t it time we come up with some new ways to motivate our wait staff and increase profits for our restaurant?
To get you started, this piece will cover some creative ways to motivate your servers by gamifying your daily routines.
Use these ideas to create that fun and competitive culture, drive the servers with new strategies, and make the restaurant a place your staff love coming to – all while increasing sales and improving your bottom line.
Ready to inject some fun to those dull restaurant routines?
Table of Contents
Many parts of the restaurant need regular cleaning, but this gets sidelined because of the busy shifts, lazy staff behavior, and several other reasons (like too much business to handle, don’t we all wish!). Introduce Pandora’s box.
The pandora box will have a small note with the name of the thing that needs cleaning like the table footer, for instance (refilling the salt and pepper shakers, etc.). Whenever a waitstaff sees something that needs cleaning, they can add a note to the box.
For each note added, they are exempt from picking one. Any staff that comes in late comes with a dirty uniform, behaves rudely with the customer, or disobeys the protocol in any way has to pick up a note from the box and get to cleaning the specified item.
You probably already have a way to account for such behavior, perhaps like strikes or warnings and so on. These notes can be a good alternative.
Further, to reduce the negative “punishment” component of it, you can add tweaks now and then to the exercise. For instance, any waiter that voluntarily picks up these notes gets rewarded in some ways (gets to choose his floor location, role, schedule, or so on).
Another option is for every note a waiter voluntarily picks up, you as a manager or owner do the same.
Reducing the negative perception of this exercise and gamifying the cleaning process will help you get the dirty work done and allow the staff to earn additional rewards.
Team That Ideates Together, Sells Together
Your waitstaff has immense customer knowledge; after all, they deal with the customers closely every day. This game also gives them a good idea of customer tastes, preferences, needs, and wants. Including them in ideating menu items or adjustments can prove to be financially fruitful.
Once in a while, hold brainstorming meetings. Pick up a menu item that’s not selling well, or that has been on the menu for a long time and could use some updates. Dissect it and look for changes. Let’s take a slice of peach pie.
Waitstaff A – Customers tend to order Oreo flavored desserts more, maybe try oreo crust instead of Graham crackers crust.
Waitstaff B – Customers are often ordering seasonal berry ice-cream with it, maybe we can bundle these up.
When you introduce the oreo crusted peach pie with berry ice-cream, the waiters are motivated to sell them as they feel included in the process. Further, this encourages them to carefully analyze customer taste and behavior, resulting in improved customer service.
Take this a step forward and provide a royalty for every revised menu item sold in the first 30 days. Now your wait staff is motivated to come up with great ideas and then sell them.
No matter if it’s $.05 or $.10, these upsell add up and get your team to buy-in!
The Gifts That Keep on Giving
Multiple studies have proven that employees seek workplaces that care about giving back to society. Also, a proven fact is that customers choose to buy from businesses that care about charitable causes and organizations.
The wall of fame (aka the best employee of the month) does not go out of style, but the incentives or rewards attached to it must be updated. To recognize the excellent work of your staff, give them the power to make some decisions, or lead small projects.
Keeping this in the direction of donating to a charitable cause or helping an organization can have many benefits. Now, this does not have to be an added expense to your restaurant if you already do not donate.
You can get creative in your ways – such as giving out leftovers to organizations or having a team outing planting trees or conducting beach clean up drives. And if you are already donating to a charitable cause, including the staff and their preferences will make them feel more connected to the organization, will attract more employees and staff, and do not forget the karma points.
With this, the staff feels part of something bigger than his or her role, feels connected to the organization, and this is reflected in their work and loyalty towards the restaurant.
All in This Together
As a restaurant owner, you have had to get your hands dirty. Working in the kitchen or on the front of the house now and then is common (maybe even jumping in the dish pit to wash dishes). What if you use this as a way to boost staff morale?
Whenever a staff hits the target (for example, sold your featured cocktail of the week to 5 customers or managed to sell the new side dishes to 40% of the guests), he or she is allowed to pass on one of their side-duties to you.
Monetary rewards, recognition for hitting targets, and so on are practical, too – but this is an excellent and inexpensive alternative.
Further, the main benefit this exercise provides is it reduces the “us and them” perception, and that not only helps motivate the servers, it also helps you build closer connections with them.
Here for the Peer
One of your servers is increasing the sale of bottled water (instead of tap water) by pushing flavored lemon water. Some of these strategies might go unnoticed from a bird’s eye view. In reality, the other servers can notice and learn from this behavior.
Allot a time, where servers bring to attention the great work done by his or her peer. The staff speaks up about what they think was executed well or smart by another peer, and then the team discusses how everyone can adopt it.
This activity aims to serve two purposes – recognize smart strategies of your servers and ensure that the team members learn the same and adopt it. The recognition part motivates the servers to come up with new ideas, and the adoption part helps you increase sales.
Recognition can take a monetary form too. For example, the staff member that gets the most peer credit for the week receives some type of financial reward.
Remember, these financial rewards can be small, say a $10 or $20 gift card to a local store or bar. The financial upside from this little expenditure derived from the team comradery and buying in dramatically outweighs the small expense.
The New Wall of Fame
When guests have good experiences with the waiters, they like to give a good feedback in addition to the tips. Give them a chance to do so with your new wall of fame.
Instead of having one staff face, which is the employee of the month, have space (a flipboard near the exit, or a poster) with all your servers showcased. The customers can show their appreciation by adding stars or comments next to the server. Make a system negative proof to not have counter-effects to such an activity. For instance, just give them stars or any positive signs to avoid public criticism.
For you technology buffs out there, this can be automated relatively quickly and could be a great way to increase staff and customer interactions.
You can get creative with this too. Give the guests an option to sign cards, write notes, or add anonymous notes to a box – all for a server. You can also combine this with the restaurant feedback cards to get more out of this activity or also to encourage the customers to participate in it.
This not only motivates the staff, but also is a good marketing for your restaurant that the customers are having a good time and experience during their visit.
Beat You at Your Own Bingo
Some smart business owners say that the only competition you have is yourself. So, why not adopt it?
For each server, make a bingo that has a set of targets customized as per the previous performance of the server. So, for instance, if the server sold xx swags, xx featured starters and xx bottled waters during the last month, the next month’s bingo will have yy of each of these. Have a fixed percentage increase to be fair.
Now, this is not very different than the typical sales targets that you might already have. But there are two aspects to this. Firstly, the game will not seem unfair due to the customized goals.
Usually, the older or more experienced servers have more chances of winning such games than the new ones. Secondly, the gamification of this process will give them the push to achieve the target faster and also foster healthy competition.
This approach eliminates some of the issues with flat targets and helps push your staff to improve from one period to another. Hopefully, this means that your restaurant will progress from one period to the next, that’s the hope at least!
Sharpen Your Creative Flex
It does not have to be expensive to encourage your waitstaff team, but it needs to be fun and effective. These strategies make the servers have some fun while working on bettering themselves and, in turn, your restaurant. They make them feel like they are a part of the organization and not just there to do their roles.
These strategies mentioned before are not difficult to adopt and have an accountability aspect to it to ensure fairness. Small tweaks to the games and procedures you currently have in place will make the waitstaff participate more and prove to be more productive.
Come up with your own ideas to gamify regular processes and you and your team won’t dread going into work for a busy shift!