Sales Contest Basics Inspire Competition and Profits

I have personally designed hundreds of effective employee contests and incentives for successful restaurant, manufacturing, and retail operators over the last ten years. Contests can be used to improve service, sales, cleanliness, labor, ticket times, breakage, and dozens of other operational issues. This month I’d like to share a collection of the most basic and easy-to-use employee sales contest ideas that can help you kickstart your fall sales, and create some fun competition on each shift.

When implementing sales contests, remember three things:

  1. Make sure that each contest is staged for no longer than 30 days. Experience has shown that hospitality employees tend to lose interest in contests lasting longer than a month.
  2. When you stage sales contests, I strongly recommend setting team sales goals whenever possible and avoid pitting individual servers against one another in monthly contests. Let them compete against your other stores or other districts, but not against each other unless they’re in teams. It’s OK to post individual server’s sales or check averages (in fact, I strongly recommend it), and it’s certainly OK to encourage individual achievement each shift, but tally collective effort whenever possible in monthly contests.
  3. Let the team set its own goals. For instance, if you tell your servers how much you want them to increase sales, those are your goals, not theirs. Give them their recent sales averages, and ask them what they think they can do collectively to improve those numbers. Most of the time, they’ll set goals higher than what you would have.

Here are a few classic check-boosting games to help focus your team on increasing same store sales this quarter:

The “Perfect Guest Check.”

This contest applies directly to tableside restaurant operators but could easily be adapted to the QSR segment as well. Have a game that encourages servers to amass as many “Perfect Guest Checks” as possible on each shift. In the case of a tableside restaurant this means a guest check that includes a beverage, an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. In a pizza or quick-serve restaurant, it would mean an appetizer, pizza/sandwich and beverage. Each “Perfect Guest Check” recorded receives a special raffle ticket (or small gift) for the individual or team. The more perfect checks you sell, the greater your odds of winning the raffle drawing at the end of the month. Pair up cooks and dishwashers on the different server sales teams to make them partners in the contest, too.

Personal Best.

Record the highest sales each employee has ever posted during a single shift. Now have a contest to see who can exceed their personal bests. Be sure to post the results, and recognize and reward the team and individual achievers.

Sales Bingo.

Create a “bingo-style” game board with at least 12–16 squares with a different menu item (appetizer, dessert, beverages, specials, promotions, etc.) in each square. Servers who sell every item on the sheet, or four in a row win a prize. This classic contest is a staple of every savvy manager’s playbook.

Ticket Time Dollars:

You probably have specific cooking time goals set for every appetizer or entrée. And if takes too long to get that food out, service suffers, and sales drop. Here’s an incentive that might help. Before a busy shift string ten or fifteen one-dollar bills on a wire behind the pass-through window. Tell the cooks that for every order that goes out beyond the targeted cooking time (measure by the time the ticket was fired), you’ll remove a dollar bill. Whatever’s left at the end of the shift is there’s to keep.

Sales per hour.

Measure sales per hour or sales per register against previous month (or year) as a fun contest for QSR cashiers/counter servers.

Highest team check average.

This contest works best for servers in a tableside restaurant. Measure the individual check averages of every server and bartender, then assign them to three random teams, cipher their collective check average and encourage them to beat the other teams posted averages. Assign a different manager to each team, so that he or she can be competitive as well, and coach their team to victory.


go to a stationery or party store and purchase a package of raffle tickets. Every time a cook, server, hostess, or drive-through cashier does something commendable, give them a raffle ticket. The more they earn, the better their chances of winning whatever it is you raffle off in a monthly prize drawing.

Once your crew is on a daily diet of fun contests and monthly incentives, the critical companion step is to implement habitual recognition and intermittent rewards. Popular no-cost and low-cost incentives include Lotto tickets, long-distance calling cards, movie tickets, doing their sidework, letting them off early, unexpected food treats, pass-around trophies, a “get out of work free’ card, and don’t forget the simplest and most-effective incentive of all: a simple and sincere thank you. Always supervise with an attitude of gratitude.

Anything worth doing is worth measuring and if you don’t reward your best performers, you can bet that your competition will.

© 2022 Golbon RFS | Developed by Lumen Creative
Scroll to Top