Restaurant Incentives, Rewards & Contests


Performance is driven by behavior, and behavior is driven by four factors: communication, training, measurement, and rewards. Incentives and contests will do little to improve attitude, but they can work wonders to change or enhance behavior and therefore improve performance. Training is the nail. Incentives are the hammer.

Behavior vs Attitude

Differentiating between behavior and attitude is critical if you intend to use incentives and contests to motivate your staff to execute the restaurant training they’ve received. Example: Your attitude is that you’re on a diet. But your behavior led you to eat a quart of ice cream before bed last night. What’s going to help you achieve your goal? Changing your attitude or your behavior? People can repeat behavior, they can’t repeat attitude. Behavior can be measured. Attitude can’t. And when it comes to effective incentives, contests and rewards, what gets measured gets done.

Restaurant Incentives Eliminate Teflon Training

Maybe your experience has been that most restaurant training seems to be “Teflon-coated” — no matter how often you train, it just won’t stick with the trainees. As a result, frustration sets in and you:

  1. Give up.
  2. Warn the trainer to improve, or else!
  3. Grumble that “people don’t want to learn anymore.”
  4. Ponder the benefits of dismissing the entire staff and hiring a new one from scratch, or…
  5. Consider reinvesting training dollars into a massive advertising campaign to build up slumping customer traffic that resulted from an untrained staff.

Well, before you choose one of those five panic strategies, first consider that the training probably didn’t achieve the long-term results you’d hoped for because A) you treated training as an event, rather than a process; or B) you didn’t know that the number one enemy of training outside the classroom is habit, not a “bad attitude.”

This is where incentives, contests and rewards come into play. Once employees are trained in a new skill, they have to break old habits. How do you entice them to do so? Think of contests, incentives and rewards as habit-breaking or behavior-modification devices that supplement and support training. Don’t think of or try to use contests, incentives or rewards as last-ditch tricks to juice up sales in the last two weeks of the month or the last quarter of the year. It didn’t break overnight, you can’t fix it in a minute. .

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