Why Server Training Contests Don’t Work (And How Yours Can)


You’re giving away an iPad, travel miles, gift cards, or whatever your servers said they wanted as prizes, and yet your server training contests are still failing. You’re out of ideas, cash, and patience, and your sales still aren’t where you want them to be. What’s happening?

Check out these five top reasons server sales training contests fail, and learn what you can do to avoid the same fate:

  1. Your server training sessions weren’t effective. Sales contests are often good indicators of the success of your waitstaff training programs. When servers have been effectively trained to sell, they’re already motivated to use what they’ve learned. Your sales contests are just the added push to reach new goals.
  2. You’ve made it too difficult. If your contest goal is too difficult to be reasonably attained by most of the participants, your contest is destined to fail. If, for instance, a goal is to raise checks an average of $5 a person, many servers will feel they have to be “pushy” to sell that much more. Consequently, they’ll skip the whole contest to avoid the daily frustration. Instead, set your sights slightly lower and break it down for servers: a $3 per person check increase is one more soft drink every other customer or an appetizer split by two couples.
  3. You made it too long. We’re a society that craves instant gratification. Contests with shorter time periods with smaller prizes are almost always more successful than long-term programs.
  4. You got bored in the middle. Or maybe just your servers did, because they have no idea how it’s going. Inspect, check and review each server’s progress daily, if possible, but at least weekly. Post new results every Monday morning, encourage those succeeding and coach or re-train those who are falling behind.
  5. You rewarded the best server (for the fourth time in a row). Sure, Sally Super Server deserves to win: she consistently outsells everyone. But what about the other servers who are continually improving? Reward those that exceed their personal best every week and remember this rule of thumb: every sales contest should offer some type of reward for at least 60 percent of the servers involved.

Restaurant Service and Sales Training

When you use the right program to kickoff your server training contest, you’ll see improved results. The Service & Sales Excellence Waitstaff Training Series is based on Service That Sells!, a restaurant training philosophy developed by restaurant owners for restaurant owners. Click here to learn more.

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