Let the Games Begin
Gamification seems like one of those fancy obscure terms that doesn’t relate to the average pizzeria operator. Many owners and managers have already gamified their businesses and do not realize that what they are doing falls into the term. Do you hold sales competitions for your servers? Does your loyalty program have a points system and offer levels and rewards? How about box folding speed drills with incentives? These are all forms of gamification.
gam·i·fi·ca·tion: the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation.
We even gamify Pizza Expo, yes, the show. Ever play the MEGA BUCKS Giveaway or New Exhibitor Treasure Hunt? You, as an attendee get excited to seek out game piece participating booths for a chance to win big. It’s a fun way to encourage engagement, reward our attendees and showcase our exhibitors.
So, why should you consider using gamification in your pizzeria? Here are some quick stats that may blow your mind. By 2021, the estimated global market value of gamification will be $11.94 billion, according to Digital Talk. The eLearning platform also reports that the number of active video gamers worldwide in 2019 was 2.47 billion. According to the Pew Research Center, six-in-10 Americans ages 18 to 29 and 53 percent of those ages 30 to 49 say they play games often or sometimes. That’s a whole lot of Americans who understand and enjoy the elements of games.
Before we explore some game applications in restaurants, let’s look at key elements that gamification should have:
- The Challenge. What is the mission? This is where you really narrow in on the overall purpose of the game.
- Objectives. These are the steps that participants must take to earn rewards.
- A Reward Structure. Forms of rewards can be points, badges, stamps, stars, pizza slices or whatever will allow players and/or your business to keep track of each player’s progress and distribute rewards.
- Rules. You need to be very specific in how the game works and what is permitted and prohibited.
Gamify four areas of your business
Running a business is difficult enough without having to worry about keeping employees and customers engaged in the restaurant. That’s where gamification comes in. Here are four areas to gamify that can win big for your business:
Many operators use learning management systems (LMS) to train staff on areas such as food safety and alcohol service. An LMS will use game theory to help employees learn specific key principles. When gamified elements are added to training, motivation goes up 83 percent, according the 2019 TalentLMS Gamification Survey.
It doesn’t have to only exist in a virtual environment. You can adopt real-world game elements in on-site training, through quizzes and learning task achievements.
The widely popular ServSafe uses a match game to engage the class and get them energized to learn food safety concepts. The certification program also incorporates a game show-style team battle, Food Safety Showdown!, to reinforce key concepts the employees have learned.
A loyalty program is one area of your business that already has gamification built in, whether it’s an in-house or third-party system. It can be as old school as frequency punch cards.
Today, area businesses are uniting in their efforts, by creating passports.
Scottie’s Pizza Parlor in Portland, Oregon, rolled out a passport that showcased the city’s thriving pizza community. “We just launched a ‘Portland Pizza Passport’ for customers where they can collect stamps at six of our favorite pizzerias around town in the month of January and be entered into a raffle,” owner Scottie Rivera says.
You can go high-tech. Milo Vinson is CEO at LineSkip, which incorporates customizable loyalty programs. “The restaurant can create their own type of gamification by setting the point structure and goal rewards to incentivize customers to purchase specific items,” he says.
“The gaming element gives customers an incentive to be loyal to a specific restaurant and become a repeat customer,” Vinson says. “We have seen when restaurants implement a loyalty program, customers are more willing to provide additional information such as e-mail, birthdays…etc by creating a profile which allows the restaurant to better understand their customer. We have also seen an increase in online orders as it is easier for them to follow their rewards and progress.”
Vinson cautions operators to crunch the numbers on the rewards. “Restaurants need to be cautious on how much they reward their customers,” he says. “Many times, a restaurant may not pay attention to the program they setup and give too much incentive, which can hurt margins, while other programs give too little incentive for the customer to care.”
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like are inherently effective platforms for adding game elements. The classic “like” and “share” posts with prizes are still very effectively. With social algorithms these days, they may see better results when they are used in promoted posts. A tagging game is another way to encourage engagement and also add followers that may turn into customers.
Create game elements that are targeted specific to your customer base vs simple “like” and “share”. Customizing games that incentivizing interactions with your brand can result in stronger ROI. Establish a custom hashtag and ask followers to submit photos or videos like #thebestcheesepullat(yourpizzeria). Post the tagged photos and ask followers to vote. Winner gets a prize you’ve set.
Stories are also a great place to incorporate elements like quizzes and polls with promo codes. Users only see the promo code if they participate in the quiz.
This is one of the simplest areas to gamify that result in the biggest return. Retention is critical and one of the best ways to retain employees is through constant engagement. Whether it’s front of house or back of house, there are several tasks that can be gamified.
Nick Bogacz, co-owner of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area gamified his employee programs.
“We run contests for highest ticket averages and contests for selling new menu items,” Bogacz says. “At our annual holiday party we just did an awards ceremony. The awards included store with the highest sales, store with the highest sales percentage increase, host of the year, cook of the year, iron man manager of the year, highest ticket average in the company, most orders taken in the company, most deliveries taken in the company, and customer service fanatic of the year. And then each driver who took the most deliveries at each store was presented a Caliente winter jacket with their accolades stitched on it.
“In this day and age when it’s very hard to hire in any industry, it’s more important than ever to retain the employees you have,” he continues. “We have focused more of efforts and resources on retention than on hiring.”
Denise Greer is Executive Editor at Pizza Today