“Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome.”
– Charlie Munger
In the restaurant industry, employers are constantly talking about how difficult it is to hire and retain good employees. My philosophy is, when it comes to staffing your restaurants, you need to look within first.
Often, employers worry more about hiring new employees than they do about retaining their current employees. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when hiring became more difficult, everywhere I turned, I saw companies offering hiring bonuses to new employees. Sure, growing the team is always important, but do employers pause to think about how emphasizing the value of new talent affects morale and confidence among their company’s existing team?
I’ve talked in previous articles about the offerings Caliente has built into our company to encourage employee retention, such as holiday parties, giveaways and health benefits. In this column, I want to highlight another strategy for incentivizing your team that differs from traditional employee offerings.
What’s not working?
Over the years, Caliente has hosted employee contests that are often lots of fun, but in the end, have resulted in me rewarding someone for selling only five or six special promotions in a month. I used to bang my head against a wall trying to figure out why the contests weren’t yielding the results I’d hoped for.
I realized a few things. First, the prize wasn’t very enticing. Sure, a $50 gift card was nice in the short term, but it wasn’t moving the needle for employee sales efforts. I thought to myself, if I only have $50 a month to allocate to prizes, how can I get the best contest prize for employees that will encourage them to make more sales? After exploring several alternatives, I landed on a new contest system, and the results have been much more rewarding for all parties involved.
Exploring new strategies
After settling on better contest prizes, such as 70-inch TVs and 3-night cabin stays at a ski resort, the next challenge was implementing effective communication strategies that reminded employees of the value their hard work contributed to the company’s growth and success, and of Caliente’s philosophy of rewarding our team’s achievements along every step in the company’s journey.
Two methods I’ve used to promote employee contests internally include creating and maintaining an active company-wide group message chain and pasting contest flyers next to employee schedules in each restaurant.
No matter what method you use to spread the word about employee contests and incentives, it’s critical that you communicate exactly what you’re aiming to accomplish, and why it will yield positive, measurable results for your company.
Fostering competition and camaraderie
At Caliente, we’ve found that updating a ‘leader board’ every week is an effective way to keep team members engaged and active throughout the employee contests and instill some healthy competition among coworkers.
Keeping your team engaged may seem difficult at times. But if your company culture and brand is strong, your employees will want to do what it takes to contribute to the company’s growth — they just need to be reminded that they’re important assets to the team, and that their talent and success matters.
Now that we’ve discussed some ways to incentivize your team, next month, we’ll talk about getting employees to show up to work on time, and how to kill bad habits in your restaurant.
NICK BOGACZ is the founder and president of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh. Instagram: @caliente_pizza