Drive Sales and Profits with Restaurant Contests

As a restaurant owner or manager, you’re always looking for ways to drive sales and profits. One strategy that can be particularly effective is holding restaurant contests for your employees. Not only can contests motivate and engage your staff, they can also help increase customer loyalty and attract new business.

Drive Sales and Profit with Restaurant Contests

How Restaurant Contests Motivate Staff

Restaurant contests provide incentives and recognition for your staff’s hard work. Depending on the contest, teamwork can be required. This helps to increase collaboration among staff members, which can in turn improve morale and motivation. When you boost morale by creating a fun and engaging work environment, you also improve staff retention and reduce turnover.

Additionally, recognition and rewards for top-performing staff can be powerful motivators. For example, a contest can offer a prize for the server with the highest sales or the cook with the best customer feedback. Feedback encourages learning and growth, and that’s a bonus–contests that require staff to learn new skills or knowledge can increase job satisfaction and motivation.

Overall, restaurant contests can be a great way to motivate staff and create a positive work environment. By offering incentives and recognition, restaurant owners and managers can help to keep staff engaged and motivated, which can ultimately improve the customer experience and drive business success.

How Restaurant Contests Increase Business

Restaurant contests can be a great way to attract new business by offering an incentive for new customers to visit the restaurant and try out the food. They do this by generating excitement and buzz around the restaurant, especially if the prizes are attractive and the contest is well-promoted. This can help get people talking which can, in turn, increase social media following. This is especially effective if the contest requires a share, tag, like or follow. Social media platform growth is equivalent to restaurant reputation increase and will help to attract new customers.

But new customers aren’t the only target. Contests encourage repeat business by offering incentives for customers to come back and try the food again. For example, a contest could offer a free meal or a discount on a future visit. This, along with the introduction of new menu items, will grow interest and engagement from your existing and burgeoning client base.

Running Successful Restaurant Contests

5 Tips for Running Restaurant Contests 1. Set clear goals and guidelines. 2. Make it fun and engaging. 3. Offer meaningful rewards. 4. Track progress and provide feedback. 5. Celebrate the winners.

Ready to get started? Here are five tips to make your first restaurant contest a success:

  1. Set clear goals and guidelines

    Before you launch any contest, it’s important to set clear goals and guidelines. What do you hope to achieve with the contest? Are you trying to increase sales of a particular menu item? Boost overall sales for the month? Improve customer service scores? Be specific about what you’re hoping to achieve, and communicate those goals clearly to your staff.

  2. Make it fun and engaging

    Contests should be enjoyable for your staff, not a chore. Consider creating a theme or adding some playful elements to the contest to make it more engaging. For example, if you’re trying to promote a new menu item, you could create a contest where employees come up with the most creative way to describe the dish. Or, if you’re trying to increase sales overall, you could create a “team challenge” where different shifts compete against each other to see who can generate the most revenue.

  3. Offer meaningful rewards

    While the satisfaction of winning can be its own reward, it’s important to offer prizes that are truly motivating for your staff. Consider offering cash bonuses, gift cards, or even paid time off as rewards for winning the contest. And make sure the rewards are proportionate to the effort required to win the contest.

  4. Track progress and provide feedback

    To keep the momentum going throughout the contest, it’s important to track progress and provide regular feedback to your staff. This can be as simple as posting a leaderboard in the break room. It could also be sending out regular updates via email or text message. Make sure your staff knows where they stand in the contest and what they need to do to win.

  5. Celebrate the winners.

    When the contest is over, make sure to celebrate the winners and acknowledge their hard work. You could hold a special event or party to recognize the winners. Alternately, make a big deal out of announcing the results. By celebrating the winners, you’ll show your staff that their hard work and dedication is appreciated and valued.

10 Restaurant Contests You Can Run Today

New to hosting contests or looking for fresh ideas? There is no shortage of contest possibilities. We’ve compiled a list here to get you started. Consider the following:

A raffle increases motivation by encouraging staff to complete multiple tasks for multiple entries, especially when the prizes are reflective of the effort entry requires.


In each square, present a high-profit item you’d like to push. Increase or decrease difficulty for achieving the goal with that item by selecting a high or low number sold. When the goal is reached, the staff member gets to mark the square on their card. The first one to get Bingo (5 in a row) wins. This is a great beginner for newer wait staff to increase sales and practice suggestively selling.

Floating $10 Bill

Simplicity defines this incentive to increase sales and server tips. You only need a $10 bill and a menu item you want to sell more of. Here’s how it works: Say you want to sell more appetizers. The first person to sell one pockets the $10 bill. The first to sell two takes control of the $10. Then the first to sell three gets the $10 from the one who sold two. The exchange continues throughout the shift. At a pre-determined time — or when the first server is cut from the shift — the person holding the $10 keeps it. Only one person walks away with the $10, but everybody has fun maximizing order-taking while increasing their sales and tips!

Complete the List

This game encourages a team to bond with each other and increases their excitement to work in the future. Here’s how it works: The manager divides a team into groups of three or more and gives them a list of sales tasks to complete during a workday. The first team to complete the full list wins a prize or other commendation. It may be helpful to group team members who have different retail specializations, like pairing a person who conducts the most cross-sales with an individual who’s skilled at promoting a rewards program. New teams/pairings can be formed over the course of the week the give more staff the opportunity to win.

Square Goals Contest

Consider playing this game during a holiday season to boost sales of particular items and provide an extra gift to staff members. The manager creates a grid on a board and writes the name of a different product or service in each square. When an employee sells that item successfully, they can earn a corresponding prize like a holiday cash bonus or a free object. It may be helpful to run this game for either two weeks or a month. This gives each staff member has a better chance to more sell products and win at least one prize.

Raffle Event

This game can motivate retail employees to achieve long-term goals and increase the number of products they sell. The manager sets a specific sales objective for each staff member, then offers them one ticket per completed goal that each contains a different set of numbers.  Staff are encouraged to earn as many tickets as possible; more tickets increase their chances to win.

At the end of a designated time frame, the manager hosts an event where they announce randomly selected sets of numbers that correspond with the tickets. Afterward, the employees whose ticket numbers match can pick a prize from a pre-determined list.

Retail Relay Races

A relay race is a team-based activity that involves people in a team taking turns to complete a certain task or a series of events. Managers can use a relay race as a sales incentive game. Split a team into groups of two or three, then providing each group with one list of tasks to complete. After the first competitor completes a task, they pass the list to the next individual in their team until one group completes every item. Consider offering the winners a team-based prize like a free movie night or individual prizes like gift cards.

Customer Review Contest

This game can inspire retail employees to improve customer relationships, which may increase a company’s overall revenue. The manager can set a goal for a certain number of positive reviews a staff member must achieve before they can win. For example, this goal might be 10 positive reviews in one month. Alternately, it might be a much larger number over the course of one year. Then, the manager can set first, second and third prizes to the first three staff members who achieve this goal in the pre-determined time frame.

Sales “Poker”

Poker is a card game that involves adding certain values to each card and earning items for having the best collection of them. You can adapt this game to encourage retail employees to achieve daily goals. The manager generates a list of objectives, then attributes a certain card value to each one. For example, a card containing red symbols and the number 3 represents a staff member who sells three high-value items in one register purchase. Individuals can earn a new card if they accomplish a task. The employee with the most valuable cards wins the game.

Hot Potato

The object of the game is to have something to pass around when a particular item is sold. A cardboard cutout of a potato works best. For example, if you are trying to boost dessert sales, then the manager starts the game with the “potato” until the first sale. From there, every time a server sells a dessert, they will steal the “potato” from the server who had it last. The game continues until a pre-selected time or until the manager says stop. In a twist from the playground hot potato game, the one left holding the potato at the end wins.

The “Fortunate Four” Drawing

Drink. Appetizer. Entrée. Dessert.

Those are the 4 hallmarks of a perfect guest check. They also make perfect contests for restaurant servers–each time a server’s table check includes all 4, they earn an entry into a weekly or nightly cash or prize drawing.

The best contests for restaurant servers also come with lessons. Help your team with tips for selling the “big 4.”

For example, when a patron says they’re too stuffed for dessert? Servers should offer to package up dessert…to go! And servers shouldn’t automatically bring water to the table. They should take drink orders first.

Enjoy the Process

Whatever you choose, keep it fun. Remember: restaurant contests are powerful tools for driving sales and profits, and motivating and engaging your staff. By setting clear goals, making the contest fun and engaging, offering meaningful rewards, tracking progress, and celebrating the winners, you can create a culture of competition and excellence that benefits your business in the long run.

Looking for more ways to boost employee engagement? Check out the following:

How Consult to Grow® can help your business:

Consult to Grow® always wants our clients to prioritize sales generation while strategically managing costs to maximize profit.  We provide strategic advice to restaurant owners, founders, and operators to level up restaurant businesses.  Ready to get started?   

Share this with:

Related articles

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top