Restaurant Experience

03 Apr 2024

Bartender Employee Rewards Programs That Comply with Regulations

Image of Isabel Carter

Isabel Carter

Rewarding bartenders and servers for recommending specific products has long been a gray area when it comes to alcohol regulations. Many states, especially control states with government-run liquor sales, have strict rules prohibiting manufacturers from providing financial incentives to encourage the purchase of their products.

However, SparkPlug is aiming to enable these types of employee rewards programs while staying compliant with regulations. SparkPlug integrates with point-of-sale systems to track sales and automate incentives like commissions, contests, and bonuses for bartenders who sell promoted products.


To validate their regulatory compliance, SparkPlug engaged the Liquor Law Practice Group at Norris McLaughlin to conduct an exhaustive review of control state regulations and case law. The firm concluded that SparkPlug's model aligns with the current regulatory environment.

Norris McLaughlin's analysis focused on Pennsylvania's liquor code, which is among the strictest in the nation. They found that SparkPlug is exempt from prohibitions on manufacturers providing incentives. Additionally, advisory opinions from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) have established that unlicensed third parties like SparkPlug can legally act as a conduit to provide benefits from manufacturers to bar employees.

By automating the tracking and administration of bartender incentives through an independent platform, SparkPlug aims to motivate product recommendations while navigating the complex regulatory landscape. Their approach could pave the way for more brands to compliantly leverage the influence of bar staff on the front lines of the hospitality industry.

Bartender 2

What is SparkPlug?

SparkPlug is an automated sales incentive platform. We help brands compliantly incentivize servers, bartenders, bottle shop employees, etc. to sell more of their products.

  • Integrates with retail/hospitality POS and provides a live view of brand product sales at on/off-prem accounts
  • Runs incentives like commission, sales contests and target-driven bonuses to motivate employees
  • Fully automates tracking, reporting and payouts — no admin work

Types of Incentives:

Frame 1

By leveraging technology to handle the tracking, reporting, and payouts, SparkPlug aims to simplify the process of running compliant incentive programs for alcohol brands. The platform's goal is to provide a turnkey solution that enables brands to tap into the influence of frontline bar staff while navigating the complex regulatory environment surrounding alcohol sales and promotion.