Restaurant Experience

28 Mar 2024

How to Design Powerful Restaurant Incentive Programs for Servers

Image of Isabel Carter

Isabel Carter

As any experienced server will tell you, the job can be demanding. Long hours on your feet dealing with impatient customers and high-pressure kitchen situations. Getting burned, cut, yelled at. And at the end of a busy shift, having to split your hard-earned tips with hosts, bussers, and bartenders.

It's no wonder there's such high turnover in the serving industry. The best servers are constantly being recruited away by the latest hot restaurant offering higher pay or better incentives.

That's why smart restaurant owners and managers make a concerted effort to keep their serving staff motivated and rewarded through well-designed incentive programs. According to a study by the National Restaurant Association, restaurants that implement effective incentive programs have an average employee retention rate of 72%, compared to 43% for those without such programs. After all, your servers are the face of your establishment and play a huge role in creating a memorable dining experience.

Incentive programs not only help increase employee retention, but they also increase revenues at your restaurant. A Harvard Business Review study found that companies with effective incentive programs achieve 27% higher profits compared to those without such programs. When employees know that their efforts will be rewarded, they become more focused and driven to meet sales targets.


Restaurant Incentives

So what makes for an effective server incentive program? Let's dive in:

Characteristics of an Effective Incentive Program:

Transparent Compensation Structure

Incentive programs shouldn't replace tips or hourly rates for servers, but can act as a means for servers to earn more that is directly proportionate to their efforts. Before you launch your sales incentive program, make sure you communicate to your employees the potential to earn by participating in these competitions.

Meaningful Rewards

Meaningful rewards are the key to getting your staff excited and participating in these programs. If they aren't motivated enough by the end package, you should re-evaluate what you are offering.

Easy to Understand

Don't overcomplicate things. Make your program as straightforward as possible to avoid confusion. Working in the restaurant industry is a fast-paced environment, an incentive program shouldn't be another task servers should accomplish, but rather something they are excited and motivated to be participating in.

Get Your Vendors Involved

Let your vendors offer incentives to your staff too! Not only will they help foot the bill, but it is a great way to get your employees learning more about the brands and distributors they work with every day!

Now that you know the characteristics of server incentive programs, you can follow these steps to start one with SparkPlug!

  1. Connect SparkPlug to seamlessly and securely integrate with your trusted point-of-sale system allowing it to access the necessary sales data.

  2. Work with your dedicated SparkPlug account manager to clearly communicate the specific metrics and goals you want to incentivize for your servers.

  3. Within the SparkPlug platform, create custom incentive programs in just a few easy steps.

  4. Monitor incentive progress in real-time through SparkPlug's customizable dashboard visualizations and reporting.

  5. SparkPlug automates reward payouts based on performance data from your integrated systems, as well as program communications to keep servers informed.

By investing the time and effort into developing motivating incentives, you'll build an energized, high-performing serving team. The payoffs in terms of better service, higher customer satisfaction and increased sales make it well worth it.