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Staff competitions (Dubai)

Hi all, if you're in hospitality and fancy a read, I've published this post on LinkedIn.
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I’ve recently graduated from LinkedIn aficionado to guest writer and I’ll take this opportunity to write about something I am really passionate about: Staff Competitions!

This is an area in which I am seriously, seriously experienced at. I have done all sorts and even created a Sale's Performance Monitoring tool on excel for my teams. I implemented competitions in practically every restaurant, area, company I have ever run. I love that stuff.

But let’s start with a simple question: why would you want to do competitions? Aren’t we all…uh…one team one love?

Yes we are and no we are not, you’re running a business, not a charity and your end goal is for your operation to be successful. You’re not running a social club, you’re running a profit making enterprise…and how do you enhance sales and/or promote your chosen dish in a zero cost manner? Through staff competition!

There is a trick though and the trick is what do they actually win?

Winning some beers, a staff dinner, a bottle of wine, a CD voucher...that's frankly boring and practically useless. My trick was different and I don't mind sharing it: they would win the chance to make their own schedule for 1 week. Now that's serious win! They'd compete to win the chance to choose the best sections and the best shifts and that in turn would achieve 2 things:

They actually can make lots of hourly wage/tips money (now that's a prize!) and
It would have a zero cost to me. Result!
I know so many other tricks at this that I am slightly embarrassed actually, I used to be very competitive as a waiter and as a manager and through this stuff (as a manager) my amazing teams, in 4 different restaurants, managed to win 4 consecutive Xmas competitions (as well as serious lot of other stuff).

There’s too much to write on this so I’ll break it down like this:

Things to do:

Define clear targets
Identify exactly what you want from this competition: is it to promote a new item? Is it a spike in Average Spend? Is it to increase staff/customer interactivity? It’s crucially important you define the reason well as you will have to convince every single staff member with it.
Identify a clear life span for the competition…and don’t be scared to run even overlapping ones!
Talk to your teams both individually and in a group meeting. Be enthusiastic, admit why you’re doing this, don’t hide your reasons (they are intelligent people, all of them) and show them what’s in it for them. The prize and the glory! Convince all, on a one to one basis, that there is "glory" beyond prize.
Make absolutely sure they taste and know the item very well; they will need to sell it for you. Ask them to describe it to you, get them to do role-play.
Once you’ve identified your driver motif and spoken to your team, create relevant charts that will not only include the actually scores but also engaging messages like “Watch Alexandra overtaking Peter next week?” or “Is Michael losing ground, will he keep 3 spot?” and add photos if you can. These are important as it tells all you’re passionate about it and that you’re monitoring each and every performer.
No matter what else happens, religiously update that chart weekly. They will be waiting for it and gagging for them soon!
Make a point of touching base with all performers and ask them if they need help, coaching, training, encouragement…anything!
Be absolutely even handed and fair, you are a leader and they are your troops. You must be seen as impartial at all times.
Engage all! Couple kitchen team members with waiting staff so that the kitchen team member actually shares some of the prize and pushes the waiter to perform.
Celebrate final the winner and yet make sure you talk with all about their own scores. Try always to find a positive (you started from this and look, you ended up with this better average, you still won in a way)
Things to look out for:

Mr. and Miss “I am not happy, we are supposed to be a team and shaaaaaare”….you tackle them by reminding them that a team is a team precisely because it challenges itself to do better and better and that they will benefit from belonging to a better team too.
The “clever” one who’ll cheat while entering covers on EPOS (less covers = higher spend) You’ll tackle that by letting everyone know you have a team to protect and will not accept unfair competitors
Cheating while entering items on EPOS (same as above).
People complaining that certain things are easier in busy/non busy shifts…you will make sure you are even handed in distributing shifts and hence chances to compete (In morning shifts it may be harder to sell particular items so, as an overall you can add a % to the morning scores) .
Over-eager competitors…remind them it’s supposed to be fun and it’s supposed to benefit all.
Time-frame…don’t make the competition too short or too long.
So, go on and enjoy some healthy competition and see your teams flourish!

(Please contribute with your Things To Do / Things To Look Out For is I forgot something, I love new tricks!)

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