Three Ways to Run Your Restaurant's 'Gamified Suggestive Sales' Program

As we continue to see traffic drops and sales declines in the full-service segment of the restaurant industry, operators must decide how they can bolster sales to at least stay competitive. Recently, we have been focusing on the art of suggestive selling to drive sales as the perfect solution.

We just published a great infographic which demonstrates that most operators are not paying sufficient attention to this strategy. As the data shows, 80% of you aren’t doing anything to build revenue through direct selling and we are here to tell you that is a huge mistake.

Consequently, we decided to deliver insight on the perfect strategy to supercharge your sales efforts: Gamify Suggestive Selling.

Let’s start with the concept of gamification. The word itself says it all, make your suggestive selling a competition. Your staff will respond and you will see a rise in sales. Said differently, create competition and rewards, and your team will absolutely step up.

No really, it’s that simple. In fact, the effort for gamifying can lead to as much as a 5% increase in sales. If you do $1 million in annual sales that could mean up to $50,000 in additional sales. If you profit at around 20% that means you increased your take by as much as $10K. Good stuff!

But how can you best run a gamified suggestive selling program? Your options are endless, really, and what will work best for your restaurant and your staff will vary from other restaurants. With that said, we wanted to give you a few ideas to jumpstart your own thought process and program.

Below are three ways you can structure competitions to excite your team, reward them for their best performance and, ultimately, grow your sales. So, let’s get to it…

One Time Contest

This is the simplest way to get your staff excited about selling a specific product. Start by identifying the item you want to highlight, define the time frame for the contest, and announce the prize they can win.

We will discuss prizing in depth another time, but suffice to say it works. The additional good news here is that prizes do not need to be huge to get staff interest. Whether you hit your suppliers up for swag to reward your winners or offer an internal prize like a “choose your section” award, there’s no need to spend direct money on the prizing. The hard part here is tracking and managing the winners, but it’s totally worth it when you see real increases in your sales

Ongoing Competition

This is a more powerful way to foster competition among your servers and bartenders, but it requires a bit of administration. Let’s use average check as the gauge of performance you want to drive.

First, you collect all the current check average results for your team and then you determine what performance will win. For example, you could go with the highest dollar value increase or percentage increase over a defined time frame (monthly, weekly, etc.). Then you introduce the event at pre-shift meetings or an all staff meeting.

Posting the results is important so your team knows where they stand. Again, the admin on this is tough, but there is no better way to drive sales than driving check average up.

Implement a Rewards Program

By far the most potent long-term strategy for driving suggestive selling is to award points for the best sales performances. A points-based program allows your team to see their progress and encourages the best behavior.

You can set these points to equal specific benefits, like preference on days off requests or a marked parking space near the restaurant entrance. This is by far the most complicated approach and you might need the support of a third-party app, like Springzy, but the results will be undeniable. Your staff will aspire to earn the points via the regular contests you run, and you will see your bottom line grow.


The traffic declines at full-service restaurants are undeniable. How you respond may be the difference between staying profitable or losing further ground. If you aren’t doing it now, then when will you respond? Suggestive selling is a tried and true method to drive sales and is still relevant, even if your sales weren’t dropping. These strategies are smart, implementable, and the current times demand you do something. Why not make your business a more interesting place for your staff to work by creating competition?

It’s no small enhancement to your operation and will benefit your team with feelings of satisfaction for a job well done and they will see their gratuities rise along with their sales execution. It’s win for all, which doesn’t always happen in our industry.