The Pre-Shift Game Every GM Should Play to Increase Restaurant Sales

Jan 27, 2017

restaurant staff

Most general managers are looking for creative ways to build sales at their restaurant — especially during low-volume days. We’ve all heard of the old “surpass the $20” game for selling bottles of wine, the “highest check average” contest, and the “sell X amount of this item for a prize” tactic. All of these are awesome, and all of them can work. The challenge is they may not move the needle that much over time — and in most cases don’t promote a wide variety of menu item sales.

The Pre-Shift Game Every GM Should Play to Increase Restaurant Sales

One of my favorite games to increase sales is one I learned over fifteen years ago from one of my employees. We were working on additional add-ons at a sandwich shop, but we didn’t want to just focus on specific items. A team member came up with a tic-tac-toe sales game. Each box contains a number, and a corresponding menu item. The goal (just like tic-tac-toe) is to check off three boxes in a row. So, for example, if a team member were to sell 8 pickles, 5 chocolate chip cookies, and 6 milkshakes, they would win.tictactoe

The results? We nailed it and increased our restaurant sales across the board. Over the course of 6 months, we played as a team, individually, and once as an entire restaurant (the prize was a team outing!).

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Steps to get started

  1. Decide on 9 products to promote
  2. Pick a # of each item that would move the needle
  3. Make your tic-tac-toe chart (you can do a crafty version like mine above, or create a table in Word)
  4. Print copies for your team
  5. Pick a prize
  6. Set a timeframe
  7. Pump up your team at pre-shift around the contest, goals, and rules
  8. Start the game
  9. KEEP THE BUZZ ALIVE — celebrate each time someone checks off a box

The prize can be whatever makes sense for your business and team. Cash is always awesome — but so are gift cards, movie tickets, and fun branded gear.

I’ve even seen this game applied to back of house roles around productivity, cleanliness, and training topics. You can even do the same with your management team around specific goals and activities.

So, next time you’re reaching for a fun activity to boost your restaurant sales, try this game of tic-tac-toe. Good luck, and happy sales growth!

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