The evolving landscape of employment trends for frontline workers presents a significant challenge for quick-service restaurants. From navigating high employee turnover rates to cultivating motivation and stimulating sales growth, the path to business prosperity seems strewn with obstacles. Could the solution for this issue lie in the strategies of two tech behemoths: Uber and DoorDash?

These masters of the gig economy have cracked the code with gamification and incentives, making their contractors feel like winners. Now, it’s time for quick-serves to hop on the bandwagon and level up their game.

The Magic of Motivation

Let’s dive into the heart of what makes gamification tick: motivation. It’s like the secret sauce that turns ordinary tasks into extraordinary achievements. The key lies in understanding what makes people tick and using those triggers to fuel their drive. Intrinsic motivation—the stuff that comes from within—is the real MVP here. Employees crave recognition, a sense of accomplishment, and opportunities for growth. And that’s where gamification comes in.

Picture this: earning cash for upselling combos, unlocking earnings for stellar customer service, and competing on leaderboards for the top spot. Suddenly, mundane tasks transform into thrilling challenges, and employees become the heroes of their own adventures. The best part? Motivation isn’t a one-time power-up; it’s a continuous boost that keeps employees fired up day after day.

Uber and DoorDash: Gamification Success Stories

Now, let’s take a cue from the masters of the gig economy—Uber and DoorDash. They know how to turn work into play. For Uber drivers, it’s all about leveling up and earning cash for completing a certain number of trips. DoorDash delivery drivers unlock achievements and bonuses for delivering orders on time and get extra perks for reaching specific milestones. It’s like a game of achievements and rewards, where every win feels like a high-five from the boss.

So, what’s the secret to their success? It’s simple—they’ve mastered the art of tapping into the human desire for recognition, progress, and friendly competition. Gamification is the fuel that powers their contractor workforce, making them feel like they’re part of an epic adventure rather than just doing a job.

Powering Quick-Service Restaurants with Gamification

Is gamification just for ride-hailing apps and food delivery services? The beauty of gamification lies in its versatility, and quick-serves can reap its benefits, too. “The Pilgrim’s incentive program demonstrated the effectiveness of engaging frontline employees across multiple locations and restaurant groups. During a period where engaging restaurant servers can be quite a challenge, the incentives offered in this promotion resulted in heightened awareness and positive word-of-mouth for Pilgrim’s products among front-of-house staff,” says Jake Levin, COO of SparkPlug.

The real magic happens when gamification aligns with your business goals. Setting clear objectives, using technology to track performance, and creating a sense of camaraderie through friendly competitions are the key ingredients to making gamification work like a charm. As employees engage in their contest, they’ll find themselves on a journey of personal and professional growth, driven by the motivation to achieve. 

Level Up: Implementing Gamification in Quick-Service Restaurants

Now that you’ve got the cheat codes to gamification success, it’s time to implement them and level up your game. It all starts with setting achievable goals that align with your business objectives. Whether it’s boosting sales, improving customer service, or increasing employee retention, gamification can be tailored to suit your specific needs.

Leveraging technology is the next power move. Employee engagement apps, leaderboards, and performance trackers become your trusty sidekicks, keeping everyone on the same page and cheering on their progress.

Gamification isn’t just about the rewards; it’s about fostering a culture of recognition and celebration. Regularly acknowledging employees’ achievements, big and small, creates a positive feedback loop of motivation and dedication. Employees become the heroes of their own stories, and the workplace transforms into a dynamic arena of success.

Five motivating incentive examples that will motivate your restaurant team:

Performance Bonuses: Offer performance-based bonuses for achieving specific goals, such as exceeding sales targets, receiving positive customer feedback, or maintaining high levels of cleanliness and hygiene. These bonuses can provide a tangible reward for exceptional effort and results.

Employee of the Month Recognition: Establish an “Employee of the Month” program where the selected employee receives special recognition, a framed certificate, a dedicated parking spot, or a small monetary reward. This recognition can boost team members’ self-esteem and encourage healthy competition.

Professional Development Opportunities: Invest in your team’s growth by providing opportunities for skill enhancement and career advancement. Offer to sponsor relevant courses, workshops, or certifications, helping your employees acquire new skills and progress within the industry.

Flexible Scheduling: Implement a system that allows employees to choose flexible shifts or swap shifts with their colleagues. This can be a great incentive, especially for those who value work-life balance, and it shows that you care about their individual needs.

Team Building Outings: Plan occasional team building activities or outings as rewards for achieving specific milestones or targets. These outings can foster camaraderie among team members, improve communication, and create a positive work environment.

From Engaged Employees to Happy Customers

When employees feel recognized, valued, and excited about their work, that energy shines through in every interaction with customers. The customer experience levels up, and the positive feedback loop continues. Happy customers turn into loyal customers, and loyal customers become brand ambassadors.

As employees embrace the thrill of gamification, they’re equipped with the tools they need to take their performance to new heights. Customer service reaches new levels of excellence, and upselling becomes an art form. The result? Sales shoot through the roof.

The Future: It’s On for Quick-Service Restaurants

Welcome to the future, where the restaurant industry becomes a playground of innovation and excitement. Gamification isn’t just a fleeting trend; it’s a game-changer that reshapes the industry’s landscape. As quick-service brands embrace the power of gamification, they unlock a wealth of benefits—motivated employees, increased sales, and a thriving workplace culture.

It’s time for operators to press start and embark on a journey of transformation. The power of psychology and the thrill of gamification are the ultimate winning combination.

Andrew Duffy is the CEO and Co-Founder of SparkPlug, the first employee incentive management platform for retailers and restaurants. Before founding SparkPlug, Duffy earned a BA in Behavioral Economics from Harvard University and worked for Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, where he studied labor economics and implemented investment theses based on research into human behavior.By leveraging deep industry experience in finance and retail technology, Duffy has been instrumental in shaping SparkPlug’s mission to fix the broken hourly labor market, deliver actual actionable data to brick and mortar businesses, and motivate retail and restaurant employees with performance-based rewards.

Outside Insights, Story, Technology