I’ve spent a lot of time managing people in restaurants. The thing I’ve noticed about each restaurant was that in order to accomplish our sales goals, I had to make people understand them. Simply telling a server that we needed to meet a daily revenue goal got me nowhere. I had to make it relatable. I had to make it small enough for them. In order to accomplish this, I used small goals with my servers, bartenders, hosts and bussers. We were all working together to achieve a common goal and they needed to understand their part.

For the hosts, it was about creating an initial positive customer experience and also making sure to leave the guest with a “thanks for coming in” to cap off an amazing experience. To make sure we did both as often as possible, I created a competition using their seating chart and a grease pencil. Of course, this required some honesty on their part, but I found it effective. For every greeting or goodbye they offered up, they gave themselves a point. Nowadays you could use a waitlist app like CAKE Guest Manager to log this kind of activity. If I had multiple hosts working, they’d battle it out to be the victor. They’d be rewarded with a free meal or a gift card at the end of the week.

For my bussers, it was about clearing tables quickly so we could seat more guests. We’d have similar competitions amongst that group and I’d give them a goal at the beginning of the night based on our anticipated number of tables. The key to the goal was breaking it down for them. If we anticipated seating 200 tables, and I had two bussers on that night, that meant that they’d each be cleaning 100 tables that night. We had a dry erase board by the dishwasher at one restaurant where they could easily write their totals. This created a fun and competitive atmosphere that also got the job done.

For the servers, the goals were a little more complex. Pretend you have a sales goal of $5,000 today. That number may be high for you, or it may be low, but it will work for our example. Say you have 10 servers/employees that will be on the floor in total today. That means each server/employee needs to make $500 for you to meet this goal (I’m excluding some labor and cost numbers here to simplify the example). I would always tell my team how much we’re looking to make that night, but I’d break it down for them as well.

Explain to your staff in a shift huddle that they each need to generate $500 in sales, but then give them the average ticket amount they’ll need to accomplish this given the number of tables they’re likely to serve. Let’s say they’ll have 20 tables tonight. That means their average ticket only needs to be $25. The word “only” is important to express to them so they understand how simple it is. Then, give them some example of how to do this. Add one glass of wine, or one cocktail. Sell one dessert to the table. Remember, the higher a server’s ticket, the higher their tip will likely be.

Create competitions for them. Whoever sells the most desserts gets to take one home. Whoever sells the most wine, or special of the day, gets to pick someone to do their side-work or gets to pick their section the following Friday night.

The key to making restaurant goals work for you is to reward and recognize those that meet them, and to make them small enough to seem possible to meet.