Case Study = "Incentivizing Employees in Fast-Casual Restaurants";

Incentivizing Employees in Fast-Casual Restaurants

A Case Study on How to Effectively Run a Contest and Motivate Employees


Running employee competitions in fast-casual restaurants is generally believed to be ineffective, because cashiers only have a short window of time to interact with customers. Cashiers lose the opportunity to ask customers about their preferences, and therefore may perceive upselling as a sales tactic, rather than a chance to add value.

This perception has a real, negative impact: it causes stores to miss out on up to 40 percent more sales.

That’s not the only perceived obstacle to employee competitions in this setting. Often, leadership in the fast-casual industry believes that accurately monitoring contests across different stores, districts, or regions is unfeasible.


Marketing Vitals’ Contests feature provides a solution to this dilemma.

With the Contests feature, fast-casual restaurants are able to easily execute and monitor employee competitions at any level within an entire concept.

We created this with the goal of leveling the playing field for contestants by accounting for potential disadvantages, like:

  • Demographics of a store’s location
  • Cashier work shifts
  • And natural daily business fluctuations.

Instead of using the traditional metrics of quantity sold, total sales, or profit to rank contestants, Marketing Vitals’ tool uses metrics that provide a more realistic perspective of the contestant’s performance and gives every contestant the opportunity to compete fairly.

Contests are created in a few short steps by selecting participating locations, start and end dates, revenue centers and/or day parts, and the targeted menu items or sales categories.

Once these steps are completed the tool uses both the selected parameters and the restaurant’s historical data to automatically predict the potential sales impact of the contest.

With this prediction, the contest administrator can quickly determine whether running the contest will provide significant value to the restaurant, and the appropriate size of the prize pool.

The tool allows rules to be established for contestant qualification, ranking, and winner limits. Structured payouts and disqualifications can also be managed effortlessly. Rankings are updated daily, showing position movements as well as newly qualified and disqualified contestants.

At the end of the contest, the winners are highlighted and prizes assigned. The winners list is automatically regenerated in case of last-minute disqualifications.


To perform the study, Marketing Vitals partnered with one of its customers, a fast-casual restaurant. The contest occurred over one month and was executed chain-wide in approximately three dozen stores.

It targeted dine-in stores only with cashiers as contestants. Using their average check amount as a basis, the restaurant selected a dessert item with a high profit margin that would not significantly increase the customer’s total check amount.

A $7,000 prize pool was set, and winners were chosen by region, district, and store.

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