2011 October: Marketing Matters

With regards to employees I have been known to grumble, “I already raised my kids.” True, there exists a sense of entitlement in today’s generation. There also exists potential. If I have to ‘raise’ some of my employees, why not raise them right? In fact, I can mold them to become real assets to my business. James Sinegal, co-founder and CEO of COSTCO, once said: “When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors.”

Contests and incentives seem to be a major factor in keeping employees happily motivated. At Fresh Brothers Pizza in Southern California, owner Adam Goldberg relates. “We run contests for our employees and reward them when they suggestive sell, collect e-mail addresses and avoid making mistakes in the kitchen,” he says. “It is amazing how far a free pizza or chocolate chip cookie goes with our employees!”

While we tend to think that cash is king, employee incentives don’t have to break the bank. Paul Paz of Waiter’s World suggests: “When your employees introduce you to customers, who may also be their friends, family and other professional associates … compliment your staff members for being such an important part of their crew. Make them feel good about being a part of your organization. It’s the old praise publicly/discipline privately. Employees are your ‘hired customers,’ who need to feel appreciated and valued. Acknowledging how much you appreciate your employees doesn’t cost a dime, yet many operators miss this opportunity to inspire and lead their staff with appreciation!”

A happy team will be responsive when you need to build that database, door-hang or suggestive sell. They could also be the ideal representation of your business when they give first-hand testimony of your product and culture. Your team’s actual engagement with customers will be witnessed as genuine — and so will the benefits. Goldberg, for example, recognizes that employee engagement drives sales: “Our servers take time with each customer when they order to make sure they get what they want. For example, if someone just orders a pizza, we ask if they’d like a salad with it. In addition, we give all kids balls of dough when they come into our stores. We find that when the kids are happy and relaxed, mom and dad are, too — which means they will come back again in the future.”

In my own pizzeria, I see these simple truths played out over and over again. An incentive-oriented contest not only motivates employees to do your bidding, but it also draws them together. Each year, I have an employee-driven sale in which I get the day off and my staff does all the marketing. Their bonus is based on that day’s sales. Our results have never been less than a 50-percent increase in sales!

If your employees are shown that enticing people into your restaurant will lead to a bonus, more hours and bigger tips, they quickly realize that the employee-customer connection is important not only to the restaurant, but to them personally as well. That can make all the difference, because customers who feel appreciated will want to patronize you again and again.

Raise your employees right and you will be a proud and happy operator.

Scott Anthony is a Fox’s Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today and a frequent guest speaker at Pizza Expo.