Reducing Cook Mistakes Via Contest

We are trying to decrease food cost in our store & we believe we are costing ourselves a small fortune in mistakes & errors by our cooks on busy hours & nights. We have made some operational changes to help correct some of the obvious problems, but I am working through a possible reward program for the cooks to get more buy in from the team to reduce errors.

I was developing a series of rewards for the first perfect day, back to back days, week & month. A perfect day would be zero mistakes from the kitchen, i.e. mis-makes, forgotten toppings, dropped dough/pizza, ect. We were going to make the prizes get bigger as they progress & we are still developing what the prizes would be. I already have complete buy in from my managers to implement such a program.

Has anyone tried something like this or do you have any ideas to help reduce errors in the kitchen?

Would it be better to go on reduced food costs as opposed to zero mistakes? A small mistake may mean there is no reward even when the lost food cost is small. If there is a mistake at the beginning of the shift it means there is no reward for the day so what is the point of taking care not to make a mistake for the rest of the shift? If the rewards are based on food cost reduction or target the incentive is still there even though there has been a mistake.

A thought to consider, mistakes usually occur when people are in hurry (perhaps understaffed, small burst of orders, or just trying to show off). That being said, with the incentive being driven on no mistakes, I think you will lose a fair bit of productivity due to the extra caution (think of taking a test, when you know you can afford a mistake or two you still try to do the best job you can but while also trying to be quick, when you know if you miss one you fail you go a lot slower and recheck everything). Is this good or bad? That’s up to you, but if you are implementing this to save food cost, odds are you don’t want to pay more in extra labor to handle volume than you are saving in food.

Here is another thought to achieving the goal you want, which is less waste.

As a rule of thumb, waste should be less than .5%. So, use each day as a standalone measurement.
Have the kitchen staff put all mistakes in a box, pile, bustub whatever you want to use.
Now, have a cost of all mistakes for the day and divide by the days sales. If the cost is within your tolerance then they earned a reward. This way one day does not mess up the entire week.
When you are busier, then they can afford more mistakes. Understand that your main goal is to heighten awareness in the kitchen staff and to reduce mistakes. This will take less time than you can imagine since there is an instant reward for postive behavor.

Also, don’t make the reward be more than 30 days from achieving it.


Also, you may not want to say - keep our food cost below xx%. This is when they will start using less cheese, less meats, veggies, etc. to lower the food cost. This would achieve lower food cost, but also lower sales as a result.

If you are seeing more than 3-5 mistakes per WEEK I would be looking for what causes the mistakes. i.e. sloppy order entry? Training? Mistakes should not be a big item.

Certainly not a major factor in food cost. As pointed out by others, portion control is the biggie there.

One thing I forgot to mention. All mistakes should be immediately thrown away. If you let the crew eat them, you are just rewarding them for making mistakes.


There was a time when we frequently (a couple of times a week) a large pepperoni and sausage pizza roll out of the oven just as the rush would start to slow down and the pizza had no home. It is a common pizza and at first we thought it was being double made but after a couple weeks we noticed what was happening. When the dude asked “Do we have any mistake pizzas?” My reply was “I got one, you want to buy it?” The next time he worked he did it again and I called him on it and told him if it happened again he would be buying it regardless. A short time later we let him go for other reasons (which may have been related to his hunger).