Joe Marsco Family DinnerI have a great client, Joe, who is part owner and Director of Operations of two fine-dining restaurants in Las Vegas. I mean … REALLY fine dining. A few years ago when he first invited me out to get to know the operation, I arrived with the mistaken impression that they might be a couple of very good steakhouses.

That impression changed in minutes, and then hours, as both restaurants treated me to the most extraordinary food and service I have ever experienced.

With two locations and about 80 long-time employees, Joe is the driver behind this remarkable machine. His management style comes from a giving place; he believes his job is to focus on the positive-minded flow, and he’s always gently encouraging his staff to explore their own growth potential. I love working with this gentleman.

Each month, each of his restaurants sits down with Joe to discuss their goals for the month. At month’s end, if they meet or exceed those goals, Joe sheds his suit coat and tie, rolls up his sleeves and gets busy … in the kitchen that is. You see, while Joe chose a restaurant management role several years ago, he is foundationally a Culinary Institute graduate and spent plenty of time on the Chef’s side of the kitchen in New York’s most notable restaurants.

Never one to let his chef’s skills and ingenuity slide, Joe came up with the idea of rewarding each of the restaurant personnel with a “Family Dinner” when they meet their monthly goals. Beyond the menu planning and purchasing, Joe’s preparation and cooking is an all-day event. Whether appetizers, salads, entreés or desserts, Joe makes everything from scratch.

The goals create friendly banter between the restaurants each month, and the teams work to the very end to achieve that revered Family Dinner. Last week, when we were out on our monthly marketing visit, Joe had just completed one Family Dinner for his restaurant personnel at Alizé. As he usually devises extensive gourmet meals, the team there teased him about wanting Hot Pockets, so he created his own gourmet, Italian version of the snack treat.

He was also working on the menu for Family Dinner  at the other restaurant, Andre’s, which was taking place that Saturday. Word has it that he served up Osso Bucco, which had to be ordered well in advance for the 40-plus employees he was feeding.

The buzz in the staff as they await the full-course meal is both funny and electric. When you mention the Family Dinner, their eyes light up and they happily gabble on about past family dinners and what they expect will be showing up at the one to come.

What a fun and ingenious way to incentivize one’s staff. We may not all be professionally trained chefs out there, but each one of us has the ability to come up with incentives for team goal achieving that show up as delightful rewards instead of usual drudgery.

What do you have up YOUR sleeve?