5 Tips for Creating Restaurant Merchandise

publication date: Feb 6, 2019
author/source: Kevin Penney


Let's face it, even the smallest of coffee shops could use a little help with their marketing process.

But when it comes to promoting your restaurant, what do you do? You can't just hope the problem will take care of itself.

There are plenty of clever techniques to improve your restaurant's marketing, but a great and simple way to solve that problem is to create merchandise for your restaurant.

Let's see how you can start to create the best merchandise possible while also keeping yourself from wasting time better spent managing your restaurant.


Pick a coherent brand for your restaurant

Branding is half the battle of effective restaurant merchandising.

Thoughtfully selecting how to represent your restaurant's atmosphere will give customers a great idea of what to expect when frequenting your business. Having this idea be coherent across all the merchandise you offer displays professionalism and purpose.

Whether you're using a service to sell t-shirts and merchandise online, or if you're only selling your merchandise in your restaurant, you need a brand that will pop out to your customers.

If your restaurant needs more brand coherency, keep in mind that you might need to:

  • Consider your customer. Your restaurant's brand is all about what kind of customer you want. Take the time to consider your restaurant's ideal customer and what sort of merchandise they might want from your business.
  • Take a look at your atmosphere. What message is your restaurant sending as soon as customers walk through the door? How can that message be translated into the merchandise your restaurant will want to sell? If you're not a restaurant oriented towards children, it might not make sense to sell toys, for example.
  • Think about what you want your experience to be. Set a goal for what kind of experience you want your customer to have. Make the merchandise your restaurant has a part of that experience. This will create a coherent brand for both your restaurant and its merchandise.

These are some excellent moves to make when looking at your restaurant's branding, as they will help convince the customer that your restaurant has a fun and exciting experience to offer!


Choose a collection of items to sell

Getting your customers excited about your restaurant is enough work already. You don't want to waste it all on having a poor selection of merchandise to sell.

Keeping the merchandise your restaurant sells varied and interesting helps make the restaurant experience even more exciting for your customer.

Remember that there are some different techniques you can try when looking at your item selection that may be more effective when it comes to selling merchandise.

Mix retail items with restaurant branding. While there are a number of different ways to approach selling retail items in your restaurant, applying your restaurant's brand to these items is a surefire way to find success. Having retail items like t-shirts as a part of your restaurant's branding experience might be too simple for some, but items like these are great opportunities to really showcase your restaurant's brand.

Have a unique item. While you do need a diverse selection of merchandise in order to win over your customers, you'll need a unique, signature item to make your merchandise easily memorable. Using a unique item like this, even it's an item as simple as a t-shirt, allows your customers to understand your restaurant's brand even more.

These are a couple methods you can use to start offering merchandise to your customers in a smart and successful way.


Don't waste opportunities online

Online sales are an underappreciated part of restaurant merchandising.

Merchandise shouldn't be created with only in-store opportunities in mind. Your restaurant's online presence will be a very important aid in helping you sell your merchandise to your customers.

Plenty of organizations besides restaurants know how to market their brand online, so why shouldn't restaurant know how?

When you're trying to integrate your online presence with your merchandise, there are a few ways you can move forward.

Create an online merchandise page. Design a page on your website specifically for selling merchandise, or, use a service that lets you sell merch and t-shirts online through their own platform. Make sure it's optimized for both mobile and desktop users so that any customer can order any time. If you want, you can even offer special online items to encourage customers to shop there.

Look for online marketing opportunities. If you make your merchandise fashionable and exciting, plenty of website or tastemakers will pick up on it and you could be getting free marketing in no time. Otherwise, take advantage of social media and other forms of online networking to put your merchandise into the digital realm.

Offer sweepstakes opportunities. Giving away merchandise might seem counterintuitive, but having hooks like these is a confirmed method for improving your restaurant's marketing strategy, so don't waste the chance.

These suggestions should be great for improving your restaurant's skills in selling online swag and can be essential in offering any kind of restaurant merchandise for your customers.


Make sure your staff is involved with merchandise

When it comes to merchandising, your staff can only help you.

Informing your staff of your new merch and even giving them opportunities to customize the merchandise are fantastic ways to start implementing merchandise into your restaurant's atmosphere and experience.

In case you need ways to get your staff excited about your restaurant's swag, you can check out these ways to:

  • Try giving merchandise to your staff. Offering free merchandise to your staff might be one of the best ideas you can try. It makes your staff happy and, if the merchandise you're offering is convenient to use, they'll use it in an everyday situation and provide your restaurant with free promotion at little to no cost to you. You can also have your merch become part of the restaurant uniform.
  • Ask your staff to search for sales opportunities. Have your staff be on the lookout for any potential merchandising opportunities. For example, plenty of local organizations need a host for their fundraising events, which are easy opportunities for your company to offer its merchandise.
  • Let your staff customize. Giving your staff the chance to express themselves using your merchandise helps your restaurant will look creative and fun. Any kind of items such as water bottles or pins could possibly be used by your staff for these purposes.

These ideas are super helpful ways to make sure that your staff enjoy wearing your merchandise, and can help you out whenever possible.


Offer your restaurant merchandise at promotional events

Taking advantage of promotional opportunities and events can be extremely important to selling and introducing your restaurant's merchandise.

Offering your restaurant's merchandise at special promotional events for customers, such as a trivia night or a ladies night, allows your customers to connect their positive memories with your merchandise and gives them a reason to keep coming back.

If you're looking to start selling your restaurant's merch at promotional events, you can always try a few different suggestions.

Look for sponsorship opportunities. Plenty of local organizations need sponsors, and plenty of times offering merchandise is a great way to provide sponsorship. You'll forge great relationships with the community, and your restaurant gets the chance to market to potential customers.

Throw your own promotional events. Throwing your own events at your restaurant is a great way to sell merchandise. If the event works out, customers will want a token to remember the event, meaning that your restaurant's merchandise will be all the rage.

Design custom merchandise for an event. Going one step further, designing merchandise for events, like t-shirts, tote bags, or hats, shows your customers that you care, and it can work as an exciting addition to any event.

With these tips, you should have no problem finding ways to sell your restaurant's merchandise at promotional events. So don't wait to get started!

While it isn't the central part of your restaurant experience, if you're not taking advantage of merchandising opportunities for your restaurant, you're watching a multitude of marketing opportunities go right down the drain.

The next time the merchandise at your restaurant needs an upgrade, keep these suggestions in mind, and do your merchandise the right way.

Kevin Penney Kevin Penney is the CMO and co-founder of Bonfire.com, a company that’s reinventing how people create, sell and purchase custom apparel. He loves solving difficult problems, working with the Bonfire Product team, and hockey. He has over 10 years experience in digital media, design, and technology.