Should Your Restaurant Start Selling Merchandise Too?

Posted on August 16th, 2018 by Breck Hapner

Many of the big chain restaurants have been successful at selling merchandise – T-shirts, coffee cups, magnets, beer and wine glasses. While it might make sense for chains like Starbucks and In-N-Out Burger, is it a good idea for smaller establishments to implement e-commerce and storefronts for restaurants? Here are a few factors to consider before you start slinging merch.

Your Location 

Is your restaurant located in a large city or a popular tourist destination? If so, selling merchandise could be profitable for you. Customers who pop in and enjoy their experience might be inclined to purchase something as a souvenir.

What Makes Your Restaurant Unique?

What sets your restaurant apart from others? Do you have a notable chef on your staff? He or she could create a branded cookbook. Do you have an especially popular dressing, sauce or soup? Consider jarring and selling it. Allowing customers to take a taste of your restaurant home with them will keep them coming back for more.

Strategic Collaborations

Consider teaming up with brands you support or other local businesses to create unique merchandise. If you offer a selection of local beers you could ask one of the brewers if they would be interested in a collaboration like beer glasses featuring branding for both their beers as well as your restaurant. Team up with a nearby ice cream or pastry shop and design branded T-shirts that will encourage customers to have dinner at your restaurant and dessert at their shop. Though collaborations do mean that you’ll be sharing the profits, they’re also a good way to cut down on the initial expense.

Free Advertising

Branded merchandise can act as a form of free advertising for you. Customers who wear your T-shirts or sip coffee from one of your mugs are advertising your business, whether in public or sitting at home with friends.

Customer Loyalty

Selling branded merchandise can increase customer loyalty. Whenever they wear or use one of your items they’ll be reminded of your restaurant. And if you sell food items like hot sauce they’ll be reminded of your menu and increasingly likely to return. Also , if you haven't already, consider a loyalty & reward integration for your restaurant.

Increased Sales

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of selling merchandise is increased profits. Consider asking your customers if they would be interested in merchandise and, if so, what kind of items. You could start by offering a small number of items for sale and see how well they do. You can also incorporate your merchandise into the dining experience. For example, you could create a signature cocktail and give customers the option to keep the glass for an additional price. It’s imperative that you determine whether your merchandise will actually sell before making the investment.

What Should You Sell?

What type of merchandise you decide to sell will depend on your restaurant’s “vibe” and whether there’s something in particular that you know will fly off the shelves. Popular items that restaurants frequently choose to sell include:

  • T-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts

  • Coffee mugs

  • Glass or plastic drinking glasses

  • Wine and beer glasses

  • Food items

  • Magnets

  • Keychains

  • Bottle openers

Merchandise As Part Of The Customer Experience

There are numerous factors that go into the overall customer experience at your restaurant. Do a bit of research and determine whether introducing merchandise would be a good move for your business. And to further improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, the team at DineEngine can help you integrate your ecommerce platform, or we can build one for you to sell branded merchandise while offering upsell opportunities online using e-commerce with your own storefront. We’ll listen to you and your customers and then design a digital experience unique to your restaurant. Let us know about your business needs and we’ll design a cutting-edge customer experience that will help your restaurant grow and thrive.