The Best Restaurant Merchandise Ideas and How To Promote Your Brand

The Best Restaurant Merchandise Ideas and How To Promote Your Brand

Alright, so here's the scoop. Restaurants, they're not just establishments serving food. They're the beating heart of our communities, the lifeblood of cultural mingling. They're where we commemorate love, where out-of-towners discover the true taste of our town, and where moms reward their kids for braving the dentist's chair. These places serve up more than just food; they dish out feelings, memories, and a slice of life.

But, hey, in this hyper-competitive culinary landscape, you need to be more than just a food provider. You want your brand to be like that song stuck in their heads, and not just when they're sitting at your table. The right merchandise can be your brand's catchy refrain, transforming customers into fans, and their everyday lives into your brand's stage.

So, let's bust open the box and spark up some killer restaurant merchandise ideas, with some groovy tips to juice up your next marketing crusade!

The Foundation: Knowing Your Brand

To kick it off, you gotta be clear on your restaurant's vibe. What's your story, your driving force, your secret sauce? Find that unique rhythm that makes your brand sing and play it loud. If your joint is famous for its killer tamales, consider bringing it to life in a cheeky mascot that can strut its stuff across your merchandise.

And remember, you're restaurant brand is not Nike. Slapping your logo on a shirt ain't gonna cut it. But a cute Tamale sporting a mustache? That's got style written all over it. Let your logo take a backseat and let your brand’s persona take the stage. After all, it's about how it makes your fans feel. So, ensure it's a reflection of your brand's character, not just a billboard.

Not quite sure how to hit the right design notes? No sweat. At Superior Ink, we dig deep into your brand’s soul during a discovery call to nail your unique vibe. We've helped numerous local eateries strike gold with kickass designs that take their brand visibility to soaring heights.

The Best Restaurant Merchandise Ideas and How To Promote Your Brand

Need some inspiration? Check out some we created for Little Man Ice Cream Company here in Denver!

Out of the Box Restaurant Merchandise Ideas

Sure, T-shirts and hoodies are the classic promotional products, but there's so much more you can do with sustainability as your sidekick. Let's bring that dusty merch shelf back to life!

1. QR Code Swag

Think digital meets physical. Embed QR codes in your merch for a kick of interactive engagement.

A QR code on a mug or printed on a sweatshirt could link to a 'secret' menu of specialty dishes not listed on the regular menu, adding an element of intrigue and exclusivity. Similarly, a QR code on a kitchen apron could direct users to a digital cookbook with favorite recipes from your eatery.

The key here is to ensure the content revealed through the QR code provides real value to the customer - be it in the form of exclusive offers, insider information, or valuable resources.

QR Code Swag

2. Offbeat Merch

Why stick to the beaten path? Move beyond the usual suspects - T-shirts, mugs, aprons, and tote bags - consider expanding into less common items... Think of custom candles radiating your signature scent. A meatball-scented candle, anyone? Quirky merch gives your brand an edge and makes for awesome conversation starters.

3. Headwear Variety

Caps, beanies, bucket hats, bandanas – your brand could be ruling them all. Offering diverse headwear adds choices for your customers and can transform them into walking billboards for your brand. Adding embroidery can further diversify your designs and make them irresistible.

4. Limited-Edition Anything!

Inject a dash of urgency and exclusivity with limited-edition merch. Tie these to special events, holidays, or milestones. Not only will it drive sales, but it can also foster long-term brand engagement, with fans collecting different versions over time.

5. Golden Ticket Treasures

Remember the frenzy Willy Wonka's golden ticket stirred up? Time to create your own gold rush. Embed hidden QR codes or golden tags into some merch for a special surprise. It's a fun and exciting way to engage customers and spread brand awareness. Not to mention, we're pretty sure Willy sold a heck of a lot more chocolate during the rush!

In the end, it’s all about pushing the boundaries of creativity and aligning your merch with your patrons' values, interests, and needs.

Riding the Marketing Wave with Your Merchandise

Merchandising is more than just creating products; it's about marketing them effectively. No one is going to want to buy if they had a bad experience at your establishment or felt "left out" of the company culture. Your patrons want to feel like they are a part of things. Here are a few ways to market your merch without ever needing to force the sale.

Riding the Marketing Wave with Your Merchandise

1. Team Power

One ingenious way to promote merch is through your employees. This turns staff into walking billboards, providing a constant reminder to diners that they can take a piece of their experience home with them. A great way to bring your patrons in on the action is to have the merch feature inside jokes or a cute play on FAQs. Something that your staff will be happy to share with the customers, and the customers will think it's so clever, they have to have one too!

2. Social Proof

Encourage customers to share photos of themselves using your merchandise on social media, potentially offering discounts or prizes as an incentive. User-generated content can increase visibility, provide social proof, and create a sense of community around your brand.

3. Local and National Appeal

If your restaurant has a unique local charm, consider how this can be reflected in your merchandise. Similarly, don't overlook the potential for broader appeal, as merchandise can be an effective way to extend your restaurant's reach to a national audience. One of our clients did that locally with Atomic Provisions Restaurant Group, which houses local landmarks such as the Denver Biscuit Co, Fat Sully's, and others. Their merch is local, but the appeal has gone national with every tourist desiring a merch souvenir.

4. Promote Sustainability

Here is a huge opportunity for soft promotion that will always make your apparel stand out, and sell itself. Partner with a brand that gives a crap about the environment. This not only makes your merch making better for the planet, but it's an opportunity to showcase your brand values without saying a word.

More Than Selling Promotional Products...It's Merch Magic

On an average day, your customer might come in contact with 20-100 people depending on how social they are 😉.

For argument’s sake; Let's just assume that a shirt you create gets worn 3X the statistical average (a conservative estimate when you create sustainable, high-quality, and comfy merch). That's 21 times, shockingly low and wasteful, right?

Now taking the median number multiplied by 21 days worn, that's 1,260 times that people have the potential of seeing your hunger-inducing merch... Thus 1,260 impressions.

Now let’s extrapolate that out into the number of shirts you have in the wild. If your restaurant sold 20 shirts/day x 360 days that's 7,200 shirts averaging 1,260 impressions over the lifespan.

Scale that up to the number of shirts sold annually, and you're looking at close to 10 million impressions each year. Sounds like a tasty prospect, doesn't it?

More Than Selling Promotional Products...It's Merch Magic

The Final Mix

Restaurants have a unique advantage when it comes to merch. Done right, it's a golden opportunity to deepen connections with your customers, attract new ones, and increase visibility.

So, whether you're a cozy local cafe or a nationwide restaurant group, it's time to jam with the power of merch. With a dash of creativity, a splash of good design, and a generous helping of strategic marketing, your merch shelf can become a pulsating revenue stream, strengthening your brand's hold on your community and beyond.

Ready to dive into the merch scene and boost your revenue? Grab our comprehensive guide, and you'll be good to go.

Now, after all that talk of food, I could use a bite. Know any place good?

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