Tips for Selling Merchandise at Your Restaurant

Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Other than food and drinks, most people don’t expect to buy much from the eateries they frequent. After all, they have no visions of walking out the front door with restaurant booths in tow for a “man cave.” In reality, though, there are restaurant merchandising opportunities that dining establishments can take advantage of. While selling merchandise might not turn into a huge profit for some eateries, knowing how to do it right can certainly bring in some extra revenue.

Consider Geographic Location when Selling
When considering the type of merchandise to sell, it’s typically important to consider geographic location. What do the people in your town enjoy? T-shirts typically work in any area with occasional warm weather, but what about other items of clothing? Do you operate in a Texas town where everyone wears a hat? If so, hats should be part of your merchandise.

Keep in mind, though, that there’s no reason to stop at clothing. In Albuquerque, for instance, just about every patron occupying a restaurant booth will request hot sauce. It’s basically a staple of the city, so many restaurateurs create their own versions of the condiment. Know what your neighbors want, and you’ll know what to sell.

Put Smaller, Inexpensive Items Up Front
If you begin merchandising several items, some will obviously be more expensive than others. You’ll want to keep your cheaper and smaller items near the cash register or up front. These will work as impulse buys, so even if patrons just wanted to enjoy a drink with friends around the bar table, they might just snap up these quick buys. With that in mind, make sure you have a few cheap pieces of merchandise on hand.

Think Outside of Your Brand
If you travel anywhere in the southeast, you’ll see people wearing Hilton Head’s Salty Dog Café merchandise. This creates a buzz that gets the restaurant visited by droves each year. While it would obviously be great if every piece of merchandise you sold resulted in this type of exposure, that’s not always going to happen.

This is because you need to think outside of the box when it comes to merchandising. Starbucks, for instance, makes a pretty penny by selling CDs from artists with no affiliation to their company at all. Simply think of items that fall in line with your brand—even if they’re not actually your brand.

While this may not pack the restaurant booths with new faces, it’ll create an atmosphere where current patrons enjoy the brand and keep coming back.

Avoid Purchasing Large Volumes
When you purchase commercial restaurant equipment, you don’t buy more than you need. In fact, this is true of most of your restaurant equipment. Maintain this rule when purchasing merchandise. This helps to avoid selling the same items all year long and saves inventory space. Both of these are important for the successful integration of merchandise into your sales funnel.

A decision to not sell merchandise won’t cause loyal patrons to leave your restaurant booths, but it could result in fewer new customers. When people see your merchandise on the streets, it gets them interested in the eatery. Start small so you won’t lose much if it doesn’t work out, but by at least trying, you’re opening your eatery to a whole new world of revenue. 

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