12 Restaurant Gift and Merchandise Ideas | Food Newsfeed
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T-shirts and other useful items turn customers into brand ambassadors and keep restaurants top-of-mind.

12 Restaurant Gift and Merchandise Ideas

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Offering customers branded gear can keep restaurants in mind and drive future visits.
By Rachel Morgan October 2017 Expert Insights

One of the most effective ways to keep a restaurant hustling and bustling is to build a strong community that is excited to spread the word. Gifts and merchandise are the perfect way to keep a brand’s name front and center in a customer’s mind. Of course, there is a fine line between useful merchandise and complete branding overkill. Here is a thorough rundown of the top 12 most effective gift and merchandise ideas that provide a high return and increased customer loyalty.

1. Reusable Beer Steins, Glasses, or Mugs

When looking for gifts and merchandise, it is crucial first to determine what products fit with the theme of your business. For example, a wine bar would do well to serve their best wines in a branded glass that guests could take home with them. A quality glass or mug would be kept and put restaurant branding front and center.

2. Keep It Local

Getting customers excited about a local community is key to develop brand culture. Make your merchandise faithful to a city or town. Highlighting landmarks or funny local inside jokes are an excellent way to entice customers to purchase restaurant gifts and merchandise. 

3. T-Shirts and Apparel

Tried and true are the t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other branded apparel. For more casual brands, this is a perfect way to provide customers with a way to show their loyalty to your restaurant. It also provides an inexpensive way to participate in online giveaways and community gifts, without breaking the bank.

4. Pens

Everyone needs an extra pen. Pens are an excellent way to keep branding close to guests and everyone who needs to borrow something to write with. At a low initial investment cost, they are one of the top-performing promotional products for restaurants.

5. Children’s Toys

Family restaurants would bode well offering branded children’s toys that not only are a great take-home item, but can help parents as well. Nothing is more appreciated than an entertained child so parents can actually enjoy their meal while it is still warm.

6. Themed Plates and Silverware

Plates provide an excellent canvas to highlight a restaurant's branding and re-enforcing name recognition. Make sure to search for quality plates that are sealed porcelain or stoneware.

7. Quality Products

Restaurants should always opt for high-quality branded products unless there is a specific reason to choose lesser products. These products are a direct reflection of a business’s brand and reputation. According to PPAI, more than half of consumers will keep a promotional product for more than one year. If merchandise will last, there is no reason to believe they wouldn’t keep it longer.

8. Housing Decor

While a customer may not want to keep blatantly branded decor in their home, choosing tasteful pieces that remind a guest of their experience can work wonders. If a business chooses to carry non-marketing decor, keeping it on theme can still invoke the memories of that customer’s great experience. Cracker Barrel restaurant chains do an impeccable job with this type of merchandising tactic.

9. Calendar and Paper Items

One fantastic marketing idea is to send out promotional fridge calendars or other useful paper items like memo pads as gifts to loyal or potential customers within a specific local area. Many restaurants have had success in sending branded paper merch as holiday gifts to targeted mail listings. With a small initial investment, it is easy to get creative.

10. Grocery Bags

With many grocery stores charging a premium for paper or plastic, canvas tote bags are a great way to help guests stay green while promoting their favorite place to eat. The better the branding design, the more apt customers will use the bag. Don’t skimp on graphic design of your merchandise.

11. Support Local Sport Teams

Restaurants in communities and cities that pride themselves on sport teams should invest in promotion of these local athletes. This merchandise is especially effective in bars, casual family dining, or sport bars. Design gifts and merchandise that highlight local sports teams, including amature or little leagues.

12. Local Artists

For more sophisticated gifts and merchandise, restaurants can choose to hire local artists to highlight work within their business. The art can put a spotlight on your business and the local community, giving patrons a cultural experience every time they dine.

With the right merchandise and gift options, any restaurant can strengthen guest loyalty and promote its brand while increasing revenue. The sky's the limit when it comes to creative branded items. The key is to ensure it fits with the theme of the business and keep it focused. An excited customer base is your best ally in successfully spreading the word. 

Rachel Morgan is the marketing director of Dot It Restaurant Fulfillment, a specialized restaurant distributor who offers custom printsolutions for restaurant chains. Follow her on Twitter @DotItNation.