How Do I Sell My Restaurant Merch?

Restaurant merch such as branded t-shirts, hoodies, coasters, and tote bags can be an extra source of income for your establishment. You printed up some designs you love, but so far, they haven’t been selling as you had hoped. How do you get people interested in your restaurant merch?

Here are some tips for selling restaurant merch:

  • Design merch your customers will actually like
  • Sell more than t-shirts
  • Position your merch prominently in the restaurant 
  • Use your online platform to educate and promote
  • Sell online
  • Run enticing discounts 

Selling your restaurant merch like hotcakes is possible if you follow the above tips. Keep reading for actionable steps so you can begin enjoying an additional revenue stream at your restaurant!

6 Tips for Selling Your Restaurant Merch

1. Design Merch Your Customers Will Actually Like

When selecting the design of your restaurant merch, you can’t only focus on what you like versus what you don’t as the restaurant owner. You’re not going to personally buy the entire stock of merchandise, right?

No, of course, you’re not. You’re relying on your customers to do that.

What would your customers like? You should have a good idea of that, and if you don’t, then you’ll have to build your own customer profile or avatar. 

Based on your restaurant data, what is the average age of your customers? There’s no sense in making kids’ merch if you barely have any children in your restaurant. That’s a waste of your time and effort, and you can ensure the merch will not sell. 

If you’re an all-ages family establishment, then that will dictate the design and style of your merch. You’ll want family-friendly apparel with bright, cheery logos. 

For those restaurants that are more adult establishments such as bars or nightclubs, you can afford to go in a more adult direction with your merch as well. That doesn’t mean anything sexually explicit, but adult humor and puns are fine.

When determining what the color, font, and style of your restaurant merch will be, just use your restaurant design and décor as inspiration. 

If your establishment is all about dark colors and rich textures, then a bright, vibrant merch design is going to create too much of a disconnect and prevent your goods from selling. 

2. Sell More Than T-Shirts

When pondering what kind of restaurant merch to sell, we know what springs to mind first. It’s t-shirts, right?

You’ve gotta have t-shirts, after all. They’re a restaurant merch staple.

We’ll agree that they are, but you’re majorly undercutting your profits by only selling t-shirts. And no, we don’t mean expanding to long-sleeved shirts and hoodies either. 

Those are just like t-shirts. 

Think outside of the box a little with your merch choices. The more unique your merch selection, the more you’ll whet your customers’ shopping appetites (as well as their actual appetites at your restaurant).

So what else can you sell? We presented a few cool ideas in the intro.

Branded coasters are a great product for a restaurant to sell. The coasters tie into your food and drink affiliation and will bring your restaurant name top of mind whenever a customer whips out the coasters in their living room or home bar.

Tote bags are a cool merch idea as well. As more states are beginning to outlaw plastic bags, the rise of the tote bag is upon us. When your customers carry your branded tote bag on their day-to-day outings, they’re giving you free promotion at the same time. 

Glasses with your restaurant name are also a fantastic option to consider. If you own a bar, you can sell shot glasses with high-quality etching. You can also print your restaurant name and logo on coffee mugs.

Bottle openers are an out-of-the-box idea that ought to appeal to your customer demographic as well, especially if yours is a bar or club. Put the bottle opener on a keychain so it’s even more useful! 

3. Position Your Merch Prominently in the Restaurant 

The next two tips are all about getting the word out about your restaurant merch, because yes, you have to do that! 

When you set up your merch booth or stand at the restaurant, you need to position the merch so that it’s in a can’t-miss spot. 

Our recommendation? Put the merch right in the alcove by the entrance where the hostess or host greets people and books tables.

Even if you believe another spot in your restaurant is necessarily more prominent, think and ask yourself, is it really? If someone is seated clear across the restaurant, will they ever see your merch?

Plus, another advantage of putting the merch right by the alcove is that if a customer wants to buy something, they can do so very conveniently. They’re waiting around for their table anyway, so they have a couple of minutes to buy your gear.  

If you put the merch on the way to the bathroom or in another part of the restaurant where your customers aren’t supposed to be, then how will they ever buy anything from you? They won’t! 

4. Use Your Online Platform to Educate and Promote

Okay, so that’s how you incentivize the customers who visit your restaurant to buy your merch (or at least become aware of it and hopefully interested enough to consider buying), but what about those customers who only come in once a month or more seldomly than that?

These customers might not have any idea that your restaurant is even selling merch! It’s your job to tell them, and your online platforms are the best way to do that. 

Does your restaurant have an email list? If you don’t already, then you should, as that’s an integral means of promoting your establishment. 

You can send an email to your customers mentioning that your restaurant now proudly sells merch. You can also post about it on social media, write a brief blog post, and even post a link on your homepage. 

Don’t get overly salesy, and don’t push the news down people’s throats either, as that’s a great way to turn them off from being interested in buying your merch and possibly even dining at your restaurant. 

You just want to use your online platforms to educate people about what you’re bringing to the table. 

5. Sell Online 

What about those customers who don’t always get the chance to visit your restaurant? They may be interested in buying your merch as well, as may some customers who plan to come in at a later date but want to support you now. 

If you don’t give them an avenue to do that, then you’re missing out on potential sales. That’s why we strongly recommend that you sell your restaurant merch online as well as in your establishment.

There are yet more benefits to selling restaurant merch online. If your restaurant doesn’t have attire in the size that a customer needs, they might have better luck copping the same good online in a size that fits them.

They can also be more discreet about their shopping. Your restaurant merch, considering how varied and unique it is, makes a fantastic gift. If someone is dining out with family and they want to buy merch as a gift for a family member, they can’t do that right in front of them.

That would ruin the surprise! Online shopping allows that element of surprise to be maintained.  

6. Run Enticing Discounts 

You’ve begun instituting the measures we’ve discussed to this point, and you’re happy to report that your restaurant merch is selling better than it was.

If you want to push sales into overdrive, then offering discounts is an excellent way to do that. 

Perhaps you give each customer who comes into your restaurant on X day or between Y hours on X day an exclusive discount code for 50 percent off their order.

You can offer free shipping to your email list subscribers as well. The key here is exclusivity, as that will be what motivates your customers to act. 

The discount is only available for a limited period and only if you achieve Z criteria, so the sense of FOMO (the fear of missing out) definitely comes into play. 

Don’t forget all the calendared discounts you can offer throughout the year such as Black Friday deals, holiday sales, summer sales, and the like. 


If your restaurant merch has yet to make an impact, try repositioning the merch in your restaurant, promoting it online, and offering a sale or discount to drum up interest.

Make sure the merch you’re selling gels with your customer’s interests and the mood your restaurant décor conjures. Manufacture more than t-shirts too, but unique items like coaters, glasses, tote bags, and the like. Good luck! 

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