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February 15, 2022

Beginner’s guide to restaurant merchandise

Explore popular restaurant merchandise ideas and how to choose products based on search trends. Plus, learn how to write product descriptions that stand out.
February 15, 2022

To stand out and earn profit, restaurants need to come up with creative ways to promote their business and increase revenue. That’s where merchandise comes in.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll break down how to choose products based on trends and show you how to write product descriptions that stand out. Plus, we’ll explore the most popular restaurant merchandise ideas and easy ways to promote them.



How to sell merchandise online (no experience required)

  • Step 1: Decide what products to sell 
  • Step 2: Select products
  • Step 3: Set up your webshop
  • Step 4: Promote your merchandise online

Step 1: Decide what products to sell

The best advice: Avoid products that aren’t directly connected to your restaurant or bar.

When you want a great cup of coffee, where do you buy beans?

From the florist?


You buy from a coffee roaster where you’ve tasted and enjoyed the product.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sell branded merchandise like bags or coasters in your webshop. It just means that you have to be careful not to select products that your customers will never think about buying.

Here’s an example of why:

Let’s say your earphones die.

Chances are, you’ll pull out your phone and head to Apple or Google for a new pair. Or you’ll go to a shop that you know has them in stock.

You don’t go on a shopping spree to random stores hoping they have earphones.

The same is true for restaurant merchandise.

Your restaurant is known for great food and great experiences. Choose products that guests easily connect with your restaurant. When they’re looking for a great cup of coffee, a bottle of wine or a delicious sauce, you want your restaurant’s digital shop to be top of their mind.

When deciding which products to sell, consider their popularity. You may want to offer ‘evergreen’ products – products that aren’t affected by seasonal trends – instead of merchandise associated with a certain holiday or time of year.

To help you along, meet our friend, Google Trends.

Type in your keyword (the product you want to sell), and you’ll see how many people search for it online.

For example, look at the words ‘white wine’ (blue) and ‘mulled wine’ (red) for the UK.

The graph spikes around December (makes sense because mulled wine goes with Christmas).

This tells you that mulled wine will probably sell well, but only from October (when the graph goes up) to December. If you’re looking for a more stable product, go for white wine.

This example was quite obvious, but you can play around with the products you’re interested in and see if there are search trends you should be aware of.

Remember, if people are looking for a product, they’re more likely to buy.

Step 2: Select your products

Now for the fun part.

You’ve decided on the types of products you want to sell and you’ve checked that people want to buy them. Now, it’s time to list out the exact products you plan to offer.


  • Avoid random products with no connection to your restaurant or bar.
  • Look for at least a 20-30% profit margin.
  • Will you ship? Choose products with low shipping costs.
  • Choose products that make your restaurant special. Consider the cutlery you use or a special blend of seasoning.
  • Find products that everyone already uses (olive oil, for example) and think about how yours can be better.

Restaurant merchandise ideas

  1. Oils
  2. Dried foods
  3. Aprons 
  4. Wines and beers 
  5. Sauces, pestos, marinades, jams, and syrups
  6. Coffees
  7. Non-edible products like cups, plates, bowls, and cutlery 
  8. Serving boards or cutting boards 
  9. Cookbooks 
  10. Meal kits 
  11. Branded merchandise like t-shirts, coasters, and hats



Step 3: Set up your restaurant's online store 

First things first: make sure your restaurant’s point-of-sale system can process online sales.

Next, check that your restaurant’s website has e-commerce capabilities. Here are 4 of our favourite web building platforms – great for restaurants starting out, too.

You can also look at Instagram Shopping or Checkout. Read more about how to set up your IG Shop (and why you might not actually want to) at the end of this article.

Product photos

Always use high-quality product images.

Don’t have a fancy camera or access to a photo studio? Don’t worry. Today’s smartphones have advanced cameras, and there are plenty of apps to edit the final image.

Forget an all-white background, too. Put each product in a real-life restaurant setting instead.

For the best results, take photos near a window with natural light.

While you’re taking product shots, group different products together and set different scenes. These images work great on your Instagram and help drive sales and awareness.

Product descriptions

Every product needs a description plus details like measurements and materials.

Don’t expect customers to read the labels in the photos. Take the time to write out the ingredients and sizes.

Keep the description simple. To increase your reach, focus on keywords and include words people use to search for a product.

Here’s an example with a general description for any blueberry jam on the market: Jam made from blueberries.

Compare that to a product description written specifically for your product: Homemade jam made from fresh Georgia blueberries. 100% organic with no added sugar. Tastes great on fresh bread or ice cream.

The 2nd example didn’t take a lot of work, and it isn’t filled with random adjectives or extra words. It makes the product stand out to someone searching for blueberry jam made from wild blueberries, Georgia-grown blueberries, organic blueberries, and jam with no added sugar.

Taking that extra time to write a detailed product description means that the product has a better chance of standing out in the crowded online world of jams.

Apply this idea to any product you’re selling – from marinades to tote bags.

When you’re setting up your online store, don’t forget to include a return policy and any shipping information.

These aren’t topics most restaurants think about or deal with during regular dinner service, but they are important when working with merchandise and the e-commerce side of your business.

Step 4: Promote your restaurant's online store

Make sure your webshop is available on your website’s menu and navigation bar. Visitors should have no trouble finding your merchandise.

For social media, promote your products using the product images you took in Step 2. Be sure to include information on how they can purchase your products (link in bio, for example).

Restaurants working with an all-in-one Guest Experience Management platform are capturing more guest data than they used to. And when that system has reservations, POS and payments combined, they chip away at the dominance and dependence on third-party apps.

If that’s your restaurant, you’re sitting on a goldmine of data you can use to market your products.

Start with an email announcing your new line of merchandise. Then, look at data, segment your list and send more detailed information about products to your loyal customers (those most likely to buy your stuff).

With Superb’s Guest Experience Management platform (GXM), you can easily export your contact list to your favourite marketing automation tool (like Mailchimp). This makes it easy to promote your merchandise and excite your fanbase.



Benefits of selling restaurant merchandise

  • Increase your revenue streams. Selling products online is right up there with offering gift cards and creating events. One more great way for you to generate revenue for your business.
  • Upsell more. When a guest already loves the champagne you serve, they're more likely to buy a bottle from your digital shop the next time they celebrate at home. Selling products that you actually serve in your restaurant is a great way to upsell.
  • Stay top of mind. With branded merchandise, guests will see your logo and name every time they use your product. 
  • Reach more people. If you’re willing to ship, you can reach anywhere in the world with your merchandise.
  • Collaborate with local partners. This is your chance to partner with other local businesses (a distillery, perhaps) and create unique products. The best part, you’ll gain exposure to their audience when they share the collaboration and send customers to your webshop.

Cons of selling merchandise at your restaurant

  • Low profit margin. Merchandise is only profitable if there is a demand for your products and if you can make and sell them at the right price.
  • Trouble making it fit your brand. What is your restaurant or bar known for? It’s a tough sale to suddenly add a line of merchandise to a brand known for its minimal style and aesthetic. Are you a restaurant that focuses on sustainability? For example: How do you reconcile the waste involved with producing a rack of t-shirts?
  • Guests don’t want it. Before investing in your line of merchandise, check with a few of your loyal guests and see if there’s any interest.

Instagram Shopping versus Checkout 

Rather than directing customers to your website, Instagram Shopping and Checkout let them select and buy directly from the app.

Instagram Shopping and Checkout on Instagram are two different services.

  • In Shopping, you can create a post or story and tag your products. Clicking on the product will lead to a product page on your website. There, customers make the purchase.
  • Checkout is similar, but the transaction takes place within the Instagram app. Customers enter billing, shipping, and payment information directly in the app.

While Checkout sounds easy, there are 2 main negatives to consider:

  1. Transaction Fees – With every purchase, Instagram takes a selling fee.
  2. Meta owns the customer data – The restaurant will only get an order summary, shipment and delivery details. The rest of the buying process (and all of the valuable data surrounding it) is owned by Instagram… which is Facebook… which is Meta… which is something to think about.

At Superb, we’re all about guest data. That’s why we created the Guest Experience Management (GXM) category. Owning and using guest data is how we see restaurants of the future running.

While the Checkout process sounds streamlined, it leaves your business without insights about the customer. We suggest doing your research before giving any more data to Meta.

Instagram shopping, however, is a safe way to promote your restaurant merchandise because customers purchase on your website, keeping you in control over the guest data. Click here to learn how to set up your Shop on Instagram.



How a webshop elevates the guest experience at your restaurant or bar

Nicola Fanetti, owner and Head Chef at Restaurant Brace in Copenhagen, Denmark, says, “At Brace, our dream is to give the guest a holistic experience that goes far beyond good food and wine. We want to create good experiences where aesthetics, taste and pampering go together, and where you can take the experiences with you in the form of good memories.

We are committed to hand-picking designers and manufacturers and have great attention to detail, both in the raw materials, but also through the design elements that are part of the Brace experience.”

And that’s what successful restaurant merchandise is really all about. One more way to connect with your guests and build on the experience.

Keep exploring

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