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How to earn extra profits and free advertising with retail merchandise

Selling retail and promotional items can help your company in many ways. It can help you enhance and strengthen your brand image, as well as bring in more revenue. It’s not just for big chain and theme restaurants anymore.

Any restaurant or foodservice owner or operator could benefit from it. If the merchandise is unique and interesting, and there are loyal customers, the merchandise will sell. The main thing that will help you succeed in selling retail merchandise is the visibility of the products and price, so make sure that you give customers a way to find out about these products. Set up a display case at the entrance of your operation, and use tent cards, signage, POP materials, or even email marketing to inform your customers of your products.

There are many benefits to selling retail products and almost no drawbacks. Most obviously, the sales of retail products will bring in an extra stream of revenue – typically gross profit returns of 50 per cent of sales. Each piece of merchandise you sell also acts as free advertising for your operation. And if you can’t sell any of it, you can always use it for promotional gifts.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, offers these ideas for developing a line of retail products that you can sell in your operation to increase profits and create free advertising:

Gift cards

Gift cards or certificates are a no-brainer. They are easy to make and easy to sell, especially during the holidays. Sales of gift cards are pure profit, as research has shown that nearly 25 per cent of gift cards never get used. Gift cards are also great for bringing new customers into your operation, as quite often, the recipient of the gift card has never visited your place.


T-shirts are the most popular retail item for restaurants, and are a great product to flaunt your brand. Many people wear t-shirts as a form of personal expression, so the creation of humorous or ironic slogans would also help sales. Ensure that the styles of your t-shirts suit your operation, and are in line with today’s fashions. For example, T-shirts geared for women should be fitted so that they are flattering. Colours should also be fitting with your brand. If your line of t-shirts is successful, expand to include polo shirts, long-sleeve T-shirts, tank tops, etc. Always include sizes for children.


Hats are a great retail product to sell as they are inexpensive to produce, and a great marketing tool. Whereas a T-shirt can get covered by jackets, scarves or a sweater, your restaurant’s logo/slogan is always prominently on display when one wears a hat.


Mugs and glassware are great products to sell, especially for coffee shops and bars. Include the sales of travel mugs, as they have better potential for greater word-of-mouth marketing. Look beyond traditional glassware and mugs, and think of shapes and sizes that are relatable to your brand and operation.


If your operation is well known for signature dishes, your customers may be interested in trying to recreate your dishes at home. Create a cookbook, but make sure not to include any of your trade secrets. Include simple dishes, or have your chef create specific recipes for the cookbook that are easy to understand and follow for the average home cook.

Packaged food items

By selling packaged food items, you give your customers an opportunity to take home a bit of your food. If you are famous for your salad dressing, barbecue sauce, jam, marinade, bread or any other item, consider bottling or packing up these items for sale. You can also vacuum pack pre-made dishes and freezing them, for a line of home-meal solution items. You could also consider selling packaged confectionary products labeled with your brand as souvenirs for kids.


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