Your Restaurant Needs a Merch Line. Here’s why.

April 08, 2024

When people love something, they don’t hesitate to show it. 

Music lovers don their favorite band’s tees with pride, making sure to hit the merch stand after every live show. 

Sports lovers stack their wardrobes with logos, owning more of their favorite team’s colors than anything else. 

Fashion lovers surround themselves with instantly recognizable patterns, from checkmarks to intertwined L’s and V’s. 

But restaurant lovers? 

Well, they just haven’t had the same options available for professing their foodie-fueled love. 

That is, until now. 

 

The Rise of Restaurant Merch

While branded merchandise might not be new to the restaurant industry – we’re looking at you, Hard Rock Cafe! – its booming expansion definitely is. 

On August 8th, Square released its Q2 Restaurant Industry Report, reporting that “the number of food and beverage businesses offering branded merch…has doubled” since 2019. 

Considering the restaurant industry’s hardships over the past few years, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing a new revenue booster on the scene. There are a number of brands proving that merchandise is a viable, fun option to amp up revenue, increase brand awareness, and strengthen customer relationships — both with your brand and with other fans. 

 

Merch Success Stories 

When it comes to restaurants doing branded merch right, there are a few that reign supreme. 

Starbucks is one of the top performers when it comes to branded merch. From holiday ornaments to spooky Hallowe’en cups, Starbucks sells products that speak directly to coffee lovers…and the revenue numbers prove it. In 2022 alone, Starbucks generated $6.89B in the “other” category, including branded merch and other take-home items like syrups.  

Chick-fil-A is another gold-star example with their recent sauce-inspired apparel line. From tote bags to water bottles, Chick-fil-A crafted products that reflect the seven sauces their guests have “such passion for,” according to Sara Storck, Senior Director of Brand Strategy. They’ve also opted to sell the sauces themselves, which made up 14 percentage points for their retail sales in 2021

Finally, we’ve got Texas Roadhouse’s branded merch, a line of products that CEO Jerry Morgan says has been requested “for years.” In 2022, Texas Roadhouse made merch happen, launching hats, shirts, and even a honey cinnamon butter candle. With a revenue jump of almost 20% from 2022 to 2023, maybe merch was more in demand than originally thought. 

 

Marketing Your Merch 

If we’ve learned anything from Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, or Texas Roadhouse, it’s that branded merch can absolutely work for the restaurant industry. But, the reality is that the merch itself is only half the battle. 

Sure, you can make the merch, but how do you sell it?

Like most things in 2023, a stronger digital presence never hurts…which Dunkin’ Donuts is proving, one TikTok at a time. 

With 3.1 million followers on the app, Dunkin’ Donuts has taken advantage of the impact a viral video – or viral internet personality – can have. In 2020, TikTok personality Charlie D’Amelio collaborated with Dunkin’ Donuts, resulting in a new menu item, a brand new merch line, and incredible product exposure to Charlie’s audience of 151.1 million people

So, while most restaurants probably can’t get Martha Stewart on their TikTok, they can harness the power of an online presence. Getting online to increase brand awareness, have customers fall in love with your brand, and sell merch as a result is an easy win-win-win. 

 

Add Merch to Your Restaurant’s App

Once you’ve got your merch designed, made, and ready to sell, an apps is a great place to start selling. If your restaurant doesn't already have an app, we've got a solution. 

With Craver, you don’t need a separate digital storefront to sell merch — you can sell it right through your restaurant’s custom-branded mobile app. Once your merch is uploaded, customers can browse (and buy) your products as easily as they can order your menu items.

You can also leverage Craver’s push notifications to let customers know ASAP that merch is hot off the (t-shirt printing) press and ready to buy. 

 

Wrap Up 

With restaurant merch steadily rising and success stories popping up all over the industry, we’ll be seeing more and more restaurants offering us creative ways to rep their branding with pride. 

And who knows?

Maybe one day foodies will have more logos in their closets than football fans do.