The Best Holiday Restaurant Merch of 2023
November 6, 2023
Marketing your merchandise as easy holiday gifts can generate additional revenue this season. Here are some examples to inspire you.
Restaurants are getting increasingly creative with their merchandise offerings — from gift boxes and t-shirts to housemade sauces and more. It’s an easy way to help your bottom line and represent your brand. Plus, it’s a great moneymaker during the holidays.
Your holiday merch offerings should be cost-effective, easy to execute, and meet customer demand. Take what you’re already selling year-round and use a few, simple marketing tactics to create awareness and drive more sales:
Use notification banners and pop-ups on your website to drive to your online store.
Turn your social media followers into buyers with direct links to buy.
Send automated marketing campaigns like email updates to current customers.
Below, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite offerings to inspire operators. They're divided into four categories: spices & seasonings, homeware, clothing, and food.
Spices & Seasonings
Here’s how successful restaurants are turning their unique flavors into marketable products. Whether you want to sell a carefully crafted spice blend or a beloved seasoning from your menu, this category of merchandise is always a crowd pleaser.
Cafe Patachou | Indianapolis, Indiana | $8.95
Highlight what you’re best known for. For Cafe Patachou, that’s their signature blend of cinnamon sugar. Since the Indianapolis institution is a world-renowned spot, they can market this little goodie as a great post-trip keepsake for visitors. And for those who haven’t visited, it’s a way to try a taste of the ingredients used at the award-winning restaurant.
For restaurants looking to mimic this strategy, you can even include recipe cards with a purchase or a small note with a QR code that links to online recipe ideas. Lastly, offering a gift card, ribbon, or bow add-on (for a fee) can make it easier for customers to buy for host and hostess gifts.
Fish Cheeks | New York, New York | $15
There are often menu items that are beloved by diners like the Zabb Wings at Fish Cheeks. The team at this family-style Thai seafood spot takes the seasoning from that cherished dish — lemongrass, Makrut lime leaves, and Thai chili powder — and packages it up for sale in their online store. Items like this are great not only for locals to get their fix but also for loyal customers who want to share tastes from their favorite restaurants with family and friends located elsewhere.
Trio of Seasonings
the girl & the fig | Sonoma, California | $30
Seasoning jars and spice mixes are a popular merchandise offering. Make sure to provide clear instructions on how to store the products and their shelf life so that customers get the best experience from their purchase. You might also want to provide guidance on which spices to use on specific cuts of meat like the girl & the fig does.
Steak Rub Seasoning
Heirloom | Midway, Kentucky | $75
Extend the restaurant experience to customer’s homes. French-inspired fine dining restaurant Heirloom takes the same ingredients used on their filet (garlic powder, porcini mushroom powder, sugar, salt, and pepper flakes) and packs the rub into 3 oz. jars. Selling your spice mix online is a given, but you might also want to dedicate a visible area in your restaurant to set up a product display as well. This can be behind or next to your host stand, in the entryway of the restaurant, or next to the register for counter-service concepts.
Each piece featured in homeware carries a touch of the restaurant’s personality, from SUR's signature candle that transports you to their West Hollywood dining room to Nat's on Bank's whimsical ceramic creamer pots. These items serve as mementos of memorable dining experiences, which is a big bonus when it comes to holiday gifts.
Hanoi House | New York, New York | $75
Hanoi House in New York City sells the dinner plates that they use at the restaurant directly to customers. With a distinct pattern, this merchandise item is memorable and makes you feel like you’re getting a restaurant-inspired dining experience right at home. As with any delicate merch, just make sure you’re investing in suitable packaging for shipping to avoid breaking anything. And if you partner with a local designer on custom plates, ask if they’ll sell them on their website too as a way to cross-promote the collaboration.
Ceramic Creamer Pot
Nat’s on Bank | New York, New York | $12
Ceramic ware might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to restaurant merchandise, but it’s a category to consider. Nat’s on Bank in New York City is known for its for “elevated, New York classics but with a touch of whimsy,” and that playfulness plays out in their online merchandise store with their elephant creamer (there’s also a dog creamer for diners who prefer canine-themed decor). If you’re interested in exploring ceramic merchandise but more specialized pieces like creamer pots feel too intimidating, start with plates, mugs, or bowls.
Cold Brew Starter Kit
Saxby’s | Across the United States | $60
For coffee shops and bakeries, think about offering a cold brew kit like Saxby’s does. Theirs is an at-home version of the process they use in their cafes and comes with two bags of coarsely ground coffee, reusable filters, and paper filters.
SUR | West Hollywood, California | $40
Candles are a creative merch option that stand out to customers. West Hollywood’s SUR has an entire candle line as part of their merchandise offerings. They partnered with a women-owned, French-based candlemaker to produce their signature candle, which brings the restaurant’s “signature scent” (a blend of lemon myrtle, bergamot orange, geranium, and coriander) to the home.
When you first think of restaurant merchandise, your mind might immediately go to apparel. And, it’s a common category for a reason. T-shirts and totes are two of the most popular offerings under the clothing umbrella, and here are two that really stand out.
Rotisserie Chicken T-Shirt
Willa’s | Tampa, Florida | $40
Create t-shirt designs that reflect the identity and personality of your restaurant. Use elements like your logo or unique features of your establishment, and consider collaborating with local artists or designers to generate more buzz and appeal to a broader audience.
Willa’s, an all-day neighborhood restaurant in Tampa, shows off their signature dish on their t-shirts: a rotisserie chicken. Apparel like this are cute, quirky, and memorable. These can be sold year-round but also make perfect white elephant gifts during the holidays.
Negroni, Rigatoni, Repeat Tote Bag
La Pecora Bianca | New York, New York | $25
Tout sustainability by selling a branded tote (and be picky about your production materials to ensure durability). Apparel is a go-to merchandise idea for a reason — it turns purchasers into walking billboards for your restaurant. La Pecora Bianca in New York City stays on-brand with their tote offering. It’s clear the spot serves Italian food from the phrasing on the bag. Also, the restaurant logo isn’t so front-and-center that it completely consumes the design and overshadows the look.
Selling food as merchandise is a no-brainer for restaurants. Between baked goods, jarred sauces, specialty olive oils, and gift boxes, there’s no shortage of ideas.
Little Tart Bakeshop | Atlanta, Georgia | $15
Consumable gifts have been growing in popularity over the past few years. In fact, as of 2021, food gift sales represent a $33 billion market. When selling housemade products, ensure the items meet the same high standards as the food served in your establishment — consistency in taste, texture, and presentation is crucial. French-inspired pastry shop Little Tart ships their granola just twice a week to maintain a consistent production schedule and optimize freshness.
Brown Butter Jar
Bogart’s Doughnut Co. | Minneapolis, Minnesota | $28
If you have a signature sauce or glaze, bottle it up for your biggest fans. Bogart’s Doughnut Co. takes their beloved recipe for brown butter glaze and sells it in 12 oz. jars. In the product description on their online store, they share creative ideas for how to use the glaze (whether on breakfast toast or as potato chip dip). Suggestions of easy ways to use the product make for more enticing sales copy and can help boost sales.
Ultimate Gourmet Gift Box
Prati Italia | Jacksonville, Florida | $100
Combine a bunch of your holiday merchandise to create a curated bundle. Customers get a full snapshot of your brand through an all-in-one high ticket item. Gift boxes can include items like wine you sell in your dining room, sauces, mixes, snacks, and swag. Prati Italia sells their “Ultimate Gourmet Gift Box” which includes fresh sauces and made in-house pasta plus a recommended wine from their chef.
Specialty Olive Oil
Lula Cafe | Chicago, Illinois | $55
When thinking about what type of merchandise to offer, reflect on your restaurant’s values. Chicago’s Lula Cafe has a mission to “to create joyful moments for our community by sharing food with love.” Their entire merch line-up showcases that pursuit, especially their family olive oil. The product photography is beautiful, and the product description shares a behind-the-scenes look at how the oil is sourced and bottled.
Cheese & Caramel Popcorn Mix
Moore Poppin | Chicago, Illinois | $55
A large tub of popcorn is always one of those holiday gifts that gets a big smile. Moore Poppin sells theirs in a two-gallon bucket that’s a mix of cheese and caramel popcorn with pecans. Because popcorn is perishable, invest in packaging that keeps it fresh and in good condition during transit.
Primos Cafe and Bakery | Jackson, Mississippi | $27.60
Holiday gifts and baked goods go hand in hand, just ask Primos Café and Bake Shop. The Mississippi mainstay has been around for almost 100 years and stays updated with the times by embracing e-commerce as a revenue source. They’re shipping out boxes of gingerbread men through their online merchandise store. If you decide to sell edible products like this too, don’t forget to share important information like ingredients, allergen warnings, and nutritional facts on the packaging.
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