What is merchandising and why should you care about it?
Merchandising encompasses the things your clients see when they enter your business. The promotional material, the items for sale, and the general theme of the space impact how your customer remembers their experience. In a restaurant setting, there tends to be limited merchandising space, so it’s even more important to get this right. A restaurant has a shorter amount of time to make an impression than a retail store, so improving your merchandising plan can make a huge difference.
Merchandising your restaurant becomes incredibly important as you try to increase business and grow your customer loyalty. But how do you get started with merchandising your restaurant? There are two main categories you need to focus on: branding and placement.
The first thing that should be done when starting a restaurant is establishing the brand. Determining the brand will influence the rest of the merchandising efforts, so make sure to think about it thoroughly.
Consider how you want customers to think and feel about the brand.
The logo and restaurant design will influence how customers remember the establishment, so make sure that it is “on brand.” Whether the goal is to appear as a hip and trendy location, or as a classic, family-style restaurant, there should be a consistent theme that can be seen and felt throughout the business–from the decor, to the merchandise, and all the way down to the menus.
Create a brand guide that describes the company esthetic including color scheme, logos, and even inspiration photos to simplify later design or merchandising choices. It’s important for the merchandise to match the brand. Whether prospective customers see an advertisement on a website or someone wearing a branded t-shirt walking down the road, they should be able to understand the type of restaurant it is just by looking at it. Consistency is key when it comes to branding, focusing the company vision helps to guarantee that it comes across clearly.
Give the customers a full experience by activating all of their senses from the moment they walk in.
When meeting someone new, there is always an immediate first impression that influences future interactions. The same thing is true of restaurants. Customers will develop a first impression as soon as they walk in, so make sure they have all of the information they need to make a positive connection.
Take all five senses into account when designing the entry to the restaurant:
- Have visually appealing decor that fits with the brand that draws their eyes up and around the restaurant.
- The smell of the food will help entice customers and get them excited for their meals.
- Play music that fits with the brand but make sure it’s not too overpowering.
- Set merchandise up as soon as the customers enter, giving them something to touch and look through while they wait.
- And finally, when possible, offer small samples of the food to get them interested, maybe even encouraging them to try something they wouldn’t have thought to order.
Create a unique and appealing display for merchandise.
Every restaurant is trying to gain more customers, and many use merchandising to try and do so. But one way to stand out from the rest is by making the displays unique. Don’t use the same boring shelves everyone else uses; find something that matches the theme and build off of that.
For example: If it’s a coffee shop with an industrial theme to it, the displays can be made using pipes and metal; or maybe the restaurant is focused on an ecologically friendly approach, so displays can be made from upcycled furniture.
It doesn’t matter how awesome the merchandise is if no one is looking at it, so make sure there is something drawing attention to the product or decor to make the most of the opportunity. Lighting is a key element for this.
Always consider the brand when selecting product to sell at the restaurant.
Merchandising in a restaurant doesn’t always mean items like t-shirts or coffee cups, it can also include the foods offered on the menu. The way the menu is arranged can influence the choices the customers make. The menu should fit with the brand, just like everything else in the store.
For example: When setting up a fast-food restaurant it’s important to have the best value items listed clearly on large easy-to-read displays, but in a more traditional restaurant an on-brand physical menu that customers can look through is necessary.
When deciding on any kind of merchandise to sell, as always, keep the brand in mind. A burger restaurant doesn’t need to sell coffee mugs, but instead, they can sell the custom sauces they use on their burgers. A coffee shop, however, could sell travel mugs that act as a natural advertising opportunity.
Selling merchandise will likely never be the primary source of income for a restaurant, but it can encourage brand loyalty and awareness which is always beneficial in this competitive field. Once the branding is properly established, a restaurant can focus on the placement of the merchandise they sell.
Now that you have established your brand, you’re going to be able to develop the perfect merchandising plan based on a few factors.
Product placement at your site will depend on the items you’re selling.
Selling merchandise is all about getting more eyes on the product. It’s obviously impossible to sell things to people who haven’t seen the items, so it’s important to put the items for sale in locations that are guaranteed to have customer traffic.
It’s always a good tactic to place small and inexpensive items near the cash or hostess stand because people won’t think twice before adding it to their purchase. Newer or more expensive items are best placed close to the door, or close to where customers wait to be seated, so they see it as soon as they walk in and will be drawn to looking at the items while they wait to be served.
Study customer traffic flow to maximize sales.
It’s important to study your customers’ regular traffic patterns when deciding where to set up the merchandise. Customers tend to follow the same paths when navigating a restaurant, so by examining these patterns, the prime merchandise locations will become clear.
Keep items within reach of your clients so they can take a closer look.
People love to be able to pick things up and look at them closer before they decide to purchase it. Keep merchandise within reach of customers so it is clear what items are for sale. Giving them the opportunity to interact with the products encourages them to become attached to it and choose to buy it.
Don’t neglect the upkeep of the items.
After putting a significant amount of effort into branding and designing unique displays and selecting merchandise, it’s important to keep up with the displays. Don’t allow dust to collect on items, and make sure to refresh the layout and organization of the products regularly.
If everything is always in the same place, it may appear to regular customers that it’s the same product that isn’t selling. By refreshing the layout and keeping it tidy and dust-free, the customers feel as though the product they are purchasing is new.
Cross-merchandising popular items can help boost sales.
If there is a particular item that always sells really well, consider cross-promoting a less popular item alongside it. It helps to draw in a new group of clients who may have been unaware of the item before and may encourage them to try more new items as well.
Track how the placement impacts the bottom line.
There are always going to be some products that sell better than others. It’s important to keep detailed reports because it can help to determine not only which items are the best sellers, but also if the placement is affecting sales. Trying out different arrangements will help to identify prime locations that will be useful when launching new items.
Keep it up.
Combining your branding with well thought-out placement will guarantee that the restaurant will find success with all of their merchandising efforts. Don’t be afraid to try something new because it might be the change needed to take the restaurant to the next level.
Now that you’ve got the perfect merchandising planned out, you’re ready to get your displays in order. Download our easy to use Merchandising Checklist to make the most of your displays. We recommend following the list at least once per week to increase the interest in your merchandise.