Best Promotional Items for Restaurants

By Phil Piletic

Before you can delight guests with a fabulous dinner or drink, they’ve got to walk into your restaurant or bar as first-time or repeat customers.

Understanding that fact doesn’t require Newtonian brain power, but effective marketing does takes smarts. Let’s sharpen the marketing focus today with a question everyone tasked with promoting a restaurant or bar should answer: Where do promotional products fit in your marketing mix?

Restaurant & Bar Marketing Mix for Measurable Success

The Four Ps of Classic Restaurant Marketing

The four P’s of the classic mix for those in the hospitality and restaurant industry are:

  • Products. Starting with your establishment’s personality and presentation and extending to excellent food, varied and quality drink, and service that sparkles.
  • Prices. They need to hit the sweet spot where perceived value overlaps optimized profit.
  • Place. This can be figurative, such as getting your products on the right social media for your audience to engage with, and can be literal such as opening in a can’t-miss location.
  • Promotions. This includes promotional products that show off your wonderful food and drinks, compelling prices served up in a place and with a vibe your customers embrace.

A strategic, aggressive marketing mix will help you establish a strong foundation and build a burgeoning business.

Restaurant & Bar Promotional Product Selection Tips

Tips for choosing the best restaurant promotional item or product

Before we move on to the top promotional products for restaurants and bars, here are a few tips for making your choices.

1. Keep the guest in mind

You likely know your guests well enough to understand what they like or dislike, but here’s a way to take your understanding even deeper while building loyalty. Identify and reward your best customers with free first tastes of new menu items, discounts and other incentives in exchange for their feedback. Gather promotional products you think might be of interest, and let your guests’ pick their favorites before you place your large order.

2. Staying power is important

There’s a reason that cut flowers are lousy promotional items. Choose products with durability.

3. Choose a useful product

The pen was the king of the promotional product realm and may yet be again as more people use the cloud for digital storage. However, in the most recent data on the promotional products Australians find most useful, the mighty pen was passed by – and we just gave you a clue -- the USB!

Find the USB equivalent for restaurants and bars, and you’ve got a winner. Then again, your patrons would love a USB, wouldn’t they? Your logo on it will remind them of the gift.

4. Select a product that fits your image

Let common sense guide you. Inexpensive plastic cups with the restaurant’s logo are ideal for family restaurants; an etched wine glass is right for an upscale eatery. Switching the two products wouldn’t make sense. Be sure to pick a promo product that makes sense for the type of restaurant you run.

5. Order well in advance

If you want to tie a promotional item to a date-specific event, season, or the introduction of a new item on the menu, you need to schedule in advance.

Plan eight to 12 weeks out for something truly unique like this ketchup pack, and order four to six weeks in advance for a standard product customized to your restaurant or bar.

Top Promotional Products for Bars & Restaurants

Best Restaurant Promo Product Items

What promotional products are effective in the hospitality industry? Pens and USBs are universally appreciated and have good durability, so keep them in mind.

Here’s a list with more direct ties to what you offer.

  • Reusable bags (and more) for leftovers. Instead of sending guests out the door holding paper or plastic containers, place the container in a promotional bag -- Australia’s third favorite promotional item.

    Add a branded pen, coaster, hot pad or fridge magnet to the bag, and your customers will feel they’ve been given a bonus.

    Another idea is to place a coupon in the bag, something like a 2-for-1 drink special or 25% off a second diner’s entrée. This will get them planning their next visit.
  • Cups, glasses and mugs. As noted, make your choice appropriate to your style. These items feature good durability. To offset the cost and still give patrons a sense they’re getting a gift, some bars and restaurants reserve these items for specials such as the unique wine vintages, house drinks or specialty coffee concoctions that include a small up-charge.
  • Branded plates. If you’ve got a large steak, massive burrito or huge burger on the menu, serving it on a branded plate the diner can take home is a fun promotion. Of course, this must fit your style to be appropriate, and if you don’t want to encourage overeating, use the plate for a specialty item of standard size.
  • Clothing items. Major chains have done this for decades, so why shouldn’t you turn patrons into walking ads with hats, shirts, aprons and other wearables? Giving away items, selling them at cost, and a blend of the two are common approaches taken based on customer demand for the merchandise.
  • Umbrellas. The fifth most popular promotional item in Australia makes a fine gift, but is an expensive one. Instead of giving them away, some retailers and restaurateurs are loaning branded umbrellas to customers on rainy days as they head out the door. Offering a coupon for the next visit will help ensure they return with the umbrella and to get more of what you’re offering. Indeed, they’ll look forward to it.

As you ponder the promotional component of your marketing mix, which products suit your establishment’s style? The adage states, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” If you’re unsure about a first promo product to try, talk to your management and staff about it and query your customers too. They’ll give you sound advice that will lead to promotion with measurable return.

About the Author
Phil Piletic's primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business and marketing. Freelancer and writer, in love with startups, traveling and helping others get their ideas off the ground. Unwinds with a glass of scotch and some indie rock on vinyl.