Your restaurant is a brick and mortar business that relies on the surrounding community for its success. However, the internet gives you the ability to extend your reach far beyond your community to anyone that has an internet connection. If you have a strong brand, gimmick, or the ability to ship items you might find it beneficial to promote merchandise on your website.
For example, Hogs Breath, a prominent restaurant in downtown Key West, uses merchandise and a catchy tag line to capitalize on the exposure they receive.
Hogs Breath sells shirts, hats, visors, and mugs to visitors of all ages with their slogan, “Hogs Breath is better than no breath at all”. If you missed your chance to buy your shirt at the restaurant, you can order one directly on their website. Hogs Breath has now leveraged their local exposure to convert their customers into nationwide promoters. The catchy shirt makes for a conversation piece, and future Key West vacation goers will be sure to add Hogs Breath to their itinerary.
Your restaurant doesn’t need to be in the epicenter of a tourist destination to succeed online. G and M Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland will overnight fresh crab cakes to your front door. Their website even offers instructions on different ways to prepare your crab such as crab balls and cream of crab soup.
Tellers Chophouse in Long Island, NY uses their website to sell gift cards and custom steak knives. Customers can even make a deposit towards their upcoming corporate event or holiday party.
There are a variety of ways your restaurant can utilize the internet to expand your reach. Keep in mind that it’s a marathon not a sprint. It may take some time for your online store to gain momentum, however there is minimal downside as the start up cost is nominal. If your restaurant doesn’t have a gimmick like Hogs Breath or a signature item like G and M, you can begin by selling Gift Certificates and promoting the feature to your existing customers. You can also design some branded products to get your store started. Then, as you refine and improve your online store, you can begin targeting a larger audience.