Why Restaurants Need To Explore Retail

There are many examples of chains finding success with sales beyond the plate:

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store for example, generated 19.2% of its Q3 revenue from its retail segment, according to the chain’s quarterly filing. Cracker Barrel is expanding its retail offerings to appeal to millennials with retro T-shirts, vinyl records and old-school candies and sodas.

Firehouse Subs sells dozens of hot sauce varieties in stores and online, allowing consumers to bring one of the chain’s signature items home.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants sells more than 50 varieties of wine in the restaurant and counts more than 200,000 people as members of its wine club. Wine club members meet monthly at the restaurants for tastings and events.

Tex-Mex chain Tijuana Flats sells branded hot sauces, as well as a line of snarky T-shirts that fit the brand’s irreverent image.

Of course, the tongue-in-cheek shirts of Tijuana Flats wouldn’t fit in a more serious, wine-focused establishment like Cooper’s Hawk.

How can a restaurant owner be smart about adding a retail component to the operation?

First of all, think like a retailer. Make sure your product is well-merchandised. Feature it in a chain-appropriate display case or another area that’s well-lit and inviting. Make sure consumers know the items are available for purchase, via in-store signage, check notifiers, social media and other avenues. Make the items easy to buy. Be sure to staff the checkout area.

Think about the brand above all else. Branded merchandise builds logo awareness long after the dining occasion has ended.

Think of ways to extend your brand through retail merchandise. Cooper’s Hawk, for instance, sells wine accessories like bottle toppers, pourers and aerators to enhance its wine offerings.

Be thoughtful about what you’re selling. Think about your reasonsor offering retail items. Does your chain offer a signature item? To what demographic are you hoping to appeal?

With some smart merchandising and the right products, restaurant operators can weather a tough economy by growing their selling opportunities.