With over 600,000 restaurants and 62,000 bars in the US, the competition can be fierce, points out Gwen Brey of Beacon Promotions. Food and drink sales reached over $745 billion and are still growing. There are approximately 15 million people working in bars and restaurants nationally. “Therefore, items like magnets that can be used on the refrigerator are a constant reminder of the venue,” she comments. “These items can be printed with a phone number for easy access and a website with menus, events, etc. It’s a constant reminder of the good time the customer had at the venue or event.”
Jake Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing for Webb Collection reminds us to not forget about the companies that supply the bars and restaurants, as a large number of his company’s promotional products are sold to the beer/wine/spirits distributors and not directly to the bars and restaurants. “I see some of the minimums in the industry as a deterrent to the single restaurant entities,” he remarks. “The actual breweries, wineries, and distilleries are looking to promote their product both to the retailers as well as the consumer — so having an effective ad campaign can do wonders to increase sales. Gifts with purchase and sign up to win campaigns are popular for consumers. Also, our products are commonly used as incentives and gifts for retailers.”
More than ever, says Lindsey Farm, marketing coordinator, Best Promotions USA, eateries and bars are trying to create memorable experiences by hosting events such as bands, partnering with other businesses for value-added exposure, holding competitions such as trivia nights, sponsoring a local sports team and much more. These events are meant to raise awareness and increase patronage. There are many fun and inexpensive items that the establishment can give away here – and also sell T-shirts, caps and tank tops, too.
Also seeing this trend is Carrie Lewis, marketing/communications manager for BIC Graphic, who observes that increasingly, more bars and restaurants are hosting events like tasting dinners and street fairs (in conjunction with local tourism and municipality organizations) as consumer trends shift toward experiential spending. “Every special event is another opportunity for promotional items to enhance the occasion,” she emphasizes. “Additionally, many such events are sponsored by local companies or food/beverage suppliers – so a promo sponsorship can be built in without added cost to the hosting establishment.”
As far as some hot trends, Lewis reports that eco-friendly promotions, driven by the resistance to single-use plastic, are popular in the food and beverage industry right now. “Silicone, plastic or metal options are memorable eco-conscious giveaways, and fully imprinted paper straws are great for everyday use by customers.”
A rapidly growing trend is food delivery apps/services such as GrubHub and DoorDash. These are welcome by establishments that do not have delivery on their menus, and when they do join the service, this is a great opportunity to include “classic and effective promos like pens that can help restaurants spread the word about new delivery services and remind people they can still have their favorites when they don’t feel like going out,” suggests Lewis.
As can be imagined, competition for tummy-filling (and the attendant dollars) is fierce in areas like downtowns or on busy highways. Good news is that we need to eat daily and if we’re busy and on the move, we enter a bar or restaurant. “Competition is fierce in the bar/restaurant industry and anything they can do to set themselves apart and encourage people to try them out and come back is crucial,” Farm underscores. “Investing in promotional items helps to increase their reach and acts as a reminder of the great times had.”
There are solid reasons for your local eatery or bar to invest in promotional items to create a buzz, establish loyalty and position their brands.
“Promotional items should be part of the larger mix to attract and keep patrons – good food, service, atmosphere, are all part of the mix,” states Ron Rosencrans, CAS, president, ProRose Inc. “If a diner leaves the establishment after a good meal or enjoyable evening, and has a souvenir cup in their hand they will remember the experience and it will be an easy decision the next time they are choosing locations for their night out. It also won’t hurt to have that cup being used and viewed at home day after day.”
In Lewis’ viewpoint, people who love a restaurant or bar are great promoters because they want to share their favorite places with their family, friends and even co-workers. As such, promotional products will remind them of good times they’ve had at these establishments, and prompt others to ask these loyal brand ambassadors why they should spend money with those businesses.
Josette Bosse of Bay State points to Americanna’s Cork Coasters as big sellers for restaurants/breweries and wineries. For example, the Barrel Cork Coaster provides a protective barrier against water rings and scratches, and it is both absorbent and durable. People like to collect coasters and this one, says Bosse, will be a constant reminder of your customer’s bar when taken home!
Peterson has an interesting take that can be used to persuade your bar/restaurant clients to engage in effective promotions: “People will not always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. A gift, a drink special, a food discount will invoke a feeling in any customer. Consumers want to be impressed or feel like they are getting a good deal or are getting more for less. Promotional products are a great tool to take any campaign to the next level. Offering a creative, decorative, tangible item will enhance the experience and keep the bar/restaurant top of mind.”
As the number of food and drink events grow – including food festivals, restaurant weeks and pub crawls – attendees will be spending quite a bit of money to sample. Promotional products distributors can seek out the organizers as well as the participants.
For example, Beacon Promotions, says Brey, can produce banners that can be used for sponsorships and events. “We can provide name badges for event staff. We can also provide the coasters, bottle openers, loyalty discount cards, and a variety of other items that can be tied into a theme.”
Rosencrans advises to realize that these events are planned early, so contact the organizers of the event early as well. Ask if there is a theme, what it is, the timing, the locations, the participants, how they are marketing it. “The organizers will have their hands full with planning and implementing, so if a distributor can offer to handle the promotional aspects of the event it will be received well,” he comments. “Put together themes and ideas and present to all of the bars and restaurants in the area. If you are able to sign up a few locations it will be hard for the others to say no and be left out. You can sell anything from bottle openers to T-shirts, and event-themed drinking vessels that can be used at all participating locations, etc. There’s a lot here.”“The great thing about the popularity of food tourism events is that there is something for everyone, so the opportunity for promo is huge,” Lewis emphasizes. “These food and drink events run from high-end foodie events to casual pub crawls or food truck festivals. High-end events may have tiered tickets, so promos could have a place as an added incentive to purchase a more expensive access ticket,” she explains. “Something like an espresso set makes a great add-on to a VIP ticket package.”
For festivals that emphasize local breweries or wineries, says Rosencrans, logoed cups that are built into the cost of the drink and given away are very popular, as patrons love to get something they can bring home. “Sampling and tasting cups are a very strong category for ProRose. Typically, patrons visit many vendors at a brewfest, and they will want small tastings of many different brands. Our 5-oz mugs, tasters, samplers are all great for these events, and distributors can offer them as an inexpensive product that distributors can sell,” he says.
BEST Promotions also supplies drinkware items and accessories, including the Slap Wrap drink coolie, which is now available in both round and oval shapes, Farm reports. At a lower price point, she notes, standard drink coolies can make a bold statement, offering a variety of shapes/sizes, full-color imprinting and can even be upgraded with rhinestones and spangles. “Drinkware products make for great items available for purchase or a raffle type giveaway at any food and drink festival or for themed nights at restaurants. Also, a full-color metal bottle opener is an eye-catching item that can be used by a bar or given away at an event.”
Webb Company, says Peterson, provides an assortment of bottle openers, corkscrews, and coasters, perfect for bars. Because most of these items are relatively inexpensive, he emphasizes, they are a great starting point that can lead to more expensive items on future orders. “They are useful, light-weight and easy to carry, which consumers appreciate if they are expected to take them home with them.”
Also, don’t forget to ask about logoed table covers as well as staff apparel and aprons.
Remember, everyone loves to dine out. From festivals to high-end restaurants, to beachside bars and everything in between, there is a full-plate of promotional opportunities!CASE STUDIES
Ron Rosencrans, CAS, president, ProRose Inc.: “A microbrewery/restaurant was introducing their new summer ale and wanted to give away cups that would show their product and logo. They chose the ProRose 16-oz and 24-oz ProWare cups. Made of crystal clear unbreakable Tritan and printed in full-color graphics, these cups did the job and their customers were thrilled to be able to order the summer brew and get a cup to take home. Several re-orders followed throughout the summer.”
Gwen Brey of Beacon Promotions: “A local bar was planning an Octoberfest event and worked with the local brewery; the two businesses co-sponsored the event. The event was held at the bar, but the brewery had a trailer, with kegs of their beer, in the parking lot. The staffing for the event included employees from both businesses. They had full-color banners printed with their logos. They also ordered name badges since the staff didn’t know everyone working. They also gave out a co-branded Bottle Opener (#HW53BO-4CP) to anyone who ordered a beer from the brewery. The bar and brewery are already making plans for next year’s event.”
Lindsey Farm, marketing coordinator, Best Promotions USA: “A bar was hosting a band and with each cover charge purchased, the customer was given a themed Slap Wrap with both an image of the band along with the bar’s logo imprinted on it. Customers used this around their beverages purchased that night and being a Slap Wrap, it fit around any drink including cans and bottles. Because the Slap Wraps included an image of a band customers enjoy and are useful items, they were taken home and continued to be used, increasing the bar’s exposure to potential new customers and serving as a reminder of a great time had by attendees.”