Creative products and innovative ideas will have restaurant and bar clients coming back for seconds.

That t-shirt with the tongue-in-cheek slogan earned a rightful place in your closet when you won the chili contest; the neon shot glasses on your shelf conjure a fond, if somewhat hazy, memory of the best spring break ever. And neither of these treasured souvenirs might have made their way into your hands without the aid of a creative promotional consultant.

Bars and restaurants fight for loyal patrons with every happy hour, holiday promotion and grand opening. Promotional products are an ideal way to keep customers coming back, but getting the right products into the right hands is the first step to serving up success.

“The biggest area of concern is making sure you have the decision maker in front of you,” says Brad Bartlett, vice president of supplier Optigraphics (UPIC: OPTI2000) in Dallas, Texas. “You must ask, ‘Who makes the final decision on promotional items for your restaurant?’”

Once the person in charge has given you their full attention, Bartlett says the key to keeping it is to offer something singular and uniquely suited to the client’s business. “The challenge is always what you can bring to the table that is unique,” Bartlett says. “Make sure you really know the business; you do that by being a customer there—even just once.”

Kelly Bird, account manager at distributor Quality Logo Products (UPIC: qualityl) in Aurora, Illinois, says, “The best thing I can advise to a client in any industry who isn’t sure what to buy is, ‘Buy something you would want to use yourself. Make sure you choose an item that is pertinent to your business and use a clever imprint that will help the recipient remember your brand.’ Do your best to make the item really practical and unique.”

Bartlett says his customers are always seeking unusual items, such as his company’s OPTIchrome signs, Magic Motion lenticular coasters and Water Reveal placemats—and even high-end options. “[Give them] things they can’t get anywhere else,” he says. “They want to stand out from the crowd.”

To make typical items more appealing to clients and their customers, Optigraphics creates prize promotions with its Water Reveal coasters. “Even low-level prizes like a free drink work marvelously,” he says.

Bartlett recommends taking a mental inventory of what’s already in use at the restaurant, especially at the bar. “Napkins, coasters, signs, swizzle sticks … all of it you can supply them with their logo. … Make sure—make triple sure—you ask about upcoming holidays. An incredible amount of spending goes into these events.”

Bird says one thing that sets bar and restaurant clients apart from other industries is the frequency in which they order. “They often don’t have the storage available to hold thousands of different items [at once], so they order smaller quantities—sometimes monthly, or bimonthly. Popular items are uniform shirts, pens, cups, bottle openers, can coolers, coasters and mints.”

Bird says consultants should be mindful of the client’s budget, but also be prepared to show the value of promotional marketing. ““The biggest hurdle to get any client over is the cost. Bars and restaurants tend to be very budget-conscious, so their promo items need to be inexpensive,” she says.

“You have to spend money to make money, and promotional products have to be looked at as an investment in your business. In the long run they are a really affordable way to get your name in front of clients and help them remember you. Provide your clients with a really useful item that they carry with them and use again, and you are also advertising to an unlimited amount of future clients as well.”


Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

Beacon Brew2Go web

A local bar held an annual Mardi Gras festival in the winter months to chase away the winter blues. The bar gave away the plastic Brew2Go drinking glass to the first 100 people who joined the event. The glass is a memorable, functional gift that builds name recognition for the bar every time it is used.

Source: Beacon Promotions

Bonica coasters web

A set of six brushed stainless steel MoMA coasters in a brushed nickel container will dress up any lounge or cocktail bar. These coasters are padded with a felt bottom and can be laser engraved for customization. Each set comes packaged in a black gift box.

Bonica Precision (Canada) Inc. UPIC: BONICA

Diversified food container web

Brands tag along with tasty extras in a 24-ounce microwaveable, reusable takeout container. The black container is made in the U.S. and can be imprinted with a logo or name.

Diversified-Adtee UPIC: DAPADTEE

starline corkscrew web

Bartenders and waitstaff appreciate having the Eon corkscrew on hand. This uniquely designed, easy-to-use, two-step corkscrew is compact enough to carry in an apron or pants pocket. The opener features an integrated foil cutter to help remove the foil, and with the integrated leveler, any wine bottle can be opened in three easy movements.

Starline USA, Inc. UPIC: STAR0009

BIC Koozie web

Keep patrons’ drinks cool with a classic collapsible KOOZIE® can cooler, made with post-consumer recycled material.


Beacon bottle opener web

Appease thirsty patrons quickly with the flat stainless steel bottle opener. Add a company name or logo to customize it, and pass it out to staff or gift it to loyal customers.

Beacon Promotions UPIC: BEACONP

J America hoodie web

Make a toast to warmth with the Huzu TAILGATE Hoody. The hooded sweatshirt features an insulated neoprene pocket that keeps drinks cold and hands warm, and it doubles as a padded security pouch for smartphones, wallets or other valuables. With the attached metal bottle/can opener, it’s a smart choice for waitstaff at craft brewery-themed restaurants or casual pubs. Choose from black, charcoal heather, oxford and navy in sizes S – 3XL.

J. America Wholesale Blanks Div. UPIC: Blanks

Fey Line check presenter 1 web

Exquisitely stitched fronts and inside pockets ensure these check presenters will last, and a custom imprint on the front will ensure a lasting impression with patrons.

Fey Promotional Products Group (UPIC: FEY)

Premium Line mixing bowls web

Prep and store secret recipes in a set of nesting mixing bowls. The five stainless steel bowls come with snap-on lids and a set of five measuring spoons. The largest bowl measures 7.25 inches in diameter.

The Premium Line UPIC: PREM0018

Menu Solutions table tent web

The eye-catching stainless steel used to craft this table tent puts clients’ best dishes on display.

Menu Solutions, Inc. UPIC: Menu

crown tumbler web

Toast to a great giveaway promotion with the BPA-free Manhattan double-wall tumbler. It features a slider lid and holds seven ounces covered, or 10 ounces uncovered. Choose from aqua, blue, clear, red or smoke, and add a single-color imprint.

Crown Products, Inc. UPIC: CROWNPRO

Aprons Etc. apron

Outfit restaurant staff with a full-length 22-inch-by-30-inch apron that’s adjustable at the neck and features two seven-inch patch pockets, as well as 24-inch waist ties. The 45/55 poly-cotton twill apron comes in white, natural, black, forest green, red, navy blue and royal blue.

Aprons, Etc. UPIC: APRONS

ADG pint glass webADG wine glass web

Brighten up the bar with U.S.-made pint glasses imprinted in full color, or delicately decorated 12.75-ounce wine taster glasses with a footed stem, balloon body and wide mouth.

ADG Promotional Products (UPIC: ADGPROMO)

Q&A With Patrick Black

President/CEO, distributor Perfect Imprints (UPIC: perfimpr) in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Patrick-Black-Photo webPPB What do you recommend to bars and restaurants that want to use promotional products?

Black I typically recommend three types of products for restaurants: products that bring new customers into their establishment, products that reinforce branding of their restaurant, and products that help bring patrons back to their restaurant.

PPB What challenges do you face when working with these clients?

Black The biggest challenge when providing ideas to clients is educating them that promotional products are much more than a simple commodity. Many clients call to order items with no real plan of how they will distribute the items. I like to help my clients work out a plan to use their items for maximum effectiveness so their promotional items will help attract new customers as well as strengthen relationships with their existing customers.

PPB What characteristics set bar and restaurant clients apart from other industries?

Black Restaurants typically have a larger number of competitors than other industries. Because of this, being creative to entice patrons to visit and frequent their restaurant is extremely important. Creative marketing campaigns coupled with promotional products can help those restaurants stand out boldly among their competitors.

PPB What’s hot with clients these days?

Black Some of the most popular items with bars and restaurants are ones you would expect, such as pens, coasters, feather flags, banners, yard signs, menus, aprons, t-shirts and drink tokens. Many of these “staple” products are often ordered two to three times per year. We also have a large number of clients who order beer buckets so they can offer “Bucket of Beer” specials to their customers, and several clients who offer an extraordinary hot sauce, salad dressing, salsa or other great food product they like to bottle and sell. We assist these clients in creating a retail look for their packaging to help them sell more of those products.

PPB What’s not so hot anymore?

Black Matchbooks used to be a big seller for bars and restaurants since they are such low-cost giveaways; however, since many states have banned smoking in restaurants and bars, matchbook sales have declined for the industry.


America’s Appetite

In 2015, one million restaurant locations employed roughly 14 million people—10 percent of the nation’s workforce—and recorded just over $709 billion in sales in 2014. (That’s four percent of U.S. GDP!)

In 2015, the top states for restaurant growth were Arizona, Florida, North Dakota, Texas and Colorado.

Exploring the world, one plate at a time

Americans love ethnic cuisine. Three in five consumers consider themselves worldly diners, while two-thirds report eating a wider variety of cuisines than they did five years ago. Diners prefer to go out for sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, Brazilian/Argentinean, Greek and Southeast Asian; for dining in, they prefer to order Chinese, Mexican or Italian for takeout or delivery.

Digital Dining

Smartphone-savvy consumers are more likely to use restaurant tech options to get their grub on. Twelve percent of Millennial diners order takeout or delivery at least once a week through restaurant apps, compared to just eight percent of Baby Boomers. But both generations pay for meals via a smartphone app at least once a week in equal proportion—10 percent.

Source: National Restaurant Association


Food Trends Of 2016

Seaweed Takes Shore Leave

The ocean veggie that’s sustainable and nutrient-rich is predicted to supplant kale on consumer plates.

Frankenfish Swims To Market

Genetically modified salmon received FDA approval last year, and while roughly a third of Americans surveyed say they aren’t concerned about modified food, groups opposed to genetic modification aren’t likely to clam up any time soon.

Grocery Delivery Battles Heat Up

Target, Costco and Whole Foods are joining the ranks of the grocery-delivery services, currently led by Fresh Direct and Amazon Fresh. Walmart continues to expand its pick-up service as well.

Ramen Experiences A Revival

The college student’s best friend, ramen soup, is predicted to be the fuel for pop-up noodle shops around the globe.