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Lurch for the merch

Merchandise can be a great way to generate an extra revenue stream while boosting brand awareness

Fish and chip shops are always looking for new and different ways to promote their businesses and one avenue that can help take a brand further is merchandise.

Whether it’s batter or bags, t-shirts or tea towels, the great thing about branded merchandise is it often costs less than regular types of advertising, plus customers take these items into their homes and either hang on to them or pass them to friends and family, thereby extending the reach of a brand further.

But before you invest in boxes brimming with keyrings, cups and caps, there are factors you need to consider to avoid a stock room full of items you can’t shift. Firstly, you have to know your customer base - who they are and what they like - and select a product that will appeal. There’s no point marketing a tea towel to school kids or a baseball cap to pensioners. You also need a strong identity - strong enough for someone to want to part with their money for something carrying your logo and, finally, the item you choose should reflect your outlet. Branded crockery, for example, won’t suit a takeaway - a reusable takeaway cup might be better - but it could a high-end, sit down fish and chip restaurant.

Striking the balance perfectly is The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum, Perthshire, Scotland, which has been successfully selling branded travel mugs for ten years. Being a roadside fish and chip shop with lots of passing trade, the £7.50 cups, which come with a free hot drink when food is purchased, are a perfect tie-in with the outlet.

Owner Sarah Heward comments: “You’ve definitely got to find the right product. In the past, we have done things like t-shirts and sweatshirts but we just didn’t sell enough of them. You really don’t want to be tying up capital that could be working for you, so it’s important you do your market research and limit your exposure if you’re going into branded merchandise. People think it’s easy money, but it’s not.

“You’ve also got to have a strong brand identity and this is something we developed from the get-go. We actually had our logo designed before we opened and we’ve done a lot since then to try and increase our brand recognition.”

The Real Food Cafe also does a good trade in branded ponchos, not least because it rains regularly in Tyndrum but also because it makes a great souvenir. Sarah adds: “We get a lot of Chinese tourists buying these because they are packaged in a little plastic ball that says The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum, Scotland, so it’s a momento for them to take home and remind them of their visit to Scotland.”



Located in Aviemore, within Cairngorms National Park, in Scotland, Smiffy’s attracts hoards of holiday-makers and visitors throughout the year, in particular campers. When it rebranded the front of the shop several years ago, as part of the signage, owner Alan Smith incorporated the words Cairngorms National Park and soon noticed people were taking photos of themselves under the sign as it was capturing where they were.

“I thought why not try and do a souvenir,” says Alan, “and that’s when I thought about the camping mug. I never thought they would sell that well, but it’s amazed me. Last year I think we sold about 500. It’s not really about the profit, that’s minimal, but the awareness of our brand because people take them with them. I sell the mugs for £5.95 with a free tea or coffee but most of the time people don’t bother with the drink, they just want the mug.”


Located in predominately seaside locations, Papa’s has also hit the right note with its range of branded beach items including towels, beach bags, hats and t-shirts. Owner George Papadamou comments: “These items add to our guest experience and it’s a massive compliment that people want to eat at our restaurants and leave with a souvenir."

Although the items are proving popular, George does have a word of warning to others, adding: “It can get a little bit self-indulgent and before you know it you’ve tied up a couple of thousand pounds or more in branded merchandise that no one is ever going to buy. So be sure to choose items that people will use and which are relevant. A branded Papa’s beach towel, for us, ticks that box perfectly. “

You haven’t got to be in a tourist destination to make branded merchandise work for you. Another avenue to consider could be items you already sell - your food and drink. For example, Simpson’s in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, sells bags of its signature batter mix, while The Cod’s Scallops in Nottinghamshire has teamed up with a local brewery to create its own pale ale with the quirky name Scale Ale.

Proving a hit since adding them to the tables at Eric’s in Thornham, North Norfolk, is its own brand Spicy BBQ and Buffalo sauces. Owner Eric Snaith comments: “Creating a quality product was key when developing the sauces. We wanted them to stand up against the best in the market and be a good product in their own right. The sauces are designed to appeal to our demographic of customer who appreciates quality and is willing to pay a little extra for it.”

The sauces, which have become a unique feature of the shop, are on clear view in the restaurant and takeaway, and staff are trained to suggest them to customers that particularly like the sauces when dining. To encourage sales further, the sauces are promoted on social media, used as prizes in competitions and even available in many delis in the local area.

It’s important to remember that whatever you invest in, branded products have a life span so do refresh your range after a time. It could be a simple colour change or a new product. The Real Food Cafe’s is doing the latter after finding sales of its travel mugs are slowing down now that they have become commonplace items. Therefore, Sarah is looking at introducing refillable water bottles, which are not only on-trend but also fit in with Visit Scotland’s Year of the Coasts and Waters initiative launching next year.


• Choose items that reflect your brand, your outlet and your customer demographic.

• Display your items clearly and preferably at the point of purchase to maximise sales.

• Choose inexpensive items and don’t commit to buying large volumes - you want stock to be low enough to keep profits high but have enough so that you don’t run out.

• Ensure your items are kept clean and dust free - tatty labels on bottles and faded tea towels are never going to encourage a sale.

• Promote your merchandise on line and on social media and encourage customers to share photos of the items they have purcahased.

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