When it comes to restaurants, there’s a lot to a name. First impressions are formed within 10 seconds of encountering a brand, but 45 percent of people will unfollow a company on social media if they feel they’re being overtly self-promotional. It’s clear that time to make an impact is brief, but the way to maintain that reach is also a fine art.

Promotional products can be a powerful supplement to marketing campaigns and loyalty programs by giving customers a tangible takeaway that leaves a lasting impression. Restaurants like Chick-fil-A execute this well, giving away branded items such as keychains and toys at grand opening events and other store promotions.

According to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), the promotional products industry is a $23.3 billion business, and with good reason. Brands use promotional products to promote products, incentivize employees, thank customers and increase brand awareness. Wearables comprise of the most promo sales—35 percent—between apparel and accessories.

When it comes to wearables, gone are the days of ordering mass quantities of ‘the cheapest shirts possible to give away to customers. Current trends lean toward higher end products that customers are proud to keep, wear or use.

As far as repeated exposure, PPAI asserts that 81 percent of people keep promotional products for more than a year, and 82 percent had a more favorable impression of the brand after receiving a branded product. Arguably, these numbers increase as does the perceived value of the item.

In the restaurant industry, promotional product companies can be a huge asset to restaurant owners by partnering as a total solutions provider. While owners and managers focus on daily operational and marketing initiatives, a strong promotional product distributor can oversee ordering of uniforms, name badges and promo merchandise—staying abreast of pop culture trends and managing the restaurant’s inventory of these items. When executed well, promotional products can be sold as an additional revenue stream for the brand.

With staffing an ongoing challenge for restaurant operators (51 percent name staffing as a top challenge to their success), and turnover at an all-time high, there’s an opportunity to create brand affinity within the restaurant as well, and to utilize promo products to reinforce camaraderie among employees.

For franchises, controlling the look of your branding is critical. Restaurants can use promo distributors to provide uniforms, aprons and more, and maintain consistency across locations. A strong promo partner will create an online store for each restaurant brand, where franchise owners can access corporate-approved items and artwork.

As far as the top promo items purchased and implemented within the restaurant industry, apparel reigns supreme. Branded uniforms give staff a united front, and t-shirts and other wearables like hats turn customers into brand ambassadors and help keep restaurants top-of-mind. Other popular promo categories:

Children’s toys are a mainstay. Not only do they keep children engaged while their parents eat, but they provide a take-home-and-keep item.

As eco-friendly products increase in popularity, reusable drink ware and bags are a great item to sell within an establishment, including beer steins, wine glasses and mugs.

And lastly, don’t overlook the power of appealing to local loyalty. Consumers love to rep the home team, so whether you co-brand a promotion with the local sports team or a popular local artist or charity, people will be more likely to wear and keep something that taps into their pride as a local.

There are endless ways to incorporate promotional products into a restaurant brand’s overall marketing strategy. A cohesive partnership with an established promotional product distributor will go a long way toward creating brand loyalty … And might generate some additional cash flow.

Emily Barna oversees marketing and PR initiatives, as well as manages sponsorship activities and nonprofit partnerships. She’s also been known to talk Zack (boompromo’s CEO) off of a lot of ledges, decorate the office for all holidays, and be the impetus behind most of our happy hours.

Outside Insights, Story