How to Turn a Menu Item Into a Hot Selling Product


Looking for a new and exciting revenue stream for your restaurant? Let’s talk retail, baby! Though instead of going straight to the classics like t-shirts, hats, aprons, and mugs, think outside of the box of beer koozies and make your retail extra personal. Why not package and sell something off your menu?


Here’s how to get from menu to market with 5 key steps.


1. Find Your Golden Goose

What’s on your menu that you create from scratch that your customers can’t get enough of? If people are stoked on your homemade ketchup or love the fresh bread that comes with the daily soup, it’s a good indication of what would do well retail-wise. Start with something simple at first: If your end goal is to have a line of hot sauces or a selection of mustards, start with one, and then grow your line once you have the hang of creating a product.


2. Choose a Manufacturing Model

If you’re thinking of something simple to create and sell for retail, such as cookies that your staff can package up in plastic containers or cellophane, the manufacturing can likely stay in-house. However if you run a busy bar, you might want to outsource your wing sauces, since prep, packaging, labelling, and delivery might be too much to add to your day-to-day. Source out a trusted food-production lab or company that can take your recipe and turn it into a shelf-stable product.


3. Package it Properly

There are local, state, and federal laws for food products and you need to comply with them. There are requirements for specific information that must go on the labels of food products. Ingredients, quantity, size, manufacturer’s address, nutrition information, refrigeration, and allergy statements are all required by the FDA.


As well, you’ll want to test your packaging to know that the hot sauce will come out of the bottle at a reasonable drip, the cookie packaging doesn’t crowd and crumble your cookies, or that the salsa package is tightly sealed and won’t leak.


4. Go with Good Design

From charming paper bags tied with string to elaborate artist-designed labels, your product should reflect your restaurant, be an extension of your brand, and mirror the quality standards you’ve set for your restaurant. Reaching out to a design firm to consult and take the heavy lifting of perfecting your label is a worthwhile investment, especially if you plan on selling your product for a long time – or at other venues. People respond well to eye-catching design, and might even buy it from your shelf because it’ll look so good on theirs.


Another win for a well-designed label? Customers Instagramming your cool new product.


5. Stock the Shelves and Sell!

Once you have a product in hand, don’t just slap it on a shelf in the waiting area – pepper it all over your restaurant. Keep some at the bar, a stack by the host stand, and on shelves along the walls to the restrooms. And of course, make sure that customers know they can add that Honey Garlic wing sauce to their tab and take a bottle home with them. You can add a button to your POS to make it easy for staff to suggest it and add it to the bill.


Outside of your restaurant, opportunities abound! You can partner with local grocers to do taste-tests in store, get a table at the weekly farmers market, and sell to souvenir shops in your community. Not only does this grow your revenue, but it will increase your brand visibility as well, hopefully bringing new customers in the door to enjoy the other delights you have to offer.


So if you have a menu item crying out to be made into a product, by following guidelines, packaging with pride, and getting it out there, you can increase your bottom line, provide something for your customers to enjoy at home, and increase your venue’s visibility.


Need some real life inspiration? Check out these restaurants that took a menu item to market:

  • Caplansky’s Deli: What goes with smoked meat? Mustard! Caplansky’s created their own line of mustards that they sell in their deli locations around Toronto.

  • Crosstown Pub: Created a line of signature hot sauces sold at their Illinois pubs and online.

  • Sqril: This super trendy brunch spot creates one of a kind jams made from local California produce.


Looking for a more food product inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board.


About the Author

Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

More Content by Andrea Victory
Previous Article
How to Optimize Your Restaurant Menu to Increase Sales
How to Optimize Your Restaurant Menu to Increase Sales

Your menu is money.

Next Article
A Brief History of Brunch
A Brief History of Brunch

How our favorite kind of early afternoon eating came to be.