Why restaurant shirts are an easy way to increase your average ticket amount

Another high margin item?
Add restaurant shirts to your menu

Restaurant shirts let you make more from your loyal customers, and turn them into your walking billboards

Shirts for a coffee shop

Simple one color shirts for a coffee shop in Charleston. They sell a lot to customers, including visiting tourists.

What’s got a 60% margin at your restaurant but doesn’t spoil?

What’s an item that you can offer as an upsell on the way out the door?

Or as an upsell on your delivery menu?

What’s an item that the diner can enjoy for years?

What’s the only item that be a walking billboard for your restaurant?

It’s a t-shirt. A cool shirt with your restaurant’s design on it.

Add $20 to their bill and get free advertising from them for life.

Maximizing the value of a customer’s visit

Restaurant staff t-shirts

Reduce your staff t-shirt uniform costs by ordering extras to sell to customers.

As I write this, we’re still in the midst of this stupid pandemic, so the normal restaurant experience isn’t really an option. You might be doing take-out only, or you have limited seating, or only working with delivery apps.

But whatever you’re doing, you already try to increase the ticket value.

Ask them if they want a soda. Great margin.

Try to sell them a dessert once they’ve enjoyed their meal.

But shirts can make a big difference in your average ticket price. Now, granted, hawking shirts doesn’t make sense for every restaurant. If you go eat at La Bernadin, they’re not going to offer you a shirt on your way out the door. But most restaurant types could sell shirts to customers.

The Math

Let’s say you are a BBQ place and your average ticket is $12. But you’re in a touristy town where some people are itchin’ for a souvenir anyway. (I’m from Nashville and perhaps that is influencing this example, huh?)

And let’s say your cashier is pretty good at pushing the shirts, so 5% of customers get one.

That alone raises your average ticket price 8%.

Now, getting 1 out of 20 customers to buy a shirt may be a far-fetched proposal, but any shirt sales will help your finances, and loyal customers will want to support you, especially during hard times.

A few months into the pandemic, I went to my local sandwich place to pick up a hoagie, and they had their shirts out way more prominently, and I asked the guy working if they were trying to sell more shirts, and he said No, people were just asking about them a lot more than they used to. And why? Because people love that place. And they want to support it. Don’t people love your place?

And another major benefit of selling shirts? Customer-powered marketing. People who love your restaurant want to promote your restaurant, and shirts are a great way to do that.

The Advertising

Mechanic shop shirts

A mechanic shop sells shirts to loyal customers, which get worn around other "car guys", and makes for effective marketing to their target demographic.

In the marketing world, they talk about CPM or “cost per thousand impressions.” Cheap web ads might be $2 per thousand impressions, and highly targeted ads for attorneys could be $50 per thousand impressions.

But what about a shirt? How many local people will see a restaurant’s shirt if it’s worn around town? Is it thousands of people? Tens of thousands? And how much more do people notice a shirt rather than a web ad that they gloss over when they’re reading some BuzzFeed listicle about 80s trends that are totally back?

Shirts get worn, shirts get seen. Shirts become adored over time and become people’s favorite shirts. You should be getting shirts that are nice enough quality-wise and cool enough design-wise to become your customers’ favorite shirts that they will wear over and over, exposing your restaurant (your brand) to more and more people.

It’s easy to spend several hundred dollars, or even thousands of dollars, experimenting with Facebook or Google ads, and have nothing really to show for it. You could spend money on shirts, and sell them at a profit, and still advertise with them. It’s a win-win.

Shirt costs and you

So what do shirts cost? How’s the pricing work?

All screen printing shops calculate their rates in different ways, and some focus on higher end pricing, and some focus on being the cheapest guy in town. (At Vacord Screen Printing, we focus on quality results using discharge printing for reasonable rates)

Screen printing prices are based on three things really: print complexity (how many colors and locations), type of garment (cheap shirt, nice shirt, fancy hoodie, etc), and how many are printed at a time.

Because of the way screen printing runs have to be set up and then cleaned up after printing, the last bit there, how many are printed at a time, is a huge huge factor in the pricing.

For an example, 50 nice t-shirts with a 2 color front print might be $10.99 all-in (including all set up fees, and free shipping), while 100 shirts could drop to $8.99, or 200 shirts would be $7.49. So buying in bulk makes sense, as the getting 200 instead of 50 makes each shirt 32% cheaper.

So you’ve got your $7.49 shirts. It depends on your joint, but you could sell them for a reasonable sounding $20 each, or even $25 each. You could have up to a 70% profit margin on the shirts in that case.

(Screen printing prices vary a ton and you can contact us for any custom pricing you might need!)

Thinking about doing custom hoodies? Those are great advertising too, as someone can wear a hoodie way more often than a shirt since it’s outer wear, so you might get more “impressions”, but you should consider seasonality. Also, your margin won’t be as great with hoodies, as they are just more expensive to order (since they’re a way more expensive blank item for the printer.)

With hoodies, say you pay $27.99 to get 100 with a 2 color print on the front. What would your diners pay for one? $45? Perhaps more. So your margin is way less, and your profit in actual dollars on that hoodie is the same as a shirt may be, so perhaps they’re not fooling with, unless you start getting requests for them.

The Concerns

Worried about getting shirts for your restaurant? Concerns are always valid and worth exploring, so let’s talk about them.

Tying up cash

Especially in times like this, you might be worried about tying up cash in shirts to sell to diners. And that’s understandable. They’re like an investment.

But whatever you spend on shirts, it should get recouped over time, and make money. If you get those 200 hypothetical shirts above for $7.49 each, and sell them for $25 each, you’re in the black on it after 60 shirts, and everything else after that is gravy. Sell them all and you’ve cleared $3,500 on that batch of shirts.

Storing all the shirts

Storage can be at a premium in a tight restaurant space. Shirts don’t take up a ton of space, so 200 shirts would only be four boxes. And instead of rolling silverware, staff could roll shirts and tape them with the size written on the tape, so they’re burrito-sized and quick to grab when someone buys one.

Displaying a shirt close to the checkout counter, or in your waiting area doesn’t take up much wall space either.

Having a bunch of shirts left over

You might be concerned about getting a lot of shirts and not having them sell, but if you have loyal customers, and decent branding, the shirts should move. And if they don’t sell that well, you can discount them, or just push them harder to your diners. Start off with a design that isn’t radical, and you should be fine.

And it’s not uncommon to run out of certain sizes. That’s just part of it. The only way to escape that is to be a psychic. There’s a chance you could have only smalls and XXLs left over. But that’s fine, as you can just re-up on all the more common sizes and keep those less popular sizes for the few people who do want them.

Crappy shirts selling crappy

While I’m a big believer that you should stop buying crappy shirts, some companies still buy them, thinking that they’re getting a better deal.

You’re spending less, sure, but you’re getting a way worse deal.

Why? Because people won’t buy them as much, and you can’t sell them for better prices.

The price you’re going to pay for a nice t-shirt is really not much more than for a low-end shirt. Honestly, maybe a dollar or two more for a nice, soft, ring-spun cotton shirt compared to one that feels like a car cover and fits just about as well.

And especially if you have the shirts displayed where someone can touch them when they’re thinking about buying them (and you should display like this), the quality of the shirt, and especially the quality of the print, makes a difference in how well they should sell, and what price you can command for them.

Soft ink methods like discharge printing settle into the shirt fabric, and feel like they’re part of the garment, and ring-spun cotton shirts, or tri-blend fabrics with a softened plastisol print. People will be able to tell the quality when they see the shirts up close.

You sell quality dishes, right? Serve quality shirts with them!

So should you get shirts for your restaurant?

Yes. Of course. I may be biased, but I say yes. Unless your restaurant is so high-end that it doesn’t make sense to sell shirts (and if that’s the case, you probably quit reading quite a while ago).

T-shirts for restaurants are:
- Effective and affordable marketing
- An upsell item to raise ticket prices
- A profitable item to sell


And they make great staff uniforms too, even for full-service places.

Interested in shirts? Read what you need to know before ordering screen printing or see what styles we like to print on.

If you’ve got any questions, need pricing, or want us to check out your artwork, reach out to us at info@vacord.com or on our contact page.