Gift baskets are a great way for restaurants to generate extra income using their existing facilities, staff and customers.

Regardless of cuisine, restaurants can offer signature food and wine pairings, artistically crafted specialty foods, kitchen tools, breads, crackers and cheeses, stylish personalized apparel, locally bottled condiments and sauces, gourmet European foods and cooking gifts for homeowners. Using local favorites like country hams, jerky, sausages, salsa and restaurant salads generate tremendous appeal as thoughtful gifts.

The rising interest in local ingredients and accountability and better customer communications options make gift-basket marketing practical and lucrative for many restaurants. Restaurants can use staff during slow times to put together custom orders and predesigned baskets to sell on-site.

Another opportunity is a restaurants own take on a holiday or season, say Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter or Summer. Of course, the Gift Basket should go with the restaurant’s brand and menu.

Marketing and Promoting Gift Baskets

The gift basket industry is growing by 4 percent or more each year. Consumers are increasingly committed to local produce, foods and gifts, and restaurants are ideally positioned to take advantage of the escalating demand for gift baskets from men and women, corporate marketers and consumers of all ages.

SWOT Analysis of Selling Gift Baskets

A great way to plan an income-generating strategy is by using a SWOT analysis. The acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By assessing these criteria, restaurant managers can plan an effective strategy for marketing gift baskets. Each restaurant will have its own unique situation, but some common characteristics of selling gift baskets include:

  • Strengths— Restaurants are a natural market for gift baskets. Any restaurant’s employees have some experience in handling food, and restaurants can use their loyalty programs, email lists and customer databases to generate marketing prospects. Restaurants can assemble ready-made baskets to display and sell in-house. Gift baskets of the past were plain and utilitarian, so customers appreciate being able to order gourmet and custom giftbaskets, especially those with ethnic specialties, fusion cuisines and expertly matched food and wine. Restaurants can reasonably choose from food, fruit, condiment, wine and gourmet-kitchenware baskets.
  • Weaknesses— Restaurants have limited hours for assembling and marketing baskets and could compromise their regular service, especially during busy holiday seasons. Economies of scale are seldom available to small gift basket companies that often create one-of-a-kind baskets for customers.
  • Opportunities— The farm-to-table movement has persuaded diners to value goods made and marketed locally. Restaurants enjoy low overhead by using their existing facilities and staff to assemble baskets. The demand for specialty foods and gourmet pairings continues to rise and evolve, making gift baskets a trendy and effective income-generating activity for restaurants.
  • Threats— Major retailers like Hickory Farms, Dean & Deluca, Edible Arrangements and offer professionally packaged baskets, easy ordering and name recognition. Florists, grocers, bed-and-bath suppliers and candy companies and other retailers also market gift baskets.Restaurants face an array of big-name competitors with national buying power, but creative strategies can neutralize competition by focusing on specialty niches, local suppliers and customizing baskets for discerning customers.

Pricing and Packaging Strategies for Gift Baskets

Restaurants can produce many signature foods in-house to reduce costs and create unique selling propositions. Marketing theme baskets for holidays, corporate gifting, birthdays and special occasions works better when restaurants offer multiple price points to appeal to consumers with all types of budgets.

Customized baskets command higher prices, and restaurants can offer various options straight from their inventories and suppliers. If possible, managers can establish mutually beneficial relationships with local farms and suppliers and receive lower wholesale prices and cooperative-marketing benefits. Gift cards for baskets allow customers to choose the products they want for their baskets from a list of similarly priced ingredients.

Thousands of suppliers offer baskets in traditional and specialized shapes. Wine and cheese, pastas and sauces, herbs and spices and sweet-based foods are just a few of the possibilities. Baskets with food that requires refrigeration are also possible, but be aware that these gifts will require safe storage andrequire sufficient cooler space and storage shelving.

Packing supplies for attractive and artistic baskets might include:

  • Cellophane, shrink-wrap, crinkled paper and filler material
  • Balloons, art, ribbons and bows
  • Fresh or dried flowers
  • Decorative containers for prepared foods
  • Potpourri
  • Labels with lists of ingredients and nutrition information
  • Bottled waters and spritzers
  • Wrapped candies
  • Gift tags, brochures, labels, company biographies, photo postcards and business cards

Pricing gift baskets depends on the cost of food, packaging materials, merchandise and the labor needed to assemble an attractive arrangement. The safest policy is to use nonperishable food items with shelf lives of 6–12 months. Of course, custom baskets can contain perishable foods, and restaurants can risk marketing fruit and perishables during the major holiday seasons.

With a strong enough brand, a restaurant may want to partner with a service that offers to create branded gift baskets and then ship online orders. Normally, you can join together branded products along with larger suppliers for the basket.

Restaurateurs look for alternative income streams to maximize profits in a highly competitive industry. Gift baskets are a perfect fit for almost any restaurant because they can be designed and marketed for any type of customer. Most restaurants are already equipped and stocked with the essential materials, and gift baskets provide both extra income and powerful publicity benefits.