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Restaurant Email Marketing: 8 Strategies to Win Customers

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Many people believe that email marketing is only for large E-commerce and tech companies.

For local businesses like restaurants or boutiques, they are supposed to rely on traditional advertising methods, such as putting out physical signs throughout the community or handing out flyers.

But in fact, email marketing can help any type of business grow - so long as you follow the right email marketing practices for your niche.

That’s why in this post, we are going to cover 8 strategies specifically for restaurant email marketing.

The goal of these strategies is to grow your restaurant’s email list, while sending better email campaigns to drive more customers through your doors.

Let’s explore!

Why does restaurant email marketing matter?

As we mentioned earlier, many restaurant owners believe that email marketing belongs in the confines of Silicon Valley. And they think that email isn’t designed to build the kind of personal relationship required to get more loyal relationships.

But it’s wrong.

As a matter of fact, email marketing can breathe fresh life into your restaurant. That is because it can give you a significant edge over your competition.

Most restaurant owners are, in fact, so busy running their actual restaurant that they neglect BIG opportunities to scale through digital marketing campaigns. But remember that when you have your customers’ email addresses, you can keep them coming back over and over again.

To be specific, restaurant email marketing can help you:

Build stronger customer relationships

Delivering a restaurant newsletter is a common way to maintain a healthy relationship with your customers. You can actually keep them updated about your new menus, especially if you have a seasonal kitchen.

You can offer discounts and promotions to motivate them to visit your restaurant for the first time for potential customers. Also, don’t forget to send a thank-you email to them after they visit your restaurant. You’ll be surprised how a simple thank-you email can increase your brand value.

Promote deals

Email marketing for your restaurant tends to work both ways because it can share information about your company and includes an offer for your readers.

Below are some ideas for your promotional restaurant newsletter:

  • Offer discounts and deals
  • Share exclusive recipes
  • Offer tips for quick meal preparation
  • Share chef’s specials
  • Share menu updates
  • Introduce team members

Invite subscribers to your events

Most restaurants celebrate occasional events and parties, such as New Year’s parties or birthday parties.

It’s essential to make sure that your subscribers hear about your restaurant events, so they’d consider attending. If they don’t know about your event, they won’t show up, simple as that. So, your event invitation newsletter is a center contributor to your event’s success. It’s the channel that would let you inform and sell your special evenings to your existing clients.

5 common ways to build a mailing list for your restaurant

If you are planning to run a restaurant email marketing campaign, it’s vital to consider how you create a healthy, constant, extensive email list.

Here are several ways to build an email list for your business.

1. Create a contact form on your website

As a restaurant, your reservation webpage is considered your lead generation hub. If you haven't already, build a restaurant website first.

Keep a positive customer relationship with those who book a table through your website. You would want to thank them for their reservation, and moving on, you can invite them to subscribe to your emails to get news about events or send them your best deals.

2. Show appealing popups on your website

There’s nothing more annoying than a popup that appears the first second you access a website. However, when used right, popups can increase engagement while averaging a conversion rate of 9.28%.

In order to generate more email addresses for your restaurant, use website popups like the following:

  • Match your popup with your own website design and brand
  • Trigger your popup to display after at least 5 seconds or +40% of the website scroll
  • Trigger exit-popups
  • Trigger popups to show only twice for each unique visitor
  • Offer a clear X button to close the popup

3. Ask your customers to join your email list

You can add your website link in menus or receipts and invite customers to subscribe to your email list. This way, they can learn about the potential of receiving discounts and special offers right in their email inboxes.

Also, you can insert a custom QR code in any place in your restaurant so that they could directly scan and go to a landing page where they subscribe and earn an exclusive offer.

4. Promote email-only offers

This method can convey friendly, positive vibes that emphasize the benefit that the recipient will receive once they subscribe. It creates an appealing and engaging combination, making visitors feel special by inviting them to join a VIP club of the restaurant.

Under the popup’s title, it’s highlighted that exclusive offers will be sent only via email to VIP club members.

5. Create a referral campaign

Some people don’t want to eat alone. A good company would make it more fun and enjoyable.

So, consider including a referral link in your newsletters to motivate customers to share your email with their family, friends, colleagues, etc. To encourage them to refer a friend, offer them a gift back. The gift could be a coupon, discount, or free dessert.

8 restaurant email marketing strategies to win customers

With the growing use of mobile phones and easier access to the email inbox, email marketing is not just highly relevant but an essential element of a digital marketing plan for your restaurant.

Below are 8 restaurant email marketing strategies that will help win your customers.

1. Find the right Email Service Provider (ESP)

Let’s get this straight: you just can’t send mass email marketing campaigns with Gmail or Outlook, as they don’t have the features to facilitate this type of business activities.

In order to run effective restaurant email marketing campaigns, you’ll need a platform that provides you with useful features to capture email leads, store them, segment them, as well as distribute your emails.

There is no shortage of email marketing tools out there that can help you with this. However, the difficulty is choosing the right one for your restaurant, both budget-wise and functionality-wise. With that in mind, you should take a look at our Top 12 Best Email Marketing Software, Tools & Services post to find the right tool for your restaurant email marketing efforts.

2. Target your audience

This actually depends on the size of your restaurant. If you are a large franchise with various chains, your target audience is often much bigger than if you’re a smaller restaurant in your local community.

For big restaurants, your ideal audience is simple: anyone who eats food in or around cities where your restaurants are based.

But how about small restaurants? How can you target people who actually sit down at your restaurant? In other words, how are you able to grow your email list with customers from your community?

For that, you’d need the geo-location targeting rule. This lets you display or hide your opt-in campaigns based on where your audience is physically located. That means you will be able to target people in your hometown where your restaurant actually is.

By doing so, you can grow your email list with people who have the potential to be paying customers rather than people who came by your website on accident.

To learn more tips on targeting your audience, please read this blog.

3. Create a lead magnet

Making an awesome opt-in campaign is only half of the battle when it comes to growing your restaurant’s email list. The other half is sending your target audience an incentive to sign up. And for that, you will need a lead magnet.

A lead magnet is often a free promotional offer or valuable piece of information that your subscribers will want (and don’t already have).

Some common lead magnets include:

  • Recipe books
  • Discounts for meals
  • Coupons for free drinks, desserts, or appetizers
  • Informative guides (such as pairing wine with meals, or “how to eat healthy while eating out”)

Once you’ve created your lead magnet, you will be able to use it to motivate your target audience to subscribe to your mailing list.

4. Send personalized promotions

As a restaurant owner, you should create a personal touch with the email. If knowing the recipient is someone who orders online or relishes promotions, you should include offers that target them.

Having a little bit of background on the customer helps leverage your email marketing process, as gathering their behaviors, age, or hobbies can go a long way in offering a warm fuzzy feeling.

As restaurants are widely competitive, staying ahead of what your customers want in their food or drink choices is assured to help your ROI. For example, to warrant loyalty and attention from a customer, you can try the following smart strategies:

  • Welcoming customers at every turn. If an automated email is delivered with fancy, high-profile verbiage, there has to be a concrete offer included in the email.

  • First impressions with catchy menu items. An email naming a new item with an accompanying image can catch the eye of the customer, especially if it is through direct marketing to their phone.

  • Mouthwatering imagery. Who can resist a dripping bowl of freshly made pasta? Temptations provide a reason for customers to visit your restaurant. Include an attractive discount for a customer’s next meal together with the mouthwatering image, and you’re almost guaranteed frequent visits.

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5. Comb email with other marketing channels

One common mistake that many small business owners make when it comes to marketing strategies is thinking in terms of “either/or.”

They think they only need to do either email marketing or something else in order to grow their restaurant’s foot traffic.

However, in the world of digital marketing, things may be a bit messier than that. As a matter of fact, you should be using various approaches to get as many new leads and customers as possible.

And email marketing is one of the most effective ways of combining strategies to do that. One of the biggest opportunities is using your opt-in forms to retarget the audience on your paid ad platforms.

6. Collect customer feedback

Perhaps the most underused strategy for email marketing is using your email list to get customer feedback.

This is really important.

That’s because you’d like to build a quality relationship with your customers. If you do, you are more likely to have customers coming back to your restaurant again and again. The best way to know what your guests want or like is to directly ask them.

Use your email list to send out a survey form asking about their most recent experience. Below are some best practices to keep in mind when you do:

  • Make it timely. Create a system for delivering an email to customers shortly after they’ve eaten at your restaurant (like when they redeem their coupon, for instance).

  • Keep it short. Keep survey responses limited to around 3-5 minutes. If you make your survey forms too lengthy, you will harm their user experience and turn off customers.

  • Give them a reason to say “yes”. Give them an incentive for filling out your survey. Offer a free appetizer or discount to get more data.

The last point is vital, because, in the end, you should remember this: your customers don’t owe you anything. If they have finished their meal at your restaurant and paid their bill, they have no reason to keep engaging with your business.

But by providing lead magnets, promotional deals, and discounts, you’re able to re-engage them and see more profits generated in the long term.

7. Optimize everything with A/B testing

So, at this point, you have got your whole system dialed in. And things are improving. Now you think you can sit back and enjoy the progress, right?

Not really.

If you desire to be successful at restaurant email marketing, then “optimization” is the keyword. And the best way to optimize your own success is with A/B testing email.

A/B testing lets you duplicate your opt-in campaigns so you can make and test minor changes to your images, text, video, and more. Then, you can see which version of the campaign is doing best, and choose the winner.

Over time, this lets you be more confident that you are not leaving any leads on the table.

8. Clean your list regularly

Last but not least, you will want to regularly clean your email list.

This is more important than you might think. The reason is: Most ESP charge you by the number of contacts you have on your list.

So, if your list is loaded with contacts who are inactive or disengaged with your emails, then you need to get them off your list. Otherwise, you will be paying for them just to sit there.

People may come from out of town to try your dishes and never plan to come back. Or, you might have local clients move to another place where you don’t have a restaurant chain. Either way, you don’t want anyone on your list who isn’t engaged with your emails. And if too many people join your email list without interacting with your messaging, your deliverability rates will suffer, too.

Large email services, such as Gmail or Hotmail, try to keep promotional content and SPAM from their users’ inboxes. In doing so, they look for some signals like:

  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates (CTR)
  • Bounce rates
  • And many more

These factors will determine where your emails end up: your customer’s inbox or SPAM folder.

By regularly cleaning your email list, you can ensure that your emails will end up where they are supposed to. Furthermore, it’ll get your promotional deals to the right members of your community.

As a result of cleaning your list, you’ll see more people coming in to eat at your restaurant and more profits generated.

30 inspiring email subject lines for your restaurant

Unopened emails will never get read, so let’s talk about the importance of your email subject lines. Getting a customer to open your email is the first step to getting them in your restaurant.

Pique their interest, then make their stomachs grow!

Below are some email subject lines you can use for inspiration.

  1. It’s YO birthday. Get ⅓ off your food bill. (Yo SuShi!)
  2. Yup, we’ve got a “late summer” menu. (Sweet Green)
  3. Dinner is covered: $10 carryout deal on large 1-topping pizzas. (Donatos Pizza)
  4. Thanks! Here’s an offer for your next visit to Guerrilla Tacos. (Guerrilla Tacos)
  5. Waffles, bacon, and eggs… Oh My! (O’Charley’s)
  6. FREE Kids Meal This weekend. Open for coupons. (Fazoli’s)
  7. Lakers fans, get 50% off your ENTIRE order for today’s game! (Papa John’s)
  8. Take a break from Cyber Monday. Have some Taco Bell. (Taco Bell)
  9. Pret’s Veggie Menu is here. (Pret)
  10. Start off the New Year with a Free Entree. (Mimi’s Cafe)
  11. Tonight only! FREE Meatballs. (Olive Garden)
  12. Do you have any plans for dinner? Would you like some?
  13. Winter is coming, and our summer menu is going…
  14. Our way of saying thanks for dining last night.
  15. X reasons why you need to try our new menu items
  16. This WEEKEND ONLY, two can dine for $15.99!
  17. Hey [customer’s name], we heard you like vegan recipes…
  18. Extended happy hour starts…
  19. Satisfy your hunger
  20. Can you guess how many flavors of wings we have?
  21. A new menu you won’t pass on
  22. Friday, ‘tis the season!
  23. We spent 87,600 hours perfecting THIS dish…
  24. Vanilla or Chocolate? You choose
  25. What beer would you pair these foods with?
  26. How to have a great first date…
  27. How to have your cake and eat it too
  28. How to impress your dinner date without breaking the bank
  29. A little luxury at a great price.
  30. Wake up to sizzling sausage.

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Now, it’s your turn!

And that’s it! These are the 8 best restaurant email marketing strategies to grow your business. In addition, the list of 30 email subject lines will help you get inspiration for your next campaigns. We hope you found this post helpful.

So, are you using email marketing for your own restaurant? If yes, what strategies are working for you? What are your challenges?

We’d love to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to contact us to share your thoughts.

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