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Email Still Delivering for Restaurant Marketing

Email is not only one of the most direct and personal marketing tactics, but for restaurants it's also the most cost-effective way to attract new customers and entice existing ones to keep coming back. This blog post is for anyone who subscribes to the notion that email marketing is dead---because the reality is, it's still alive and kicking.

One of the most important things that restaurants should consider when crafting a marketing email campaign is to keep in mind why customers love your brand in the first place. More often than not, the reason customers keep coming back for more is your delicious menu, but another huge reason customers may be flocking to your business could be your delivery options.

With just about every restaurant offering delivery in some capacity these days, it’s critical to use all the tools in your arsenal to ensure they keep choosing your restaurant, and email’s many benefits make it one tool your restaurant shouldn’t forget.

Benefits of Email Marketing

  • Forges meaningful relationships with customers

  • Budget and user-friendly

  • Real-time communication

  • Aids in up-selling

  • Lets customers your restaurant is open for business

  • Boosts traffic on slow days

  • Targets segmented customers

  • Keeps the connection alive

  • Great tool for delivery status updates

  • Easily address customer complaints or questions

  • Useful to manage your loyalty program

  • Boost and manage reservations

Before you can launch an email campaign, you need to build a restaurant customer email list.

How to build a restaurant email marketing list

Give customers an incentive to sign up for emails. As a welcome and thank you for opting in to your email list, consider offering customers a coupon for a free item, BOGO, substantial discount (20% or more) on a lunchtime purchase, or an exclusive peak at upcoming promotions for email subscribers only.

Incentivize sharing. Provide customers with a link to invite others and offer additional deals for each referral. Not only will diners be more likely to share their own email addresses, but the added incentives give them a reason to get friends and family on board.

Collect data for WIFI access. Offering Wi-Fi in your restaurant is a big draw, so use this as an opportunity to build your restaurant email marketing list. When diners connect to your Wi-Fi network, prompt them to enter their email to gain internet access. Once you have their information, send an email to thank them for visiting your restaurant and welcome them to your email list. Craft an email that specifically targets those who have signed up through Wifi access so you’re not sending dupes.

Text-to-Join. Invite customers to sign up for emails with a Text-to-Join code printed on your menus and recipes, and included in your online delivery landing page so they can get updates and special offers. Give them a “taste” by including a sneak peak at an upcoming event exclusive to email subscribers. Using a CTA “Find Out More” button that appears to flow seamlessly with the rest of the page is an easy and effective tool for adding subscribers.

Collect email through social media. Use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to collect customer data by enticing them on these channels to join your list with added value offers. Aside from discounts, social media is the perfect place to invite email subscribers to hosted events like wine tasting or food sampling. Email opens the door for connecting with customers and keeping them informed about your restaurant specials, new menu items, and seasonal events. Try promoting a gathering or special event on social media and cap attendance. For example, host a brunch with Santa to the first 50 customers who sign-up to receive future emails. The only requirement for entry should be that customers provide you with their email addresses. Don’t over-ask.

Social media advertising tools. Collect more customer data and drive awareness with built-in social tools, like Instagram and Facebook Ads. Capture new leads with Facebook Lead Ads, by syncing them to your email marketing opt-in form. Use Google Ads and Google Maps to reach the right people searching Google in your area instantly. Use linked sign-up forms to ramp-up your off-premise operations by offering free delivery and discounts in exchange for contact info. Follow-up with thank-you emails that link to Yelp Reviews or Google My Business.

Solicit feedback for improved customer relations. Add a section of your newsletter that includes contact information for reader feedback. Use this feedback to gather other data like birthdays, anniversaries, interests, and favorite menu items. You can also solicit feedback on email frequency, content and suggestions on ways you can improve. Taking time to respond to this feedback helps increase the chances of email subscribers to stay on your email list, rather than opting out by hitting the “unsubscribe” button.

Add a pop up on your website. Be sure to include a pop-up button on your restaurant’s website announcing an offer available in exchange for email submission. This CTA is a simple and unobtrusive way to gather emails and increase sales. Use dedicated pop-ups: one for dine-in reservations that offer a discount, and a separate one for your online delivery menu that feature exclusive offers like “Free Delivery” in exchange for a simple one-line email sign-up. Make sure the link is simple and loads fat, so as not to add time to their delivery process. If customer’s sense an inconvenience, they just might bounce, so limit your ask to only an email and first name.

Create an email-based loyalty program. An exclusive loyalty program for email subscribers is an excellent value added feature. Not only does it afford you the customer’s data, but it opens the door for increased awareness and revenue through a loyalty program that entices customers to keep coming back. Make sure to offer the same point set-up for online orders as promoted in your website. Add a pop-up button in the check-out section of your online order form with your special offer for email sign-ups.

Buy lists. There’s absolutely no shame in purchasing lists to grow your subscription base. There are many sources for list-buying. Do your research and read reviews before purchasing. Unleash the power of email and drive more revenue by integrating paid email services like Constant Contact with the tools you’re already using.

Killer Subject Lines for Restaurant Email Marketing

Never underestimate the power of a great subject line in a restaurant email. The subject line is the one liner that appears in an inbox next to the sender’s email address. Because it’s what your customers see first, it’s one of the most important components in an email marketing strategy. Crafty, attention-grabbing subject lines are like mini-headlines that entice the reader to open the email, so make it worth their click.

Examples of enticing restaurant email subject lines:

  • “Late Night Cravings? We Now Deliver 24/7!”

  • “Vote for your favorite menu item and get 50% off your next delivery order.”

  • “We’re open! To thank you for your support during covid, ½ price menu specials for loyal customers like you!”

  • “Celebrate the Oscars with ½ price apps and free delivery during the show!”

  • “Happy Birthday,(use first name)! Come in for a FREE coffee on your big day!”

  • “Super Bowl Half-time Special - Two-for-One Pizza until the end of the 4th quarter!”

  • (use local team name) “We’re headed for the playoffs! Free coffee every time the Eagles win!”

  • Unwrap Our Christmas Gift for You Before Santa Arrives! Offer ends at midnight.

  • Play Our New “Card Game” to Win a $50 Gift Certificate.

  • (send to customers during the week while they’re busy at work) Be First to Know About Our Happy Hour Specials! Everyday 4-8!

  • (Customers who haven’t been in or ordered for 3 months) “We miss you. Here’s 30% off Your Next Order.”

  • (Use your customer data to congratulate them on special occasions like anniversaries, baby’s birth, promotions.) “Our gift to you (name)! Use enclosed code for FREE delivery to celebrate your (big day!) personalize whenever possible”

10 Types of Restaurant Email Marketing

1. Welcome/thank you for subscribing

The first email you’ll send as part of any email marketing campaign is the welcome email. This email is used to welcome new customers to your restaurant’s family of loyal customers. Every welcome email serves two primary purposes - it confirms to customers that they are now subscribers to your newsletter or loyalty program, and it entices customers to return to your restaurant as soon as possible.

Since this will be your first impression, it’s essential to set the tone and introduce the general vibe of your brand.

Key elements:

  • Make it personal by using the customer’s name

  • Offers a freebie or substantial discount

  • Keep the tone upbeat and a friendly

  • Include mouth-watering photos

2. Celebrate birthdays and other life events

Another common type of email but one that is successful without fail is a “happy birthday” email. Assuming you have enough information about your customers to know their birthday, sending them a congratulatory email and an enticing gift will come as a pleasant surprise. Invite subscribers to your restaurant on their birthday for a free dessert r glass of wine. Alternatively, offer a discount code for free delivery on their big day.

Shake things up with unexpected half-birthday wishes and freebies. This will create an element of surprise since not many people would expect this or even think about this, and they’ll surely appreciate your special attention.

Key elements:

  • Use customer’s first name and birthday in subject line

  • Provides two options for a birthday gift.

  • Send one a few weeks before, followed up by daily reminders as the day approaches

  • Create an urgent call to action.

  • Include powerful words like “memorable” and “special.”

  • Offer additional value by asking customer to share with a friend for a bonus discount

  • Include a generous offer like a free dessert, coffee or a BOGO meal.

3. Promote events and parties at your restaurant

Are you hosting a wine tasting event? Organizing a karaoke night? Having a masquerade party? Let your customers know about your restaurant’s event via a celebratory email. Ramp up excitement by giving them a teaser of what they can expect. “Best costume gets dinner for us,” “Free personal bottle of wine for the first 20 customers,” “Enter to win a mini spa day!”

If you are serving unique menu items like green beer on St. Patrick’s Day or Red Velvet Cake for Valentine’s Day, include that information in the email next to a representative photo. Don’t forget to also highlight exclusive promos like “Everyone who gets on stage at Karaoke Night gets a free drink!”

Key elements:

  • Create an eye-catching design

  • Add urgency with LTO’s

  • Use enticing subject lines

  • Include contact information for reservations

  • Link to online menu

4. Highlight holidays

You probably already know you should capitalize on all holidays, from big ones like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and the Fourth of July to obscure ones that are centered around food (Hamburger Day, Pasta Day, Ice cream Day.)

Send a lovely holiday email personalized for the occasion to wish your customers happy holidays and announce your special plans for the day. Create a calendar with the month's holidays, special events, and menu highlights. If you’re closed for a holiday, mention that in the email and offer a discount to show your appreciation for their understanding. If you’re open, let them know what menu items to expect and if there are any promos to look forward to.

Key elements:

  • Created your own food holiday to capitalize on - (examples: Rizzo’s White Pizza Night,``''Brunch-time Sundays all month long.”

  • Include a visible CTA

  • Use festive photos

  • Update regularly and schedule accordingly

5. Promote online ordering

Restaurant email marketing is an essential marketing tactic to promote your restaurant off-premise operation. It’s a perfect opportunity to share a special “first-order” promo with your loyal dine-in customers to show them you’re grateful for their patronage. You can also use it in reverse by offering delivery customers a free dessert at the next dine-in visit.

Key elements:

  • Announce delivery specials in your subject line.

  • Highlight exclusive discounts.

  • Use clear “Order Now 15% off,” BOGO, or “Free Delivery” CTA buttons that link to your menu.

  • Feature mouthwatering photos.

6. Spotlight new menu items

Email is a great way to introduce a new menu item in real time. Include a photo of the chef preparing the new dish, a colorful list of ingredients, or a special feature that benefits your customers like the addition of gluten-free, vegan, or keto-friendly items. If you revise or revamp your menu or add a limited-time menu item, email can communicate these changes in an instant.

Key elements:

  • Link to the new menu items

  • Include your own mouthwatering photos with staff (not stock photos)

  • Clear CTA that encourages customers to book a table or place an online order to try the new menu items

7. Create excitement on slow days or times of day

Need a boost on days that are naturally slow for your restaurant? Wish you could boost your orders during the lulls of the day? There’s nothing like an appetizing offer such as a "Buy One, Get One Free Entree from 2 to 4pm," "Half-Price Happy Hour Appetizers," or "Kids Eat Free on Mondays" to make customers flock to your restaurant’s website. Emailing specials in real time is a surefire way to boost your revenue. Make sure you underline the urgency of this deal in your subject line by using terms like “For our loyal customers - TODAY ONLY” “Act fast ” or “Limited-time offer.”

Key elements:

  • Create a catchy subject line that encourages customers to ORDER NOW!

  • Eye-catching, colorful design that highlights the ORDER NOW button.

  • Include a CTA in the subject and twice in the email body text.

9. Encourage reviews & feedback

One way to get customers to admire your restaurant is to show them some stellar Yelp reviews from satisfied customers. Include a photo of the owner, make it personable in both style and tone, include an easy-to-use CTA button to encourage reviews, and include relevant information like address, hours, phone number and a link to your online menu.

Key elements:

  • Use personal language in the greeting. Never use "Dear Subscriber," "Dear Guest," or "Dear Customer." Studies have shown that emails that greet the subscriber with their first name are twice as likely to open the email.

  • Create an easy-to-spot review button.

  • Include relevant information like address, website, opening hours, and phone number.

10. Use gamification

Gamification is the process of integrating game elements like rewards points into a non-game context to foster motivation, participation, engagement, and loyalty towards your restaurant. It’s a bit like transforming your business into a game to make your customers excited to order from or visit your restaurant and pursue a reward.

One of the most encountered restaurant gamification examples are collecting points with each purchase or getting your card stamped every time you purchase a certain item. The rule here is that once you get 10 stamps, you receive a free item. It’s called gamification, because it’s like completing ten levels and being rewarded for it. In essence, ever since man appeared on this Earth, his instincts have always been to hunt for food. We are all hunters. And these days, we have evolved towards being reward hunters. Be sure to incorporate automatic reward points for all digital orders. Collect more data in the process by requiring gusts to provide one or two bits like a birthday or dog's name to sign up.

Use email to remind your customers about their points and entice them to place an order to redeem.

Key elements:

  • Make it fun in design and offer.

  • Explain the rules and instructions.

  • Include photo of the loyalty card.

Get Sauce Delivery

By Eileen Strauss



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