Hospitality venues are always on the lookout for the best ways to promote their business. Most restaurant owners and managers don't have a comprehensive understanding of marketing.
Therefore, it can seem difficult to find the best ways to get the word out about your business. But this doesn't need to be the case.
In our complete guide, we'll share all the information you need to know about restaurant email marketing. You'll discover whether this marketing channel is ideal for your venue, and the best strategies for success.
Is email marketing effective for restaurants?
Email marketing is a popular promotion channel for good reason. Research suggests that email marketing can carry a return-on-investment (ROI) of $36 for every $1 spent. While this is not an industry-specific figure, it does indicate the potential effectiveness of the channel.
Of course, many variables can impact the success of email marketing campaigns. Everything from the strength of your email list to the content of the emails themselves plays a role.
However, there's no doubt that a well-executed restaurant email marketing strategy can go a long way for restaurants. That's why hospitality venues from chains like Domino's to your local Italian diner make use of it as part of their restaurant marketing strategy.
How to build an email list
For email marketing to be effective, you naturally need an extensive email list. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for restaurants to build up a database of emails for customers who will find their emails useful.
Remember that anyone on your email list should have provided explicit consent to receive emails from you. After all, why bother sending emails to people who have no interest in them?
One way to build your database is to include an opt-in box when your customers place a reservation or online order. They are already providing their email to you in this situation, and this is an easy and convenient way to allow them to opt-in to your handy email list.
Other situations when you might be able to provide an email list subscription option for your customers include when they sign up for Wi-Fi in your restaurant or if they place themselves on a waitlist for your venue.
Another route for building your restaurant email list is to very clearly and tangibly demonstrate the value of your list. Promote your email list in-store or on social media flagging elements like exclusive deals or recipes.
You can also hold a giveaway with a condition of entry being signing up for your email list. Make it genuinely worth your customer's time to sign up for your list, rather than relying exclusively on marketing gimmicks.
10 best restaurant email marketing strategies for restaurants
With your list in place, it's time to make sure you are utilising effective strategies for email marketing.
Here are 10 of the very best restaurant email marketing strategies your restaurant can implement.
1. Deals and promotions
Offering value is key to attaining and retaining subscribers to your email list. Think of how much more likely you are to open an email when the subject line reads "50% Off Your Next Visit!"
You should use email marketing not only to promote your regular deals and promotions but also to offer exclusive savings for subscribers to your email list. This incentivises customers to remain subscribed and remain engaged with your emails.
Segmentation is a highly useful strategy for restaurant email marketing. It involves dividing your email list based on various criteria.
These criteria might relate to demographics, visit frequency or past purchases. Segmentation is a popular email marketing strategy because it increases the chances that the recipient will be interested in the content of your particular email.
For example, if you have created an email targeting families, it will be far more effective if you can exclusively direct it to customers with children. This means that other customers won't receive an irrelevant email, increasing the chances they will remain engaged with your email list.
3. Integrate with other promotion strategies
Combining your restaurant's promotional strategies will supercharge them into one outstanding campaign. For instance, if your restaurant has a loyalty program, you can include unique offers and updates in your emails, as well as an introductory welcome email.
You can also use these program sign-ups as an opportunity to invite loyal customers to sign up for your email list.
Have you produced a great email that might also work well on social media? Share your content on that channel as well. Also, let your followers know that they can find similar content on your email list.
Once you have made email marketing a priority for your restaurant, use any and all opportunities to let your customers know about it.
4. Use food-based content
There's one thing you know about all regular visitors to your restaurant: They love your food. Therefore, it’s a great idea to create content centred around your venue's offerings.
For example, you might send your customers an email with tips for making their own version of it. If a dish is leaving your menu, you could even send them a full recipe.
Sending content like this to customers brings variety to your email marketing. It also helps to develop a personal rapport with your customers, as they know not every email is an attempt to sell to them.
5. Target special events
Special occasions like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Christmas are critical for restaurants. They should also factor into your email marketing strategy.
Emails targeted around these events are timely and relevant for your customers. When Mother's Day approaches, customers are thinking of ways to make the day special for their mothers.
When you send them an appropriate email, you have placed your venue top of mind for this special event. Check your own inbox around these events and you'll likely find dozens of emails focussing on these events.
It's a highly popular strategy for good reason. However, you should also keep in mind the importance of creating an email that sounds out from the pack during these periods.
Any email list will have customers who stop interacting with emails or returning to your restaurant. Rather than giving up on these customers, see this as an opportunity.
Disengaged customers are a segment of your email list. This makes it possible to create high-quality, engaging content targeted directly towards them.
7. Transactional emails
Transactional emails are emails sent to customers after they have completed a particular action. Examples of email marketing for restaurants include reservation confirmations and order receipts.
Transactional emails provide yet another opportunity to provide highly relevant content to your customers. For instance, your reservation confirmation email might include directions to your venue, or a note from your chef about their favourite items on the venue.
In a transactional email sending your customers a receipt, you might include a preview of your upcoming menu, or even a voucher if they book their next visit within a week.
Like other great email marketing tactics, transactional emails allow you to meet your customers where they are and send them relevant content.
8. Split testing
Email marketing is the perfect opportunity for split testing, also known as A/B testing. This involves sending 2 different kinds of emails as part of your campaign and measuring which one performs better.
This enables you to refine your practices based on what works best for your customers. Why rely on the research of other businesses when you can easily test something on your customers?
For best results, it is often best to conduct split testing on a simple, singular element of your emails. That way, you can get more concrete results, as you can easily identify which part of your email caused differing reactions from customers.
Compare the 2 restaurant email marketing examples below. One features imagery of food, while the other features imagery of restaurant staff.
Based on the results of these emails, a restaurant should be able to identify which category of image customers have a stronger response to.
9. Include imagery
Images can play a key role in attracting and maintaining interest in your email. Indulge in the sensory aspect of food in your marketing, delivering mouth-watering images your customers won't be able to turn down.
It can be worth investing in professional food photography to capture the most scrumptious images. On top of images of food, you might also include images of your dining space, your staff or satisfied customers.
10. Make your CTA stand out
Your email's call-to-action (CTA) is one of the most important elements. It's critical that you present a clear avenue of action for your customers to follow after they read your email.
In email marketing, CTAs usually take the form of buttons featuring links within them. The wording of your CTA should clearly identify what action is taken when it is clicked. For example, if your CTA leads your customers to a reservation page, it should read something like "Book Now".
Another way to make your CTA stand out is by giving it a prime, noticeable position within your email. You can also make it a different colour to the rest of your email to help draw the eye to it.
Best practices for restaurant email marketing
In addition to the strategies noted above, here are a few general best practices for restaurant email marketing:
- Noteworthy subject lines: According to research, 333 billion emails were sent and received each day throughout 2022. This means there is tons of competition in your customer's inbox. Your subject line needs to stand out. It should be short snappy, and highlight any deals or exclusivity within your email.
- Personalise: Personalisation is core to successful email marketing. You should ensure your customer's name is included in your emails where possible. You can also tailor your content for even deeper personalisation with data you've collected. This can include dining preferences, birthdays, anniversaries and more.
- Timing: Carefully consider the right times for your email to be sent. Research suggests that the best days of the week to send emails are Tuesdays (for high open rates) and Fridays (for high conversion rates. The most effective times of the day to send emails are 8pm, 2pm and 5pm.
- Mix it up: An important way to keep customers subscribed to your email list is by offering a wide array of different content in your email marketing. In addition to promoting menus and events, you can include cooking tips or recipes for your customer's favourite dishes. Make your email marketing mutually beneficial for you and your customers by providing value.
- Make use of software: Scaling your email marketing efforts is a critical part of their success. A top way to do this is with restaurant email marketing software such as ResDiary. This solution allows you to manage your customer database, easily send large quantities of emails and track your results. It's just one of many ways the ResDiary restaurant reservation system helps your venue thrive.
Enhance your restaurant promotion with ResDiary
Getting the word out about your amazing hospitality venue can be an uphill battle. ResDiary can make things much easier for your business.
ResDiary offers a free, built-in, email marketing solution, meaning you can manage your customer database, send emails, and SMSes* and track results, Our Diner engagement solution engagement is enabled through integration partners such as Impact Data and Connect by me&u.
ResDiary even offers extensive tracking and analytics functionality, so you can see how your campaigns are performing. On top of all that, ResDiary's table management system makes it easy to manage the new influx of customers your email campaigns bring in.
Download our Email Marketing Guide Book and find out how to enhance your restaurant with ResDiary.