You have a tasty menu, inviting ambience and top-notch service that people love. But word-of-mouth won't fill up your tables every single day.
Email marketing is by far the easiest and most effective way to get more customers into your restaurant or cafe. Unlike social media or even search, email is the most established platform and continues to grow, with an expected 4.3 billion users by 2022.
If that figure whets your appetite, wait until you hear some of the other advantages of restaurant email marketing:
Convinced that creating an email marketing plan for your restaurant is a smart move? Here's how to actually do it.
The most important thing you need when starting email marketing is subscribers. The more subscribers you have, the more foot traffic you can generate with your campaigns.
While it might seem daunting at first, growing your list is fairly straightforward. It just takes patience and consistency. You already have customers that visit your restaurant, social media profiles and website every day.
All you need to do now is start collecting their email addresses. Here are some tried-and-true ways to grow your email list both online and off:
Requiring a person to accept certain terms and conditions to use wifi isn’t new or offensive. Provide an opt-in form to access the restaurant's wifi and watch your email list take off.
Take advantage of the times when restaurant patrons are actively taking in written information. Include your website URL and messaging that encourages patrons to sign up. You can add your message to your menus, posters and even at the bottom of receipts.
Example: "Join our mailing list to be notified about upcoming beer tastings!"
A well-designed table tent with an offer for a free dessert or an enticing event like a cooking workshop can also lead to the collection of email addresses. Tip: Use a QR code to encourage immediate sign-up.
The most obvious time to ask is after customers have had a positive dining experience.
Train your staff to be able to talk about the benefits of your mailing list and offer something desirable in exchange. (20% off the next meal, a free gourmet coffee drink...think about an incentive your customers would want and go with it.)
Bonus: If you have a MailerLite account, you can collect emails using the free iPad app. All the new email addresses are automatically synced to your email list.
Yes, it’s old school, but many people enjoy filling things out while waiting to settle their bill. While you’ve got their attention – and they have a pen in hand – ask them to fill in their name and email address so they can be added to your email list to receive exclusive content and discounts.
If you use Square (the most popular POS in the US), it automatically sends digital receipts to your customers. Ask them to enter their email to get the receipt as well as important restaurant news and deals.
Your offline marketing efforts may lead to an online customer experience, so let’s not forget those online tactics.
You can add pop-ups on your website, giving visitors a simple way to share their email addresses. Choose between time-based, welcome mat, scroll-triggered, hello bar or exit intent pop-ups.
Here's an example of a pop-up on the homepage of the FOGO De CHAO steakhouse.
You can also choose to embed an opt-in form on your website. It can be on your sidebar or any page you choose.
Here's an example of a simple embedded opt-in form on the Tovala homepage.
If you have a social media presence, you can leverage that to grow your list. Simply create a landing page that contains an opt-in form and add the link to your social media profiles. You can even share a link to your landing page every once in a while.
Here's an example of an opt-in landing page used by Tutti Frutti.
For more inspiration, you can visit our restaurant landing page example gallery.
Whichever method you use to collect email addresses, make sure you offer an incentive for people to subscribe.
Once you have an email list, the next step is to engage those customers. Treat them like you would patrons in your restaurant.
That means you shouldn't just store their email addresses and send an email when you want to promote something. There are plenty of other things you can share, including:
Your aim is to provide value for your subscribers at every interaction. Get creative!
Here's another excellent example of a restaurant email from Swiss Chalet. Notice the image of delicious food and candles on the table. Images like these can inspire positive feelings in the minds of readers and give them a desire to come in and actually taste that food.
Unopened emails never get read, so let’s talk about the importance of subject lines. Getting a customer to open an email is the first step to getting them in your restaurant.
Pique their interest and make their stomachs growl! Here are some subject line examples you can use for inspiration.
Yo Sushi! – It’s YO Birthday. Get ⅓ Off Your Food Bill
Sweet Green – Yup, we’ve got a “late summer” menu
Donato’s Pizza – Dinner is covered: $10 carryout deal on large 1-topping pizzas
Guerrilla Tacos - Thanks! Here’s an offer for your next visit to Guerrilla Tacos
O’Charley’s – Waffles, bacon and eggs...Oh My!
Fazoli’s – * FREE Kids Meal * This weekend. Open for coupon.
Papa John’s – Lakers fans, get 50% off your ENTIRE order for today’s game!
Taco Bell – Take a break from Cyber Monday. Have some Taco Bell.
Pret – Pret’s Veggie Menu is here
Mimi’s Cafe – Start off the New Year with a Free Entree.
Olive Garden – Tonight only! FREE Meatballs
This post wouldn't be complete without some examples of restaurant emails to inspire your own campaign.
In this email, Olive Garden uses great imagery to entice their subscribers and ends by offering them a discount on their next meal.
Omaha Steaks proposes quick and delicious meals at home. Notice how they incentivize customers to purchase by including an offer to get a free skillet with 4 meals.
It's clear that enticing food images are a standard with restaurant emails. Pizza Express uses them to promote their new menus while zeroing in on the Meat Free Monday trend.
In this email, Panna uses their newsletter to grow their community on social media, which gives them even more ways to reach their customers.
If this is not enough, you can visit our food-related newsletter example gallery for more great ideas!
Once you start growing your email list, it becomes harder to manually send email content. In this case, you'll get a lot of value from email automation. For example, at sign up you can automatically send a welcome email that tells a new subscriber what your restaurant is about and/or set triggers to send customers a discount coupon on their birthday.
Remember that you want email communication with your customers to be like you're speaking to them as individuals. Personalization helps you do just that. You can use everything from the receiver’s first name, date of birth and even the kind of dish they like to make sure that every email you send them is about something they're interested in.
Make sure your customers always know the email is from your restaurant. Include your restaurant name in the email sender name. Also include your logo, brand colors and imagery in the email.
The more email experiments you can run, the better the return you'll get from email marketing. With A/B testing you can find out which subject lines increase open rates, the best time to send an email to your subscribers and even what offers they're more interested in.
Combining email marketing and social media can help you grow your audience. Add links to your social media channels at the bottom of your emails, and if you're running promotions, always encourage email subscribers to share on social media.
Email marketing is something all restaurants should be taking advantage of, as it delivers the greatest return on investment of any marketing channel.
It’s not molecular gastronomy.
Your recipe for success:
With email marketing, remember to treat your subscribers as you would your dine-in customers. Listen, give them exactly what they want and create a positive experience that they want to repeat. Make your customers hungry for more and watch them come through the door.