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The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Email Marketing

Many restaurant owners hesitate to do email marketing. They think it is intrusive and they think of it as spam.

Some people see email marketing as a thing of the past. The reality is that email marketing is the most cost-effective type of marketing there is.

Here are some impressive facts and benefits about email marketing:

If done right, email marketing can generate higher profit than all advertising platforms.

Before you start your campaign, you should decide how to get your email list. Here are the most common ways to do that:

1. Reservation platforms

Whether you use Open Table, Yelp, or another reservation platform, you can collect your customers’ information when they book their table. Some restaurants don’t like to ask people for too much information as they don’t want to annoy people. But these extra pieces of information can increase your ROI and turn your customers into regulars.

A little tip: make the “Name” and “Email” fields mandatory, and everything else optional. For example, you can give people an option to fill in their birthdays. More on that later.

2. Offer coupons with discounts or free drinks in exchange for their information.

Everyone loves deals and free drinks. You can have a simple pop-up on your website offering 10% off for those who sign up. It is super simple, and people can easily skip doing that if they don’t feel like it.

Other options for restaurant lead magnets can be Buy One Get One Free or free appetizers.

When they see how much they can save, they will have no problem giving you their contact information.

3. Use Wi-Fi marketing for lead generation

Provide free Wi-Fi for your customers, but only after they sign into your network. This is a non-intrusive way to get your customers’ information and add them to your email list.

Now that we established how you can get people’s information, let’s talk about how you can use it:

1. Personalized emails for your customers’ birthdays

This is an example of how you can use that extra information from your customers. Send your guests emails about 10 days before their birthdays and offer them a free meal.

Many places already offer a free drink or a discount for people’s birthdays. You should take it another step further and offer a free meal. People will appreciate this and consider coming back for any special occasion. Also, they will most likely not celebrate their birthday alone. You will make sales from their friends, and get new customers.

2. Daily specials and new dishes and cocktails

Send your customers chef’s new specials or new drinks. Take good, high-quality photos of what you are promoting, and include the images in your emails.

3. Offer loyalty programs

Have a loyalty program and send emails about it to your customers. Loyalty programs work wonders for many businesses, and restaurants are no different. People will be motivated to come in and spend money to get special deals next time.

Here are some ideas to offer rewards to your customers:

  • Offer a free appetizer with their fifth visit.

  • Social media rewards: allow your customers to collect points when they post a photo from your restaurant

  • Refer-a-Friend program: let your customers earn points each time they refer their friends

  • Offer extended Happy Hour to the loyalty members

4. Personalized emails about their last visits

Mention the dish they had and recommend a wine that pairs with it. This is very powerful because people are used to mass emails that are sent to all customers at once. They don’t get to see personalized emails further than just their name. Do this and you will show your customers that you care.

This kind of email can be very powerful, but it will require a little extra effort. Make sure you connect each reservation’s information with what they had for dinner. Your wait staff would have to find out whose name the reservation was under of all the guests at the table.

5. Share your restaurant’s story

You can do this as a part of the newsletter. Or just send over a “fun fact” about your restaurant, or any back story of your business. Storytelling can be a very powerful way to make the connection between consumers and your brand. Learn more about restaurant branding here.

You can also share your chef’s famous recipes or the story behind the ingredients you use in your dish. People will feel more involved if you include them in your restaurant’s background.

How often should you send emails to your customers?

It depends on your email marketing strategy. If you are having special nights or promotions twice a week, you should let your customers know every time. If you are afraid that people will get sick of you and unsubscribe, don’t worry.

First, people get so many emails nowadays. I should know, I have over 140,000 unopened emails right now – and that’s only one mailbox!

With being so overwhelmed with information, most people don’t notice all the emails they get. If you send only one email a month, the chance is that your customers will not see it. Or they will forget about it with all the other things landing in their inbox.

Second, you can segment your contacts based on their engagement with your prior emails. If you see that some people open most of your emails, you can assume they are interested in your content. On the other hand, you can choose not to send more emails to people who didn’t engage so far.

Lastly, you can (and you should) always give people an easy way out. Add the “Unsubscribe” button to the bottom of your email. Let people get off your list if they are not happy with your emails. After all, if they don’t like it – they are not your target audience.

I hope this helps and that you have a clearer picture of email marketing and how it can help your restaurant. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via email or schedule a free Discovery Call here.

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