Restaurant Email Marketing: How to Attract More Customers

Restaurant Email Marketing

With more than 1 billion restaurant locations in the US, you need to make the most of your marketing efforts to attract your fair share of customers in an $800 billion industry. One of the most cost-effective ways to grow any business is email marketing, and that is particularly true with restaurants.

Based on a recent roundup of statistics, email marketing remains a great way to connect with current and potential patrons. The stats show that:

  • In the US alone, more than 90% of adults use email.
  • The ROI of email marketing is 28.5% better than for direct mail.
  • Every dollar you spend on email marketing brings you $38 in return.

Those are very compelling numbers. To make sure you capitalize on this trend, we offer this guide to highlight restaurant marketing ideas and trends. Included are statistics on restaurant email marketing, innovative ways to collect customers’ emails, marketing content ideas for restaurants, and email marketing best practices. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to improve your restaurant's marketing campaigns and get more diners sitting at your tables.

Email Marketing Benefits for Restaurants

Based on research by Single Platform, restaurants spend 15% of their marketing budgets on email marketing. Among those email marketers, a survey by The Rail shows that more than one-third of restaurant owners send monthly emails to customers, with 71% using their newsletters to send details of upcoming events.

The Rail’s data also shows that more than half of all restaurant email lists have more than 10,000 subscribers and the average open rate is 19.3%. The email benchmarks cited by Mailchimp put the open rate for this sector even higher: at 21.17%, with a click-through rate of 1.25%.

What’s the ROI of restaurant email marketing? That depends on who you ask. Some recent feedback shows:

  • The ROI of email marketing, in general, is $44 for every $1 spent, based on a study published by WebpageFX.
  • ChowNow cites a slightly lower ROI, at $43 for each $1 spent.
  • EZCater is even more conservative, projecting an ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.

Whichever number you go with, those are impressive returns that prove email marketing is a successful strategy for restaurants. Other benefits of restaurant email marketing include:

  • Making it easy for smaller, local restaurants to compete with larger, corporate chains.
  • Building brand awareness among existing and new customers.
  • Marketing to a “warm” audience, as people actively sign up for updates from their favorite restaurants.
  • Increasing customer retention. A study by Gourmet Marketing shows 70% of customers want restaurants to send them coupons and are prepared to use them.

For restaurant owners, email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to reach customers. It outperforms social media and, unlike social media, you retain control of your audience. To get started, follow these steps:

Step 1: Set Up Your Email List

If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to choose an email service provider. In addition to the brands that are household names, some email services providers that specialize in the restaurant industry include Fishbowl, BentoBox, and Bridg.

When choosing a provider, pay attention to the availability of templates that will allow you to style emails depending on the offer, niche or season. Make sure your restaurant email marketing software has in-depth analytics so you can measure the success of your marketing campaigns.

Step 2: Collect Email Addresses

To build a successful restaurant business, you need a steady stream of new and potential customers to keep the place packed. To connect with potential diners, a good starting point is to place an option form on your website to encourage diners to sign up for your newsletter. For best results, ensure that your email signup form is visible on all relevant pages of your site.

You can sweeten the deal by offering a discount coupon for first-time diners. Some restaurants encourage people to sign up for the email list when they make reservations or order online. You’ll also need to consider offline marketing to get email addresses by using methods that include:

  • Adding a free appetizer offer popup in your main website menu.
  • Putting a signup URL on a card that you add to every takeout or delivery order.
  • Encouraging people to sign up by including an offer and signup URL on bills and receipts.
  • Running a prize draw, and asking people to enter by leaving their business cards and agreeing to accept your restaurant marketing emails.
  • Using SMS marketing and asking people to send a text message to subscribe to your updates.

All of these will increase the number of potential customers for your restaurant.

Step 3: Send Promotional & Relational Emails

The best restaurant campaigns include three types of emails: transactional, relational and promotional. The last two help build long-term customers, Relational emails foster goodwill by delivering free information or free gifts. Promotional emails include notifications about offers and sales, but there are no freebies.

If you’re like many content marketers, you might wonder how to stay connected to customers month after month. Some restaurant email marketing ideas of value to send with every email include: 

  • Highlight new menu items, changes to old menu items, chef’s specials and themed menu nights.
  • Introduce subscribers to the people behind the restaurant, like the owners, chefs and staff members.
  • Share the story of how your restaurant got started.
  • Show off interviews, reviews, and positive coverage.
  • Explain how you create some of your most popular recipes.
  • Give tips on food preparation.
  • Include blog content.
  • Celebrate your customers.
  • Provide discounts, deals, and coupons.
  • Plug into national holidays, local food festivals and special food celebrations (like National Ice Cream Day).

You can also use email marketing to:

  • Create and nurture a customer loyalty program.
  • Win back diners who haven’t been to your restaurant lately.
  • Follow up with diners who have taken a special deal from a site like Groupon.
  • Target people who’ve asked about your restaurant but haven’t booked a reservation.

Best Practices for Email Marketing

If you want the best restaurant email campaigns, you’ll need to nail the email subject line with a creative message to capture the attention of diners. Here are some memorable restaurant email marketing subject lines from various restaurants:

  • It’s YO Birthday. Get 1/3 Off Your Food Bill – Yo Sushi!
  • Dinner is covered: $10 carryout deal on large 1-topping pizzas – Donato’s Pizza
  • Late night cravings? We’ve got you covered – Del Taco
  • Go ahead, get two – Papa Murphy’s
  • Thanksgiving Dinner Has Never Been Easier – Munchery

Once people have opened your email, you want them to click through to take up your offer. The more relevant your emails are, the more likely people are to open them and act on the information they contain.

A great way to do that is with segmentation and personalization that divide your subscribers into smaller groups for more targeted marketing.