8 Restaurant Email Marketing Best Practices

Restaurant Email Marketing Best Practices

Any time you send an email as part of your restaurant marketing plan, you want it to make an impact. Before sending it, be sure to answer this question: How does this email benefit my users?

If you believe that offering a 10% discount on meals is a huge enticement for customers, you need to stop and realize that anyone with an IQ above room temperature knows they’ll have to spend at least $100 to save the modest amount of just $10. That email probably does not need to be sent unless you are willing to up the offer to a 25% discount.

You also need to entice those who have signed up for your restaurant newsletter with enticing offers and interesting messages in the subject line that make readers want to read the email and any attachments. If not, your email marketing campaign will not be a success. Here are eight tips to help you succeed in that area:

1. Write a Click-Worthy Subject Line (Preferably with an Emoji)

Your goal is to provide value whenever possible and make sure to highlight it in your subject line. If you’ve released a new menu or you're offering a free recipe, make sure to put the most important detail in the subject line. ALSO: Be concise (25-30 characters) and, if possible, add an emoji. Readers LOVE emojis!

2. Don’t Bombard Your Customers with Emails

Restaurant email newsletters typically have high open rates because those on their email list truly want to hear from them. They also trust that you’ll only send an email newsletter when there’s something worth sharing. Please stick to that premise and avoid bombarding recipients with too many emails. If you do, they will unsubscribe quickly and without regret. A good amount is two emails per month, but make them impactful.

Here are 3 tips from the experts about how often to send emails:

The more you send, the better. Dan Zarrella, the Social Media Marketing Scientist at Hubspot, does a lot of research on email delivery. He knows to send emails on the weekends for the highest open rate, and never on a Tuesday (the highest unsubscribe rate). Zarella also says that there’s no drop-off in click-through rates regarding frequency. In fact, the more you send, the lower your unsubscribe rate.

Let impact determine your schedule. Mark Brownlow from Email Marketing Reports says, “Given the competition for attention in inboxes, your newsletter has to appear often enough to trigger recognition and build awareness.” He recommends sending email more than once a month, but to make sure every email offers exceptional value or impact. If you can’t do that, send fewer emails and make every one count.

Reduce volume, increase frequency. Christopher Knight, Publisher & CEO of EzineArticles.com, writes: "No one has time to read 4-15 features or articles per newsletter…so reduce the content volume and increase your frequency.” Instead of sending a massive email once a month, send a short, impactful email once a week.

All of this expert advice points to the same direction: send more emails, but only when you have something to say. Most small business owners don’t have the time or the content to stick to a daily publishing schedule, so send emails when they’re important.

3. Send at the Best Times to Get Attention

Dan Zarrella at Hubspot presented The Science of Email Marketing recently. Here are 3 valuable tips about timing your emails:

  • Send on the weekends: Saturdays and Sundays have the highest open rate.
  • They’re on to your Tuesday promotion schedule: Tuesday has the highest unsubscribe rate.
  • Send your emails early: Click-through rates are highest early in the morning. Unsubscribe rates are highest early in the morning too.

4. Include a Personal Message

A quick note from you, your executive chef, or someone that is known as the face of your business will quickly help you gain rapport with your subscribers. It could be a quick "hello" with a brief introduction to what they’ll find in the email, or it could be a friendly story about what’s happening at your restaurant this month.

5. Use Photos to Make People Hungry

Photos draw the eye, and when you’re a restaurant, the best thing for you to do is include photos of your food.

Use photos to illustrate a topic. If you have an event coming up, use a great photo from a past event to show how fun it was. If you’ve come into some fresh local produce that you’re proud of, post a photo of that before you talk about your updated menu.

6. Use Website Analytics to Create Content Ideas

Your customers joined your email list to receive promotions, and now it’s your turn to deliver. Use your website analytics to interpret a story about what your guests are seeking. Whether they visit the pages with your weekly restaurant menu, clearance rack specials or local fundraising events, the traffic to your webpages act as a helpful guide.

Contact for a reason, stay for the ride. Photography studios have customers checking-in on the status of their prints all the time. The Portrait Gallery, a small studio in Matthews, North Carolina, initially uses email to notify clients when their photos are ready to be viewed online. After that first contact, the studio stays in touch with occasional reminders about the services they offer for life’s milestone events like weddings and graduations.

  • Where web analytics are useful: Website analytics would tell the studio when users are trying to access their album pages with enough notice to know that the customer may be getting impatient.

Get repeat visitors from afar. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a small marine animal hospital and tourist spot in Clearwater, Florida, sends updates to fans from around the world about their most famous resident (Winter, the dolphin star of the movie Dolphin Tale). To encourage visitors to come back during their next Florida vacation, the aquarium also publishes calendars with upcoming events and classes.

  • Where web analytics are useful: The Aquarium would know that people are most interested in Winter by watching their Twitter and Facebook analytics. When people respond most to updates about Winter, they know that updates through email will be just as effective.

Deliver the VIP treatment. Give customers on your email list the first glimpse of upcoming events and incentives. Charlotte Children’s Theater in North Carolina announces new programs, acting classes and “early bird” ticket incentives to their email recipients before publishing the information elsewhere. Upserve merchants can say “thank you” through email whenever a frequent customer stops in, which gives a truly VIP experience.

  • Where web analytics are useful: The best strategy here is to collect email addresses at your events because the people attending are more likely to participate in more events, and thus provide a solid list of leads to send event information to. Depending on how much web traffic goes to your event pages and how event-focused your business is, event email marketing could be your only strategy!

Marketer and strategist Lisa Barone says, “The goal of newsletters is to get your customer out of their inbox and back onto your store.” For more ways to get customers out of their inboxes, read more small business email marketing tips.

7. Include Contact Information

Don't make readers hunt for your contact information. List your phone number prominently in the header or just below your logo, with a link to your website and social networks. Also, include your hours and location. If your newsletter isn’t too long, you can include these details at the bottom. Just make sure they are clearly featured.

8. Use the Email Signature to Your Advantage 

Whether it’s an email coming from your marketing team or all of the emails you and your employees send every year, standardizing your company email signature and using it to promote your most important initiatives has become a new secret weapon for email marketers. This can be done manually or scaled across all of your employees with an email signature marketing platform.
Marketing teams can gain centralized control of the company email signature template and include smart calls-to-action (think banner ads, but for email) that dynamically update based on the sender or recipient. Science says your email recipients are paying attention to this piece of digital real estate, so why not use it to your advantage?