Get More Loyal Customers by Capitalizing on Restaurant Email Marketing

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

Get More Loyal Customers By Capitalizing On Restaurant Email Marketing

Getting customers in the door can be expensive and it requires a lot of marketing effort on your part. Once you have them in the door, why wouldn’t you want to make them a repeat customer? Restaurant email marketing can help you with that!

Email marketing for restaurants is one of the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal. It’s often the fastest, easiest, and most inexpensive way to reach people who actively want to hear from you. That “want to hear from you” aspect is key. Email marketing allows you to reach people who already like what you have to offer and want to hear from you which means that it often leads to a higher ROI than other forms of marketing.

According to Chief Marketer, the ROI of email marketing is 28.5% better than for direct mail. Email marketing for restaurants is time and money well spent. Email Monday found that every dollar you spend on email marketing brings you $38 in return.

Many restaurants have to rely on coupons and special offers to get customers in the door but restaurants with email lists have more options. When you can regularly contact a customer, you can focus on what sets your restaurant apart from the others and why they should come in. They may have had a fantastic experience at your restaurant but the memories of that experience can fade with time. That’s why it’s so important to remain on your customer’s radar and remind them what makes your restaurant unique.

How Does Restaurant Email Marketing Work?

Email marketing is simply marketing to a subscriber directly through email. The term “subscriber” is important because email marketing is permission-based so people have to “opt in” or choose to receive your emails. This is a legal requirement set out by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and more recently, GDPR.

Email marketing services make sure you are following these standards by adding these items automatically. They also stay on top of the latest laws and restrictions within the email legal landscape which means you don’t have to.

You’ll need to sign up for an email marketing service like Mailchimp, Bridg, Fishbowl, or Constant Contact. These services manage your email list, allow people to subscribe and unsubscribe, and allow you to track and measure the impact of your emails. After all, what’s the point of doing it if you can’t track your results and know it’s working for you?

How Do You Get People To Sign Up?

Nobody is going to give you their name, email address, birthday, etc without a reason. That’s why so many restaurants offer a coupon or special offer in exchange for this information. In the digital marketing world, this is often referred to as your “opt-in offer” because you use it to get people to opt-in.

Here are some opt-in offer ideas for you:

  • 20% off your next visit
  • Exclusive offers that only email subscribers get access to
  • Monthly gift card giveaway for 1 lucky subscriber
  • Free appetizer with your meal when you visit us within the next 2 weeks
  • Access to exclusive events like tastings
  • Free dessert during your next visit
  • Birthday gifts/deals every year on your birthday
  • 10% off on customer appreciation nights for email subscribers only

Once you set up your restaurant email marketing service and decide on your opt-in offer, you’ll want to create a form so you can collect this information from customers in a variety of ways.

Where To Promote Your Email List

  1. Your Website

So many restaurateurs neglect to place an email opt-in form on their website with an opt-in offer and by doing so, they’re missing out on a lot of potential subscribers and customers. Those who do have an offer and a form on their homepage, neglect the other pages on their site.

If someone visits your website and lands on your menu page or your events page they’ll never see the form you’ve only put on your homepage. For that reason, we recommend having your form on each page and there are even website tools you can use to create a pop-up form for people who have not already subscribed.

  1. In Person

You can make this as simple as having a paper form for people to fill out that gets dropped off along with their bill or you can use iPads to avoid having to input all of that data into your email marketing tool. Be sure to check with your email marketing service to see if they require you to have an additional checkbox to show affirmative consent on a paper form. Some email marketing services have a text to subscribe function that you can make use of for in-person email list building.

  1. Take-Out Orders

Simply include a card with each order that has a link telling people exactly where to go to subscribe so they can claim their offer. This link can simply be a page on your website with just the email form. If you make it a unique page you’ll be able to track how many subscribers you got from this take-out orders.

  1. Social Media

Be sure to promote your opt-in offer on your various social media profiles on a regular basis. Most people see a very small fraction of your updates so don’t hesitate to promote this regularly.

  1. Reservations/Online Orders

Do you use OpenTable to accept reservations? OpenTable has an option to offer diners the opportunity to sign up to a restaurants’ email lists when making reservations so be sure to enable this option. If you take reservations or online orders on your own website, make sure the reservation confirmation page has your email form prominently displayed.

  1. On Receipts

Every person who dines at your restaurant leaves with a receipt so why not give them a link to your email sign up form? They’ve already visited your restaurant so this is yet another chance to bring them back again in the future.

Emailing Your Subscribers

Once you start getting people subscribing to your email list, you’ll want to make sure to keep in touch with them. Every email marketing service is a bit different but they all provide an option to send an automatic welcome email that will contain your opt-in offer. But what happens next?

First, you’ll want to decide how often you’ll email your subscribers and let them know how often they can expect to hear from you in that welcome email to set expectations. Here are some content ideas for your email broadcasts:

  • Seasonal drink/food menu item announcements that invite them to make a reservation (be sure to include enticing photos or a video showing off these new delicious items)
  • Event announcements
  • Special offer emails for a specific night of the week for a month
  • Promotions around specific reasons to visit like happy hour, date night, etc.
  • Promotions around seasonal reasons to visit like graduation and holidays
  • Holiday promotions (think outside the box and make use of the fun and sometimes random national days you have at your disposal)
  • Holiday promotions specifically targeting large groups/parties
  • A birthday email with a special offer for them
  • A limited time coupon
  • Promotions sharing any special events you may have like live music
  • A promotion around gift ideas including gift cards to your restaurant
  • Announce a contest you’re running
  • Share a testimonial or review and ask them to review you on Yelp
  • Invite them to follow you on social media
  • Increase engagement by sending a poll and then sharing the results

In all of your emails be sure to include a specific call to action telling them what to do as well as your location, hours, phone number, and a link to your menu page on your website.

Email marketing for restaurants does take time to set up and start using, but the return on investment it provides is well worth it. If you want to start building a more loyal group of regulars, get started with email marketing today!