Launching a restaurant email marketing strategy can be a heavy lift for operators who already juggle multiple roles. But a successful email strategy gives you direct access to your fans in a way other marketing channels don’t — creating a closer connection with loyal customers and converting potential diners into sales through repeated interactions and increased brand awareness. 

This powerful marketing tool yields a high return on investment, too — with every $1 invested in email marketing earning $42 on average. By sending the right messages to the right people, you’ll be able to get prospects placing orders, all while boosting your brand loyalty. 

Want help jumpstarting your restaurant’s email marketing campaigns? Keep reading this blog post and download The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Email Marketing for top tips and best practices to become a confident email marketer in no time. 

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How to grow your restaurant’s email marketing list

Before you can schedule campaigns, you first need to build your email list. While you may already have access to customer emails through your reservation system, actively encouraging additional diners to sign up for the list will help you grow organically, with little day-to-day maintenance on your part. 

Here are the most successful places to gain new subscribers:

  • Signage. Existing customers should be the top target for your email list. Since they’re already fans of your restaurant, chances are they’ll enjoy staying in the loop about upcoming specials, announcements, or exclusive discounts. Promote your email list in your restaurant with signs, or by slipping guests an email signup form alongside their check. 
  • Website. When someone visits your website, they’re likely seeking information about your menu, operating hours, or how to make a reservation. Capture these high-intent prospects by adding a form to your website where they can sign up to receive news and updates from you. Be sure to create an automated welcome email to greet newcomers and entice them to place orders (more on that below). 
  • Social media. Highlight the exclusive content provided through your emails on social media, so your followers are inclined to join the list. This is a great way to build a list with more warm leads (people who are interested in visiting or ordering, but haven’t yet), while staying on their radar for the next time they make plans to eat out. 
  • Incentives. Gone are the days when people would simply give their email without expecting something in return. Today’s savvy customers know that their email address is an extremely valuable asset for any business — as a result, they will look for incentives when they consider signing up for an email list. Compelling incentive ideas include discounts on online orders, a complimentary appetizer or dessert, or a glass of wine on the house with their next order. 

Restaurant email marketing best practices

Your email marketing is an extension of your brand, in terms of both tone and visuals. Taking the time to develop digital techniques that mimic the experience of visiting your restaurant can entice subscribers to become customers. 

Email Design Tips

The most engaging and inspiring emails capture audiences’ attention through bold headlines, eye-catching photos, and clever copy. Many email marketing platforms provide dynamic drag-and-drop design tools and pre-made templates that make creating beautifully designed emails accessible for all skill levels. Be sure to feature your logo and illustrations or professional photos to give insight into your restaurant’s aesthetics right when subscribers open your email. 

Subject Line Tips

Your subject line is arguably the most important part of your email — if it doesn’t catch your reader’s attention, all the designs and promotional campaigns you spent time carefully crafting will end up in someone’s trash folder. Yes, this is a lot of pressure for only 60 characters (which is what most email marketing platforms designate as the max number for a successful subject line), but it also gives you the chance to get creative. Here are the top tips to ensure your email gets opened: 

  • Address recipients by name. Personalize each subject line with the recipient’s name (“George, your dinner is in good hands”) using your email marketing software’s built-in personalization tools. Emails with subject lines tailored to the recipient are 26% more likely to be opened.  
  • Add a pop of personality. Include emojis that fit your brand — by showing a more playful side, you can encourage prospects to open your email over the dry bank statement sitting above it. 
  • Spark urgency. Spotlight limited-time deals or seasonal offerings that beg to be opened on the spot. Recipients will want to redeem these rewards before it’s too late — helping to inspire last-minute dinner plans. 

Body Content Tips

No one scrolling through emails on their phone is looking to read a full-length novel. The best email copy is concise and punchy, aimed at building a strong brand connection with readers through personalization, endearing stories, or compelling offers. While the length ultimately depends on the goal of each message, make sure to break copy up with headlines or bullet points to boost readability — this is especially important since many of your subscribers will view your emails on a mobile device.

Finally, remember that all email content should lead up to a compelling call to action. This way, by the time you’re done waxing poetic about farm-fresh, seasonal heirloom tomatoes, the reader will already have their mouse hovering over the “Order now” button.  

Types of restaurant emails

Restaurant email marketing is an ongoing strategy, not just a one-off exercise. Be sure to consistently communicate with your email list, sharing the latest updates, exclusive discounts, and seasonal specials to keep your restaurant on customers’ radar when they go to make their next reservation. Here are the top email types to consider when planning your email marketing calendar: 

The welcome email 

Through your email marketing software, set up an automation to send an email welcoming new subscribers to your community as soon as they sign up. Make your first impression a good one — briefly share your story and mission, offer an exclusive discount, and be sure to include a link to your delivery platform or reservation system so you can convert leads into paying customers as soon as possible.

Think of a welcome email like someone’s first visit to your restaurant — what do you want them to know? For inspiration, check out this welcome email from Gibson's Bar and Steakhouse. It includes a brief message, offers a discount on the next order, and introduces their brands — all while setting the tone for future communications. 

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The newsletter

Sending regular, engaging emails increases brand awareness and keeps your business top of mind. Newsletters present an opportunity for you to get creative and think about what best reflects your brand. For example, are you participating in any eco-friendly initiatives to reduce food waste? Are you supporting Black-owned businesses? Or is your food made using decades-old family recipes? Spotlighting ways you are contributing to your community gives subscribers more reasons to come in and support you, whether by ordering food to-go or making a dinner reservation.

The promotional email 

Who can resist a good deal? Whether you’re boosting slow nights with happy hour specials or rolling out a new, seasonal menu, your subscribers want to be the first to know. Highlighting exclusive discounts to email subscribers who have already expressed interest in your restaurant is more targeted than social media promotions. Consider also setting up more personalized offers, like a free dessert ahead of subscribers’ birthdays.

The automated email

Make use of your email marketing platform’s many tools to set up triggered emails that can be sent whenever someone subscribes to your list or takes another action on your website, such as visiting your menu page. Once you really get the hang of things, you can even set up an automated drip campaign targeting a specific set of subscribers with proven interest. These “set it and forget it” automated emails can save you time and energy, allowing you to focus on running your business. 

Your ultimate guide, including templates and examples

Ready to create a winning email marketing strategy for your restaurant? Download the Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Email Marketing for more tips on best practices and platforms, critical information on anti-spam laws, insight into success metrics, and more.

Plus, with Storefront, you can add a branded online ordering platform to your website for pickup and delivery and keep your customer data for email campaigns. Pay no commissions or monthly fees, just credit card processing. Get started today. 

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author-saradeforest
Sara DeForest
Copywriter

Sara DeForest is a Bay Area-based freelance copywriter. Previously, she was VP of Marketing at an early stage startup that was named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies. Prior to that, Sara was a content marketer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Though Silicon Valley is a roller coaster, Sara finds her real adrenaline rush doing standup comedy.