Restaurant Email Marketing: Ideas and Examples to Supercharge Your Newsletter

restaurant email marketing: ideas and examples to supercharge your newsletter

Did you know that 138% more money is made from customers who buy your products via an email offer than by customers who don’t get your emails? Or that email is the biggest driver of customer retention (even more effective than social media)?

Our guide to extremely effective email marketing tips for restaurants will help you get more customers, increase the money they spend with you, and make sure they keep coming back for more.

Let’s get cooking!…

Build a segmented email list

The point of your restaurant’s email list isn’t to stuff in any emails you can get your hands on, it’s to find high-quality email addresses from people who will genuinely benefit from getting your emails.

By this, we mean the emails of people who have consented to be on your list and are likely to have an interest in your offerings. Gone are the days of scraped lists and sneaky newsletter registrations.

You will get the best results, and the least amount of unsubscribes, if you put together an email list of people who definitely want to hear from you.

Implement email capture forms

Go through every stage of the journey users take to reach you online and work out the best places to put email capture forms. These forms should have an incentive for users to sign up to your emails, like the promise of discounts, special offers, and so on.

Ask for useful information

Your lists should be segmented so you can send different types of emails to different categories of subscribers.

One way you can do this is by working out what different categories of people might be interested in your restaurant and creating a list segment for each category. Or even better you can ask people to answer some optional fields to help personalise their email experience.

restaurant questionnaire screenshot

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For example, people with families might want to hear about your latest child-eats-free offer or kids meal specials.

Create email capture landing pages

To help capture relevant details without inundating your users with questions, you can embed different types of email opt-in forms on your website, with a landing page that represents each segment.

email sign up section from Jamie Olivers website

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For example, you could have a section on your site talking about family deals in which there’s an email form. You can use an email manager like MailChimp to create functionality enabling people who sign up on a specific page to be entered onto the ‘family offers’ segment of your email list, for example.

Plan a schedule of email offers

Sit down and make a list of different opportunities to send emails to your lists. There are loads of ways to hook content around specific events.

For example, there are public holidays and seasonal occasions like Christmas, Easter/Spring Break, Bank Holidays, 1st day of summer/autumn/winter, Black Friday/Cyber Monday and so on.

People plan their work and family Christmas lunches far in advance so make sure you give yourself plenty of run in to entice people to your restaurant. This might be a good moment to offer group discounts to encourage workplaces or large families to book at your restaurant. The first day of summer can be a great time to preview your summer menus, and so on.

You can even tap into a wide range of food and beverage related world days like National Bloody Mary Day (Jan 1st), British Pie Week (early March), or International Stout Day (November 5). There are tons more of these food days!

You can go wild with these days (though don’t inundate your email list every day of the week!). For example, there are loads of interesting and tasty meals you can make using stout. On International Stout Day you could send out an email blast about your latest stout marinated pork (just off the top of my head!) meal as a way to get people interested in visiting your restaurant.

If you have venues in Scotland, Burns night is a great opportunity to send enticing emails to get people through your doors. There are lots of posts about popular events to target online so do lots of research and remember to think outside the (in)box.

Take inspiration from social media

Social media is a treasure trove of potential email opportunities.

Social media users will be familiar with the wide range of topical hashtags that come up. You can use them to generate ideas for email subjects and as opportunities to promote your social media channels via email.

You can also put links to your email opt-in forms on your various social media platforms. Each link should go to a related landing page so that you can accurately track your conversions and segment people on your lists.

sign up for email section on restaurants facebook page

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For example, you could post on the popular food hashtag #FoodPhotography with some enticing pics of your food and then include a link in the comments asking people to sign up to your emails.

Everyone who signs up can then be added to an Instagram segment on your email list. This is great because you could also, for example, send an email out to your Instagram segment offering a free meal for the best photo of your food posted on Instagram (properly tagged of course).

Use emails for engagement

The point about email is that it’s a great way to drive engagement with your brand.

This can, of course, be to motivate people to visit your restaurant, but there are loads of other ways people can engage.

If you offer group discounts people might share your email with friends or work colleagues. Or perhaps you could run a competition asking for people to submit their most inventive cocktail recipes, and offering to serve the most interesting one at your restaurant.

Tips for writing the perfect restaurant marketing email

Email best practices

Use an email marketing service (EMS) like MailChimp to create your email campaigns. This is a good idea because you can also manage your email lists in a very granular way using platforms like these. An EMS will give you templates you can use to create emails and you can, of course, create your own.

Research other restaurants for inspiration

When designing the look of your emails it’s a very good idea to sign up to the emails of restaurants that are similar to yours to see what they do. Then compare these with the emails of the big hitters, whether it’s Burger King, Jamie Oliver’s Diner, or Wetherspoons. In fact, the wider the range of restaurants whose emails you receive the better an idea you’ll have of how to write successful emails. Bear in mind that every restaurant is different and what works for Jamie Oliver won’t necessarily work for you. What you’re looking for is a kind of “hey, we could do that!” moment of inspiration and the more emails you read the more likely it is that inspiration will strike.

Restaurant marketing email ideas

There are a million ways you can write emails to promote your restaurant and we can’t cover them all here. But let’s take a look at some of the most effective email marketing ideas for restaurants.

Introductory emails

You should have emails that are relevant to each stage of the customer journey.

One of the most important stages is when people first sign up. In fact, welcome emails generate 320% more money than any other type of promotional email!

So there’s no excuse not to create an introductory email and use your EMS to schedule it to automatically send when a new member subscribes.

Here’s an example of a welcome email from Chipotle:

example email from chipotle with a picture of a huge burrito wrapped

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The design is simple yet striking, with a few impactful visual elements and big action buttons.

One of the most important things to get right with emails like this is to give your subscribers the promise of tasty benefits. In this email, subscribers are promised news and updates about events and promotions, “the latest happenings”, and occasional offers. From the very beginning, this email promises that subscribers will get a lot out of the emails to come.

Create a sense of exclusivity

Notice how the email also creates a sense of exclusivity by saying “you’ll be the first to hear about” their offers. Creating a sense of exclusivity is a way to show subscribers that it is worth their while to stay on your list.

Take a personal approach

Email is a very intimate way to communicate to people, they’ve given you permission to intrude a bit on their time, so you may as well make your emails as personal as possible.

You can use list segmentation and email automation to send tailored emails.

For example, add an email list field for birthdays and then send a personalised email to subscribers the week before their birthday inviting them to visit your restaurant to celebrate. Include a call to action (CTA) encouraging them to reserve a table.

Target interests

You can also use segmented lists to target people’s special interests.

In fact, people are going to unsubscribe from your email list if your emails don’t relate to them.

A good way to do this is to include fields in your sign-in form so people can specify their preferences.

You could have a section asking about dietary preference; for example, asking if people are vegetarian or vegan won’t just ensure you send relevant emails (a vegetarian doesn’t want to hear about your Angus steak burger, but may love your new veggie patty) it will also show your customers that you are attentive to their interests. By doing this you’ll also be maximising the chances that they engage with your emails.

Promote entertainment

Email marketing for restaurants doesn’t just have to be about food.

You can use your emails to promote upcoming entertainments at your restaurant.

Here are some of the things you could talk about:

Live music – lots of restaurants have live music, it’s a great way to entertain customers whilst they eat. And it’s a great way to interest your email subscribers. You can include details of the band or musicians and any food deals you are offering on the night. If appropriate you can include incentives like saying “these events are usually really popular so reserve in advance to avoid disappointment”.

busy restaurant with a band playing on the stage, dark setting and candles on all the tables

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Wine and food tasting events – there’s been a big rise in the popularity of food tasting and wine tasting events and your restaurant is the perfect place to host an event like this. People love having experiences, and there’s a big interest in food and wine. It will demonstrate that your restaurant is not just a place to buy food, it’s a socially and culturally interesting place to be. Email promotions like these are much more likely to get people sharing news about your events with their friends and family too.

Cabaret and comedy – we all know the cliche about one-liner comics ending their sets with “seriously, try the fish”… and it’s a cliche for a good reason… people love to be entertained during an evening of food and drink.

red lights shining on a centre stage at an empty restaurant

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Remember, it’s not all about you

The secret to all great retail communication is to remember the following golden rule:

Customers aren’t interested in what you do, they’re interested in what you can do for them.

To put it more bluntly: it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Rather than saying this:

“Generic Burger are proud to have kept our burger restaurant running as a family business for over 7 years. We take great pride in producing delicious tasting burgers made from only the finest burger ingredients. To discover more boring generic things about us that you don’t care about, stay subscribed to our email list.” (ok, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you take my point)

Instead, say something like this:

“Do you want the perfect burger, packed with any ingredients you can imagine? Get an exclusive 15% off our Build It Yourself Burger with the coupon enclosed in this introductory email. And this is just a taste (haha) of the great offers and updates we’ll send you. We understand that the only good spam is in a sandwich, so we promise we’ll send you only relevant stuff and you can opt out at any time”

Ok, so that’s just an idea of how you can make your emails provide something of value for your customers. But you can see that it’s much more engaging and value packed than the first example, and it says something about your brand personality and what customers can expect from future emails.

Write customer-focused copy

The trick to writing customer focussed copy for your restaurant mailing list is to make a list of the concrete benefits you can offer your customers. Talk to your finance people and come up with ideas for the occasional discount. Talk to your suppliers about getting free stuff you can give away in competitions. But don’t get carried away with discounts, these offers aren’t about giving away money, they’re about adding value to people’s restaurant experience.

Once you know exactly what you have to offer you can design emails to send to your customers. Ask yourself, would I be happy to get this email/offer through my inbox? If the answer’s Yes you can rest easy that you have created an email that will genuinely benefit your subscribers. If the answer is No, go back to the drawing board until you’ve come up with content that is of genuine benefit to your subscribers.

Set a regular email schedule

Make sure you send your emails out at an agreed frequency, say once a month, and that your subscribers know what that frequency is. You might want to send additional emails for public holidays and so on but where possible integrate these into your regular bulletins. One of the main reasons people unsubscribe is because they get too many emails, so be careful!

Try the fish!

We hope this guide to email marketing for restaurants has given you lots of ideas for transforming the way you communicate with your customers.

The marketing tips we’ve talked about are simple to implement but will bring you incredible results if you take the time and care to craft email campaigns that really get your subscriber’s mouths watering. Then you’ll be laughing all the way to the banquet!


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