Whether you’re new to email marketing or new to the restaurant business, you should know that email remains one of the most effective online marketing tools for restaurants that exists. 

So, if you’re wondering if you should use email marketing for your restaurant, the answer is — absolutely yes. Here’s why:

  • Email contacts are worth more than gold. Like your website, you own that information. Your contacts are customers that have said, “Yes, market to me.” That’s a very rare and precious thing.
  • As mentioned above, email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels out there. If not the most. That’s because the email marketing yields an ROI that averages roughly $42 per $1 investment
  • Email marketing is quick and easy. With email marketing, you can automate your most important communications as well as preschedule things that need to go out even when you’re up to your elbows in orders. And with the right email marketing platform, you can do so much more.

Now that you know the above, the real question is how do you use email marketing for restaurants? I’m glad you asked.

In this article, we’re going to cover the basics of email marketing for restaurants. This includes:

  • How to collect contact information from customers to build your email list
  • What are the most important emails to automate
  • How to keep the communication going
  • And what to do next

If you’ve got a notepad, and you’re ready to start some brainstorming, let’s talk about email marketing for your restaurant.

Get the tools and guidance you need to find new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more.

How to collect contact information

I wanted to start here because no matter how much you know about email marketing, it doesn’t do you a darn bit of good if you have no one to send emails to. 

When you run a restaurant, collecting emails can sometimes feel a little awkward. I mean, how do you do it, really?

Honestly, it’s not that difficult. 

One of the first ways people collected information from their customers was to put a little stack of cards next to the register, asking for people to give feedback on their visit. Sometimes you would see fishbowls out for people to drop their business cards in to win a free meal (the fine print would often read that by entering, you’re giving permission to the restaurant to send you marketing information — not the best option, by the way). 

Not that those don’t still work — they do to a degree, but now, there are more effective and less annoying ways to get your customers to opt-in to receive marketing communications from you. 

Here’s a list of ways to collect customers’ email addresses, so you can think about which options will work best for you:

  • Print opt-in messaging and offers on your receipts (this is also good for asking people to give you a review on sites like Yelp or Google).
  • Create an inline or pop-up contact sign-up on your website (pop-ups can be controlled for when and how many times they pop-up while someone is visiting your restaurant website).
  • Use text-to-join by posting signs in your restaurant or on your tables so customers can sign up for your email list while they’re waiting for their meal.
  • Add the Join My List app to your Facebook Business Page
  • If you also run a food truck, use the ListBuilder App and upload contacts when it’s convenient for you, or think about posting a contact sign-up sheet right on the side of your truck.

These aren’t the only ways to start collecting contacts for your restaurant email marketing, but they’re some good options to get you started. 

Of course, if you’re asking people for their valuable information, you need to incentivize them. That means offering them some sort of discount or reward in exchange for joining your email list.

The most important emails for restaurants to automate

The most important email campaigns to automate are the ones in your welcome series.

When it comes to email marketing for restaurants, a welcome series consists of at least two email campaigns.

Email one – welcome and delivering on incentive

Constant Contact restaurant welcome email 1 of 2 in series
A restaurant’s best asset is its food, so make that a prominent part of your welcome email.

The first email of your series should go out the moment someone subscribes to your email marketing list.

This email should be welcoming with mouth-watering images of your dishes as well as be properly branded with your logo and colors. But most importantly, it should deliver on what was promised. So, if you promised a 10% discount on their next dine-in experience, two-for-one drinks, or whatever the incentive was for them to join your email list, this first email has to deliver on that promise.

In addition to delivering the goods, this first email should also let your new subscriber know what to expect going forward. Let them know if you do a newsletter once a month, or send out information on Friday’s special first thing Monday morning. 

Email two – an invitation to connect

This restaurant marketing email is sure to entice subscribers to connect beyond their inbox.

The second email in your series should come a few days after the first. Like the first, it should be welcoming, but this email is where you invite your new subscribers to engage with you in other ways. 

If you’re hesitant to ask for anything from your subscribers, don’t be. First, you’re not asking them to do anything. They already want to engage with you or they wouldn’t have signed up to receive your email marketing. So, invite them to connect with you in other ways; on your social media channels, your restaurant’s website, and review sites.

This is an extremely important thing to do because once your subscribers connect with you on other platforms, you have multiple ways to stay engaged and top of mind. And when they start engaging with you on social media channels, your restaurant begins to be exposed to their connections, which may very well become your next customers.

Can you think of other email campaigns that you can automate? Jot those down.

Keep the communication going

Constant Contact email marketing for restaurants continue communicating
When it comes to email marketing for restaurants, every communication should provide relevant information first, with salesy content second, and the call to action last.

This is where you deliver on your promise to stay connected. 

When your customers become subscribers, they let you know that they want to hear from you, and in your welcome email, you let them know exactly what to expect. In doing so, you promised to keep in touch.

Every time I talk about email marketing I talk about how consistency is key. By being consistent, you build a reputation for being trustworthy. People can count on you if they can count on your marketing emails being in their inbox on a consistent basis. If you have the right content, they’ll look forward to receiving that email every week. And when’s the last time you heard someone say they were glad they got an email?

The right content

Good email marketing consists of 80% information or entertainment and 20% sales. Although that’s not always possible, when you’re creating email marketing campaigns for your restaurant, share information first and push the sale second. How do you do this without giving your recipes away? Share information that’s related to your restaurant and what you have coming up.

Think about sharing tips on how to store and reheat leftovers, recipes for basic versions of your best selling cocktails, history on one of your menu items, a holiday you’ll be celebrating at the restaurant, and maybe even spotlight new employees or new dishes. There’s no end to what you can share with your subscribers. And if you let your brand’s personality shine through, it will make the sharing even better.

What to do next

Hopefully, you’ve been jotting down some good ideas on that notepad I mentioned earlier. If not, don’t fret. Now is the time to do some brainstorming.

Think about what sort of emails you can automate. Can you segment your lists into specific audiences, or send out special emails for your customers’ birthdays, anniversaries, or other special events? If not, think about how you could send out a third welcome email asking for more information in a fun and inviting way (or a survey on their favorite dish or part of your restaurant). Then, you can use that information to deliver more personalized content to your subscribers.

The great thing about email marketing for restaurants is that it works whether you’re dine-in, take-out, drive-by, drive-in, delivery, or even food truck only. It works!

So, grab your calendar, or use Constant Contact’s Online Marketing Calendar, and think about what holidays you might be able to promote in your restaurant and highlight in your email campaigns.

Once you get started, you might be surprised at how quickly your email marketing calendar fills up. It’s okay. Have fun. Get excited. Email marketing for restaurants is almost as fun as eating great food!

Wondering what your next step in marketing your restaurant online is? Check out our online marketing guide for restaurants.