The Success Recipe: 5+ Email Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

Luke Januschka

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May 28, 2024
email marketing ideas for restaurants
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Your restaurant has been around for sometime, known for its culinary fiesta.  Over the years, you’ve built a remarkable database with thousands of customers’ emails, a treasure trove waiting to be unlocked. You have some decent knowledge of marketing on social media and you’ve been actively sharing updates. 

But when it comes to email, it feels like starting from square one.

The diverse types of emails, figuring out how to write that perfect subject line or learning to segment your email list for personalized outreach—all of it feels like a foreign cuisine.

Many restaurateurs find themselves in this exact predicament, sitting on untapped potential without a clear path forward. And to bridge this gap, we’ve sourced some of the best email marketing strategies to help your eatery navigate the unchartered waters with utmost clarity. 

Email Marketing Ideas For Every Palate

Email marketing, if done the right way,  can generate an impressive return of investment (ROI) of $36 for every $1 spent. But before you hit send on those emails, you need to make sure your email list complies with legal standards like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing aka CAN-SPAM (US laws that applies to commercial email messages sent to recipients). This is non-negotiable and shows both your customers and legal watchdogs that you respect the established standards for data privacy. 

Once you have this in place, here are some unique email marketing ideas you can leverage to stand out in the crowd:

1. Welcome Emails

“You had me at hello.”

Remember the classic dialogue from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. That’s what a welcome email can do!

It is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to your new subscribers and make a great first impression. They’re known for having high open rates and are a perfect opportunity to engage your audience. This is the perfect moment to let your subscribers know what kind of content they can expect from you, whether it’s weekly specials, event notifications, or behind-the-scenes stories.

For instance, Starbucks, the “famous coffee place”, does it really well by making new customers feel valued right from the start. Their welcome email is all about warmth and appreciation, and it’s not just a greeting – it’s a thank you for joining their community. They also make sure to clearly explain the benefits of their app, guiding new subscribers through the features and encouraging them to take the next steps. This way, customers are well-informed and engaged, setting the stage for a long-lasting relationship.

starbucks-welcome-email

2. Announcing Menu Makeover Through Email

Ever had that buzz of excitement when you hear about a new dish or a seasonal special at your go-to spot? You can offer your customers that same thrill by shooting them an email about the latest menu addition or a whole new menu crafted for the season. These emails are more than just informational; they engage and tantalize by announcing what’s new. 

Your email could entail something like, “Guess what? We just rolled out a summer special that’s all about fresh, local produce. And oh, we’re bringing back that mango cheesecake you loved last year!” Such emails can leave your customers overwhelmed with anticipation, mentally planning their next visit before they even reach the end of the email.

This is why menu update emails are invaluable. They’re personal, timely, and have got this way of turning a regular Tuesday night into something to look forward to. And for restaurants, that’s what it’s all about—creating those moments that bring people through the door, eager to see what’s new.

3. Feedback emails

People love to share their thoughts, especially when they know someone’s actually listening. So imagine sending out a friendly email asking, “Hey, how was your meal? Tell us all about it.” It’s casual, it’s direct, and most importantly, it shows that you care. 

But here’s where it gets really interesting. Those surveys aren’t just feel-good moments. They’re gold mines of info, helping you tweak the menu, refine the service, maybe even adjust the ambiance based on real feedback. And when you make changes based on what customers tell you, and maybe even shout out those changes in follow-up emails, people notice. They see you’re listening and acting on their advice, which is a powerful way to build loyalty.

Now, sprinkle in a little incentive for filling out the survey—say, a discount code or a free appetizer on their next visit. Not only does this encourage participation, but it also gives them a nifty reason to come back. “Fill out a quick survey and get a free dessert? Sure, why not?”

4. Celebrating Food Holidays

You know how there seems to be a day for every kind of food out there? Well, it turns out, that’s like hitting the jackpot for keeping things spicy with your email marketing. These food holidays give you the perfect opportunity to reach out, celebrate something fun, and offer a little extra to your patrons.

For instance, Subway, an American fast-food chain popular for its submarine sandwiches, went all out and whipped up these massive footlong cookies for National Cookie Day. You could maybe toss in free fries on National Fries Day, or how about a 20% on pizzas for National Pizza Day? Sending out an email that says, “Get ready, pizza lovers! We’re slicing 20% off all pizzas this National Pizza Day because we think every pizza deserves its day in the sun,” makes your customers feel part of something bigger. It’s celebratory, it’s communal, and honestly, it’s just a fun way to keep your restaurant on their minds.

5. Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are mostly automated messages triggered by a user’s specific actions on a platform, such as a restaurant’s app or website. These actions could include making a reservation, placing an online order, or updating account details. Unlike promotional emails, transactional emails are directly related to the user’s latest activity. They boast an impressively high open rate, typically ranging from 80% to 85%, as recipients are compelled to engage with these messages relevant to their recent interactions.

You can spice up these emails by adding a fun fact about the restaurant, featuring a chef’s favorite dish, or sharing upcoming events and deals. This turns a basic email into a more interesting and engaging way to connect with customers and strengthen that relationship.

6. Celebration Emails

Who doesn’t love feeling special on their special day? That’s exactly why celebration emails hit the mark in email marketing for businesses. It’s like saying, “Hey, we remember you, and we want to make your day even better!” Now, add a small reward. It could be to celebrate your anniversary, wedding, or another special occasion. They’re not just sending you a quick “Congratulations!” No, they’re upping the game by throwing in a free drink of any size. It’s their way of giving you a celebratory hug, but with caffeine.

This isn’t just smart; it’s like inviting you to a party where you’re the guest of honor. And who could resist showing up? That free drink pulls you in, and while you’re there, chances are you’ll pick up a donut or two as well. It’s a win-win. Dunkin’ gets to show they care, and you get a tasty treat for your special day. That’s the kind of move that turns a casual customer into a loyal fan.

Dunkin Donuts birthday wish emailer

Customizing Email Content

Chefs seek unique ingredients to set their dishes apart. Today, restaurants strive for the same uniqueness. They want a personal touch in their email campaigns. It could be a cozy corner café or an upscale dining establishment. The key is to experiment with different email strategies. This will help you find what truly resonates with your audience. 

The secret ingredient? You must create an email copy that captivates and adds value to the customer. This ensures every email hits the “personalization” sweet spot. Restaurants face often face this roadblock and brands like Restaurant Growth can provide the tailored support. It will help them enhance and celebrate the distinctive style of your restaurant. This will make their email marketing as unique and memorable as their cuisine.

FAQs

Does email marketing work for restaurants?

Absolutely! Email marketing is a highly effective tool for restaurants to engage with customers, drive repeat business, and increase sales. With personalized messaging, enticing offers, and strategic timing, restaurants can leverage email marketing to connect with their audience, promote new menu items or specials, and cultivate customer loyalty.

What is the ROI for email marketing for restaurants?

The ROI for email marketing can vary depending on factors such as campaign effectiveness, audience engagement, and overall business objectives. However, email marketing, if done properly, has the potential to generate an impressive ROI of $36 for every $1 spent

What are the 7 email marketing strategies?

Here are 7 email marketing strategies that can help improve engagement and conversion rates:

1. Personalization: Tailoring your email in a way that it resonates with each customer, making them feel special with messages that speak directly to them.

2. Segmentation: This is about splitting your email list into different groups, so you can send relevant mails to each group, like targeting vegans differently from the regular customers.

3. Mobile Optimization: Since everyone’s glued to their phones, you make sure your emails look good and are easy to read on those small screens.

4. Automation: Set it and forget it! Schedule emails like welcome messages or birthday discounts so they send automatically when triggered.

5. A/B Testing: It’s like a mini competition between two versions of your email to see which one performs better, helping you understand what your audience loves.

6. Engaging Content: Keep it fun, interesting, or useful. If your emails are a treat to read, people will look forward to them.

7. Clear Call-to-Action (CTA): Be super clear about what you want the reader to do next, like “Click here to grab your discount!” so they know the action to take.

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Luke Januschka
Luke Januschka is a pivotal partner at Restaurant Growth, where he spearheads strategies that have generated over 30 million dollars in tracked sales for our valued restaurant clients.
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