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We’ve tracked the results of hundreds of restaurants that have been using restaurant email marketing for over five years. The most successful restaurant email marketing programs do the following.

1. Never Stop Building Your Email Marketing List – A restaurant email marketing list is never “complete”. There are always new customers that will be trying your restaurant for the first time. There are also many customers that may have not signed up in the past for your email club and are not sure if your restaurant will be one of their “regular” eating places. Before they commit to getting email messages they want to be sure you are on their list of regular restaurants.

2. Ask Customers to Join Your Restaurant Email Marketing List Everywhere – Ask customers to join using:

  • In restaurant signup slips
  • Website sign up form
  • URL on receipts
  • Online ordering email club opt-in request
  • QR codes on table tents, near the POS, in windows or on local flyers.
  • Online reservations
  • Facebook page application tab

3. Promote What Makes Your Restaurant Unique – Restaurant email marketing is more than just sending coupons. While the promise of coupons is important to the success of your restaurant email marketing club, you can use your email message to communicate what makes your restaurant unique. You can feature:

  • New menu items
  • Food preparation
  • Special dietary accommodation
  • Food quality
  • Monthly features
  • Limited time offers

4. Create a Promotional Calendar – Restaurants can learn from retail on how to create an annual promotional calendar. It’s not secret what the major events are every year for the restaurant business. Just like in retail, create promotions that complement the major events. Some events will not require any discounting but can still benefit from some promotion to make an event like Mother’s Day a “special event”. Plan in advance for these events and decide what you will promote and how you will promote it. Include seasonal dishes in your annual calendar that are only available during different times of the year.

5. Coupon Offers should promote business not create a discount image. Make sure you:

  • Never run the same coupon offer two months in a row.
  • Avoid across the board discounts like $X or Y% off the entire menu.
  • Emphasize the value of the offer with words like “Save $X”.
  • Create offers that encourage a future visit with bounce back offers.
  • Reward customers for bringing in a friend or visiting the restaurant during normal slow times.
  • Restrict great offers to a single usage to reward customers once. (We offer a coupon system using a QR code for redemption that allows you to verify a coupon has only been used once and it does NOT require POS integration.)
  • Make your email club members feel special with member’s only exclusive coupons.

6. Provide customers with easy access to your website content by providing links in your regular restaurant email marketing messages. Your menu, catering menu, gift cards, reservations, feedback and online ordering are all links you can provide in the email message to give customers quick access to what they want to know. Be sure to list your hours of operation and phone number. And include links to any of your social marketing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Fansrave.

7. Think Smartphone – The percentage of your customers accessing content on their smartphone is close to 50% and will only continue to grow. Make sure that your entire restaurant email marketing system is smartphone enabled. The following should all be coded to display properly on smartphones as well as desktops and laptops.

  • Email club sign up form
  • Welcome to the email club confirmation email
  • Birthday emails
  • On-going email messages
  • Coupons
  • Feedback surveys

Very simply in restaurant email marketing, the bigger the list the better the results. The more aggressive you are collecting email addresses the more likely your email marketing list will be a cross section of your entire customer base including your biggest promoters and fans, to the customer that occasionally stops in to enjoy a meal.

Your occasional customer may not take the time to open and read your email message but they may very well see your restaurant name in the list of email messages in their inbox. That marketing impression cost pennies versus the cost of distributing your advertisement in any mailer or local print publication to the occasional customer.

Your biggest promoters will take time to read your restaurant email marketing messages. Every message is an opportunity to remind your best customers of why they love your restaurant and what keeps them coming back.

Your promoters are your best opportunity to have them spread the word about your restaurant. Give your promoters some “insider” information in every restaurant email marketing message you send and you will increase the likelihood they will share that information with a friend or colleague in a conversation.

We have several customers that run the same restaurant email marketing messages year in and year out and get outstanding results. They have developed campaign themes around the major calendar events and combine the messaging with appropriate promotions. They recognize slow periods in their business and run more aggressive promotions during those times.

While the regular customer that has been a member of the email club for years may be able to predict the promotion that is coming, they also look forward to the offer because they know that they won’t see it again for another twelve months. Just like in retail, that annual sale does not lose its effectiveness even though it is repeated every year.

Restaurant email marketing is still the only advertising medium where you can push your message in front of customers. Sure your customer’s inbox can fill quickly and cutting through the clutter is a challenge. But when you compare restaurant email marketing with a Facebook news feed message, a Twitter post or a text message – restaurant email marketing gives an opportunity to tell a story and communicate with customers versus the short phrase and picture offered by the other mediums all of which are even more fleeting and disappear into digital vapor quickly.

Restaurant email marketing still has one of the highest marketing ROI’s when compared to all of the other options. It should definitely be high on the list of restaurant marketing expenditures given its low cost and great results.