restaurant email marketing strategy

7 Restaurant Email Marketing Strategies to Boost ROI

Posted on Posted in Restaurant Marketing

Here is a marketing wake up call before we discuss restaurant email marketing strategies to boost ROI from marketing efforts:

  1. Half of today’s restaurants do not have a website. Of the rest, who have a website, the majority have not kept it current and relevant.
  2. Many restaurants are relying on Facebook as their only digital presence.
  3. Very few restaurants have a dedicated online engaging strategy with their customers outside of Facebook.
  4. With engagement on Facebook becoming more challenging due to declining organic reach, these restaurants could be losing connection with their customers.


Now that I have your attention, we will discuss why and how restaurant email marketing should be the next phase in your marketing plan of attack.


The market research firm Forrester, published a report titled “Social Relationship Strategies That Work.” In the report, it says that BRANDS ARE WASTING TIME AND MONEY ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER.”

Stop making Facebook the center of your relationship marketing efforts,” says Nate Elliott, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. He speaks further about advocating for the use of microsites and email marketing not just for a well-rounded digital marketing plan, but as the focal point for it as well.


Investing in social media marketing without an email strategy is a wasted opportunity and an incomplete marketing strategy.

Facebook reach is declining to less than 2%, which means when you post about your food or events, very few people see it and Facebook has publicly come out and announced that you have to pay to play.


Restaurant Email Marketing Strategies

Email is the best way to reach your customers. With the growing use of smartphones and easier access to email inbox, email marketing is not just highly relevant but a crucial element of digital marketing plan for today’s restaurants.


Here are 7 email marketing strategies that will help boost return on investment (ROI) from restaurant marketing efforts:


1. Capture Email and Retarget Website Traffic

When visitors land on your restaurant website for the first time, do you have an effective way to reach those visitors again or do you just let them choose to click elsewhere?


At this point you have invested in organically or paid advertising to drive traffic to the restaurant website, it makes sense to capitalize further.

Taking control of your website visitor’s browsing habits can be as easy as catching and holding onto their attention. Keep them engaged on your site and guide them to click on “Join Email List” either as an embed form on the website or popup after a preset delay.


The best way is to incentivize them by providing value such as the promise to get your news, deals and special promotions in exchange for their email address. Another incentive is to offer them a FREE giveaway that they can immediately download by providing their email address. This giveaway could be a recipe, food tips or a simple checklist.


restaurant email marketing strategies website popup


Email provides an easy way to build your customer list and retarget website visitors effectively through well-designed email marketing campaigns.

Restaurant email marketing takeaway: Capture the email of website visitors through a “Join Email List” form on the website (and a delayed popup form) and offering a FREE giveaway incentive. Engage with your email subscribers through email campaigns.


2. Leverage Email for Facebook custom audiences

If Facebook is your platform for social engagement and you know that organic reach is declining and you have to pay to reach your fans, what do you do?

You need to make the most of your advertising budget by targeting your customers via Facebook’s custom audience options. You can utilize your current email list to build this targeted group.


restaurant email marketing strategies facebook custom audience

Getting started with Facebook custom audience is easy. Here are the simple steps:
  • Create a list of email addresses from your restaurant email list in csv format.
  • Go to Facebook Ads manager and click on the Audiences tab (the Facebook interface keeps changing, so find the Audience tab, if this changes)
  • Click the Create Audience button, select the Custom Audience option and then choose Customer List
  • Upload the CSV file  to the Custom Audience box
  • Your Custom Audience will be ready in about 30 minutes


An example of how to leverage custom audiences is an event hosted by restaurant. Using a targeted facebook advertising to a custom audience build out of the restaurant customer email list, you can promote and sell tickets to the event.

Another example is when the restaurant is launching new menu items. Again using targeted facebook advertising that has been build out of your current restaurant’s email list, you can effectively announce to a hyper-targeted customer base.


Restaurant email marketing takeaway: Create custom audience on facebook using your email subscribers list. Reach your customers effectively and at a lower cost by hyper-targeting.


3. Engage online ordering customers via email

If your restaurant offers online ordering, you most likely have the customer email addresses from orders received by the restaurant. If not, determine a way to capture the email address at the end of the online order checkout process.

This provides a great opportunity to rapidly build your email list and engage with customers in multiple ways.

First step is to engage with the online ordering customer shortly after the order fulfillment process is completed to solicit feedback on their experience. This can be setup in your email auto-responder system within online ordering.

It is so valuable for the restaurant to receive this active customer feedback to respond to any concerns and ensure customer satisfaction, that leads to repeat business and positive reviews and ratings.

Here you are leveraging email for proactive customer relationship management, improving operations and restaurant reputation management. This is one of the most effective restaurant email marketing strategies that every restaurant should adopt right away when offering online ordering.


restaurant email marketing strategies online ordering feedback


Next is offering online ordering customers special offers that are relevant to them. With an well configured email auto-responder system you can setup to automatically followup through email.

You can target the various online ordering customers segments such as frequently ordering customers (ex. more than 8 times a month), customers ordering over a certain amount (ex. $300 over the last 30 days) and even customers who have not ordered within the a certain period of time (ex. 60 days).

Finally, you can send various promotions to your online ordering customers that are relevant to events and seasons, such as sports events, holidays and seasonal promotions.

Restaurant email marketing takeaway: Capture your online ordering customers email through email optin during online ordering. Get feedback and retarget online ordering customers through email offers and promotions.


4. Converting Grouponers to repeat guests leveraging email

Many restaurants run Groupon deals to attract customers to the restaurant, but most of those restaurants do not have a strategy to further engage with these customers, thereby losing out on a significant opportunity for repeat customers.

By providing a way to effectively capture the email addresses of those dining customers, you are better able to communicate with that segment of customers.


restaurant email marketing groupon strategies

Many Groupon users admit to being “one and done” customers and only showing up for the deal.

What today’s restaurant owners need to do is offer them a deal that will bring them in and then provide them with the type of service to bring them back. This can also work by obtaining their email addresses either through the use of comment cards or table-side email sign-ups.

Now you can offer them deals to come back and remind them of monthly promos that you are running.


Want to learn how to run an effective groupon campaign for your restaurant.
Read “An Effective Groupon Marketing Plan For Restaurants


Restaurant email marketing takeaway: Capture email address of first-time Groupon users. Convert first-time visitors to repeat customers by engaging effectively through email marketing.


5. Email Nurturing for Customer Loyalty

If your restaurant has a customer loyalty program or thinking of having one in the near future, the email list is absolutely a must to support and nurture that program.

Many customers will dine in an establishment that caters to their needs, treats them well and remembers who they are when they come in. A loyalty program does all of that and more and gives you the chance to add another email to your growing list.

When you send out loyalty program updates, be sure to include your monthly specials and events that you are holding. It is an easy way to get your regulars to stop in even more frequently.


Restaurant email marketing takeaway: Make the customer loyalty program and email marketing work together to create an effective marketing campaign for customer engagement.


subscribe to newsletter

6. Balance Push Notifications with Email

We refer to “push notification” marketing to include both SMS marketing and mobile app notifications.

It is important to understand that “push notification” marketing messages are delivered (‘pushed”) to the user without any user control of when they want to receive it. It could be potentially interrupting the user. Compared that to “pull” such as in email where the user receive the messages when they choose to.


restaurant email marketing push notification strategies

For those restaurants employing SMS marketing, it is important to understand the right level of engagement for those SMS marketing messages. The frequency and content of SMS marketing needs to be carefully determined; when not done right, SMS marketing can quickly annoy your customers.

If your restaurant offers a mobile app that has the capability to push offers and promotions, we have to be careful to determine the right frequency of messages so as not to irritate our customers.

Leveraging email marketing with push notification marketing helps find the right balance and increases the efficiency of marketing campaigns.

Lets take the example of running a marketing campaign related to an event. You could send multiple marketing messages weeks and even months ahead of the event registration deadline through email but 24 hours before the deadline you can use SMS or mobile app messaging to remind customers to register before the deadline.

This is one of the restaurant email marketing strategies for striking a balance in your marketing messaging.


Restaurant email marketing takeaway: Augment push notification marketing with email marketing to maximize customer engagement.


7. Deliver Email Offers and Promotions

If you plan on proving digital offers and promotions, an email list is the most effective channel to deliver those offers and promotions. Consider this; a television commercial can cost thousands, a radio spot can cost hundreds, but an email is free to send and it doesn’t take much effort to do so.

Any offers or promotions will be well received by your customers and it may even bring them in that day to take advantage of your specials.

In an age where everything is costing more and more money and even Facebook isn’t free any more, it’s refreshing to know that you can still use an email marketing campaign as part of your restaurant marketing methods.

The key to effective email marketing is “segmentation” and “personalization”.

restaurant email marketing personalization strategies

Segmentation: It is important to understand that not all restaurant customers are the same. Each group of customers will have different needs and interests. Segmentation is the key to identify these groups so that we are able to serve our customers better.

Segmenting the email list will help to get better open and click rates and ultimately better response to the restaurant offers and promotions.


Personalization: Gone are the days of “email blasts”. They are no longer effective and mostly land in spam folder. Personalization is simply designing your email to address to the customer in a personal manner.

That is possible when you have additional information about the customer such as name, age, interests and behavioral information. Personalizing emails by addressing with a name is a simple good start at personalization.

Next step is delivering “relevant” email content based on the interest or behavior. For example, offering a “diner for 2” offer might not be relevant for a frequent online ordering delivery customer.

Other personalization techniques can be implemented based on the segmentation we discussed earlier.


Restaurant email marketing takeaway: Deliver relevant offers and promotions through email. Use email list segmentation and personalization to optimize your deals and promotion campaigns.


Need help with email marketing?

Learn about our Email Marketing Service »

Getting started with implementing restaurant email marketing strategies can be as simple as choosing an email service provider and putting up email sign-up form on the restaurant website and Facebook pages. Then, it is important to grow and nurture the email subscribers list in an ongoing manner.

In summary, email marketing provides a very effective marketing channel and augments other marketing efforts to maximize the marketing results.

For restaurants considering having an effective digital marketing plan, email marketing is really the 2nd piece (website being the first) to implement in the restaurant marketing strategy.

With any marketing channel you use, you need to have email as your foundation to maximize your return on your marketing budget.


Now your turn!

Are you using email marketing at your restaurant? If so, what restaurant email marketing strategies are working for you? We would love to hear from you; use the comment section below to share your thoughts.

  • Cynthia Close

    I like the idea of accessing the email addresses of people who’ve clicked on your website – within reason. While sending a bunch of ads and spam to a potential customer could backfire, what I got from your post was: capture addresses, then pique curiosity with an excellent promo, maybe a valuable cents off, or buy one get one free coupon. This will hopefully bring potential customers to your place of business where you can really show them what you can do.

    • The key to engagement is relevance and value-addition. Gone are the days of “email blast” effectiveness. It is best for the business to think about what the customer wants before promoting what you want. Email marketing is still very relevant today, but and because it has evolved. If done properly, it offers one of the highest engagement and click-thru rates compared to any other marketing channels.

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  • Adam

    Great post! That’s true that many restaurants depend too much on social media, such as Facebook. Email marketing shouldn’t be ignored. In my opinion it’s a great tool to stay in touch with customers. There’s so many ideas that could be used for the email marketing content. Tools, like GetResponse, have landing pages integration. Landing pages can be very effective, especially if there’s something special coming up in the restaurant.

    • Thanks Adam, glad you like it. Email is still relevant today, even more so as an effective communications channel and delivering promotions with customers compared to social media channels that is constantly shifting. Restaurants need to be leveraging email more effectively.

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  • Anupam Rajey

    Hey Mano,

    Thanks for writing such a useful post. All the strategies you discussed are highly practical. And I completely agree with you that engaging online ordering customers via email can be helpful in boosting ROI. I’m going to share this post on my social channels.