7 Restaurant Email Marketing Strategies That Work [2021 Update]

restaurant email marketing strategy

Key Elements of Your Comprehensive Email  Marketing Strategies

Past year showed us during the pandemic, how effective email could be. All marketing efforts should be evaluated by the Return On Investment (ROI). This should include your investment of time and money and what you get for it. But there are other intangibles, such as how easy it is to implement and manage and the ‘speed to marketplace.’

In spite of all the buzz around social media marketing, email marketing can deliver significant results at a very low direct cost in 2021. And all that with measurable data.

Why email marketing should be a core phase in your restaurant marketing plan of attack in 2021.

  1. You own the customer data. You must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act and email best practices. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter can shut you down if they believe you have violated their Terms Of Service. (A decision that can be nearly impossible to appeal.)
  2. You can target a ‘warm audience’ at any time. It’s quicker and cheaper than direct mail, long a key marketing tactic for pizzeria owners and marketers.
  3. Email marketing is efficient with automation.
  4. Email marketing is very focused with segmentation.
  5. Marketing through email is a very personalized form of marketing.

Why is your restaurant’s email marketing plan important?

Like most marketing tactics, the benefit is to deliver an audience back to your core presence, which is usually a website. This is because they show up in local search where Facebook fan pages do not. One of the best ways to get them to return to your website (or Facebook page) is by sending them an email offering a reason why.

  • Half of today’s restaurants do not have a website. From those who have a website, the majority have not kept it current and relevant. (If you need help with your website, click here.)
  • Many restaurants are relying on Facebook as their only digital presence.
  • Very few restaurants have a dedicated online engagement strategy with their customers outside of Facebook.
  • With engagement on Facebook becoming more challenging due to declining organic reach, these restaurants could be losing connections with their customers.

“The money is in the list.”

Being able to communicate with people familiar with your brand, who have self-identified as interested in your offers is a valuable asset.

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 says the use of microsites and email marketing are an integral part of a well-rounded digital marketing plan.

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

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

Your goal is to reach as many consumers as possible who are in a position to buy for pickup, delivery or in-house. Email allows you to reach them on mobile whenever you like.

Restaurant Email Marketing Strategies

Email is one of the best ways 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. Sure, direct mail is effective but email gives you more options including lower cost.

Here are 7 email marketing strategies that will help boost your restaurant marketing efforts:

1. Personalized Promotions

The most basic form of email marketing used by pizza purveyors is to simply offer deals, just as you might with a postcard.

An email list is one of the most effective channels to deliver offers and promotions. Make sure people have current menus while incentivizing them to be on your list by giving them special offers beyond the pizza promotions available publicly.

Any 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 anymore, it’s refreshing to know that you can still use an email marketing campaign as part of your restaurant marketing methods.

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 beyond a carefully developed plan to do so.

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

restaurant email marketing personalization strategies

Email 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 identifying 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.

Segments may include:

  1. Customers who have ordered online.
  2. People who have responded to different offers, whether generated internally or by a Groupon.
  3. Those who signed up for free pizza on their birthday and anniversaries.

Email Personalization:

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

That is possible when you have additional information about them 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” might not be relevant for customers who usually order online.

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

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

2. Retargeting Website Visitors

When visitors land on your restaurant’s 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 opt-in either as an embedded form on the website or popup after a preset delay.

The best way is to incentivize them with a ‘lead magnet’ by providing something of value. Value can be the promise of 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, coupon, 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” opt-in form on the restaurant website (and a delayed popup form) and offering a FREE giveaway incentive. Engage with your email subscribers through email nurture campaigns.

3. Nurture Loyal Customers

If your restaurant has a customer loyalty program or is thinking of having one in the near future, the email list is absolutely essential to the success of 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

4. Follow-up Online Ordering Customers

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

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

The 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 set up 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. This leads to repeat business and positive reviews and ratings.

List Building and Reputation Management

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 restauranteur should adopt right away when offering online ordering.

restaurant email marketing strategies online ordering feedback

Another effective tactic is offering customers who order online special offers that are relevant to them. With a well-configured email auto-responder system, you can set up to automatically follow up through email.

You can target the various online ordering customers segments such as frequently ordering customers (E.G. more than 4 times a month), customers ordering over a certain amount (E.G. $300 over the last 30 days) and even customers who have not ordered within a certain period of time (E.G. 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 opt-in during online ordering. Get feedback and retarget them through specific email offers and promotions.

5. Convert Deal Seekers to Repeat Guests

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 and get them back in your dining room.

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.

Email Marketing vs. Listbuilding

Listbuilding isn’t always done with email. Your followers on social media could be considered a list. Visitors to your website can be pixeled and re-targeted using Facebook or Google or other means and can be considered as being on your list. They are also part of a different and important segment. We’ll have more on re-targeting in another article, but let’s look at using your email lists to target buyers using Facebook ads.

6. Create Facebook Custom Audiences

If Facebook is your favorite platform for social engagement and you know that ‘organic reach’ is declining and that 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 by leveraging your current email list to build this targeted group.

restaurant email marketing strategies facebook custom audience

Getting started with Facebook custom audiences is easy. Here are the simple steps:
  • Create a list of email addresses from your restaurant email list in csv format. You can also use phone numbers. Or both!
  • 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 with email addresses and/or phone numbers to the Custom Audience box. (One field per line)
  • Your Custom Audience will be ready in about 30 minutes.

You can now advertise to people who are on your email list for increased frequency of your message. Promote new items or new menus, promotions and events.

An example of how to leverage custom audiences is an event hosted by the 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 built out of your current restaurant’s email list, you can effectively announce to a hyper-targeted customer base.

Use Facebook Ads to Build Your Email List! Contact us to find out how.

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

 7. Add Push Messaging 

We refer to “push messaging” marketing to include both SMS marketing, web notification and mobile app notification.

It is important to understand that “push messaging” 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 receives 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 need 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, 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 your marketing campaigns.

Let’s 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.

Need help with email marketing? Learn about Email Marketing Service »

Restaurant Email Marketing Summary

Getting started with implementing restaurant email marketing strategies can be as simple as choosing an email service provider. Next, is implementing an email optin on the restaurant website and Facebook pages. Then, it is important to grow and nurture the email subscribers list on an ongoing basis.

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, it’s your turn!

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

General FAQs

📧 How do I market my restaurant with email?

Email marketing for your restaurant should have a clear strategy for new email acquisition, nurturing and conversion campaigns. Each of these activities require a specific strategy for success.
Read the complete guide on email marketing for restaurants

📧 What is better – social media or email?

Both are necessary for your restaurant. Social media is an ideal marketing channel for building awareness and brand. Email marketing is the best channel for conversions, that is driving visits through promotions. Unlike social media which you do not own the platform, email database is an asset for the restaurant that you own.
Learn about email marketing strategies that work for restaurants

📧 Is email marketing dead?

Experts predicted the death of email marketing over a decade ago. Not a chance, it is thriving and very relevant for restaurants. With a ROI of up to 4400%, email marketing remains the best way to attract, retain customers and drive repeat visits.
Learn about email strategies that work for restaurants

📧 How do I grow my restaurant customer email list?

Grow a big customer email list for your restaurant organically using these steps – Install a GDPR compliant email option form on restaurant website. Capture the email address of online ordering customers. Introduce an restaurant loyalty rewards program that your customers can signup for. Finally, use the good old paper feedback cards with an email signup option.
Read the complete email marketing guide for restaurants

📧 What is GDPR for email marketing?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation – is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy that went into effect early 2018. If your restaurant saves customer data, it requires you to obtain clear consent from your customer and its usage.
Learn more about how your restaurant can be GDPR compliant

📧 How to attract new customers with email marketing?

Use an email optin on restaurant website, online ordering and loyalty rewards program to grow your email database. Then, run segmented and personalized email remarketing campaigns to convert them to sales. Email blast are not effective, take the help of an email marketing service.
Learn more about The Digital Restaurant email marketing service

📧 What are the best email marketing services?

Mailchimp, Constant Contact, MyEmma are some of the popular low cost self-service email marketing platforms used by restaurants. The new multi-channel NGAZE marketing platform provides social media, mobile and email marketing. It is built for the busy restauranteur and comes with a 52-week marketing playbook to run effective restaurant marketing campaigns.
Learn more about NGAZE restaurant marketing platform

📧 Should I use companies offering email blast services?

Email blast is different from email marketing. Email blast is its name suggests is an email sent to a large list. It is generally not GDPR compliant, not effective and can result in a lot of customer complains. Email marketing is relevant, personalized, segmented and is highly effective for restaurants. Do not use services that offer email blast services, instead design personalized email campaigns to your targeted email list.
Learn more about effective restaurant email marketing strategies

📧 What are some email marketing best practices?

Segmentation of your email list is important. Personalize email campaigns and send relevant content in your segmented email campaigns. Do not send an email blast to your entire list, they do not work. Keep to 2-4 email campaigns per month to be the most effective.
Learn more about email marketing strategies that work for restaurants

📧 How many emails should I send out for my restaurant?

On an average, you can send 2 email campaigns per month to engage with your customer email list. Do not send more than 4 emails campaigns. That is too much and appears spammy that results in unsubscribes and complaints.
Learn more about email marketing strategies for restaurants