How to grow your restaurant business with email marketing

If there’s one thing the majority of humans all have in common, it’s a love for food.
Even though our appetites and taste preferences may differ, food is a universal language. And for those restaurants with a diverse and impressive menu they’re proud of, the eagerness to show it off can be overwhelming.

Being in the restaurant business isn’t always easy. Sure, you’re selling a product that most people want. However, there’s a lot of competition. Not to mention the many things you’re juggling as a restaurant owner or manager. Even the best restaurants have some common struggles.

How do you turn those occasional visitors into regulars? How do you maintain some form of customer retention? How do you promote time-sensitive specials to the most patrons possible? How do you get the feedback you need to grow your menu and your business?

Even those with previous experience handling email marketing for restaurants may be unsure about how to tackle all these challenges. In this post, we’ll provide some handy tips on how email can work best for you.

First thing’s first: Why choose email?

Restaurant owners have many tools at their disposal. You’ve probably used the common choices for your establishment such as billboards, commercials, and even good old-fashioned word of mouth.

You may have experience with email, too, yet it’s possible you’ve never truly considered it a primary marketing resource. The great news is, you can. It’s estimated that about 3.8 billion people use email, with that number expected to zoom past 4 billion in the next three years. 
It’s not just a tool to contact family or swap details about projects at the office, either. Foodies and chefs alike can now use it to exchange information about the latest menu masterpieces and where to find them.


Source: Campaign Monitor 

To get a little more specific, a 2017 study showed a staggering 269 billion emails were sent each day. Another study said that nearly 150,000 emails were sent each minute.

With a tool like this as a primary marketing option, you’ve got a big audience to reach on a consistent basis. There’s a quick response time, and a great chance of reaching customers across all demographics.

Now, on to some specific ways to implement this tool into your restaurant’s marketing strategy.

Creative strategies for using email at your restaurant business.

Your restaurant has many challenges. It isn’t always about getting the food to the window fresh or keeping every patron happy during their visit—sometimes, it’s about getting the word out about your restaurant and increasing its popularity.

Below are some popular restaurant objective and how email marketing strategies can be used to solve them.

1. Streamline email capabilities with an intuitive platform.

Even if you’re a marketer who has vast experience with email, not everyone on your staff may be able to say the same. One of your main challenges isn’t just excelling with your own email efforts, but rather getting your whole staff on board.

Luckily, the right platform can make this an exciting experience. Your team members can create powerful emails with an intuitive drag-and-drop designer. Users can keep customers segmented into groups, ensuring each email is designed for optimal enjoyment by the receiver. 

With the right platform, you can take email from a fringe option to an easy-to-use asset your whole team can utilize. Imagine everyone on staff being able to send out invitations, respond to feedback, and build a better connection between the restaurant and its patrons. 

2. Help nudge occasional visitors to regular status.

Every restaurant loves regulars. For those familiar faces who stop by so often, it isn’t uncommon for the staff to have their usual favorites memorized by heart. The question many restaurants have is how can they help those occasional visitors make the transition into regulars?

The answer is to give them more of what they want. As for the method for how to do this, it lies in a term we discussed in entry one—segmentation. Once you have a customer’s email on file, you can keep it alongside other information like their order history and trends regarding their buying habits.

So if you have a customer who loves your dessert menu, for example, you can give them a tip when you’re adding a sweet new treat to the lineup. Having a night for the guys, the girls, or any other demographic? Try using segments to spread the word. 


Source: Emma 

The best part? You can get creative with your segments, mixing and matching offers to both groups who you know will enjoy them, and those who you think may be interested. It’s a great way to experiment and bring those part-time patrons back again and again.

3. Spread the word about limited-time specials and unique events.

One of the main challenges in the restaurant business is getting the word out concerning your specials, new additions, and time-sensitive deals.

Triggers are popular for sending out emails when a particular action takes place. In the realm of administrative businesses, for example, a customer may receive an email about their account once a change is made to it. This ability to send a message quickly can be handy for making sure everyone on your list knows what your restaurant is doing next.

Got a special coming out? Throwing a themed night? Offering a discount for a particular demographic? You can set up your email segments so these emails can be automatically sent out with just a few keystrokes. You’ll save time, and spread more awareness to those customers who don’t want to miss what you’re offering.

4. Give your patrons a voice (and an answer to every inquiry).

A customer’s experience at your restaurant can be the foundation of your success. You want every part of their experience to go smoothly, and beyond that, you want to know ways you could go beyond and give a great experience to everyone who walks through the door.

Email can be used to reach out to your customers about their experience, and ask them for feedback on what else they’d like to see at your restaurant. In those inevitable cases where a customer’s night won’t go so great, you have a way to give them a voice and make sure they are heard and responded to.

If nothing else, you can use an email list as a way to thank your customers for choosing you. Perhaps even provide a thank you promotion to come back and visit again to show how much you care.

These little gestures are perfect for making sure your patrons know they’re valued. 

5. Collect emails by using them to accept reservations.

If your restaurant is one that books ahead of time, you’re in luck. This is a fantastic opportunity to collect email addresses and build your list up quickly. It’s one of the main ways restaurants can build email lists.

Many restaurants already have an email list, but they want to improve on it. When you’re looking to open up a new way to persuade customers to contact you via email, let them set their reservations that way. 

Again, triggers come into play—if there are openings, customers can automatically get confirmation so they can start planning their evening at your establishment. You can also use this strategy to gauge how often your patrons return. It makes it easy to offer specials for regulars and to try and bring one-timers or occasional dinners back more often. 

Expand your email marketing toolkit to improve your business.

The more you use email, the better you’ll become. Just like any marketing method, expertise is a byproduct of consistency. 

Email is one of those tools many restaurants consider a supplementary option. It’s there, but it often takes a backseat to the more common advertising avenues we discussed in the opening. 

However, once you see how it can be used to address those specific objectives restaurants have, its potential as a primary tool becomes clear.


Source: Campaign Monitor

Email marketing for restaurants is especially powerful. Email is fast, popular, and most importantly, it's far-reaching. 

The thing that sets it apart is the unique challenges of a culinary environment. Aside from emergency services, there’s arguably no industry where speed is more important. Accuracy and communication are also key and can make or break an establishment’s reputation.

Wrap up

For some people, their experience with email marketing is vast and diverse. In order to adapt to the challenges of using it in the restaurant business, it isn’t enough just to be talented with creating and sending emails. Marketers must know exactly how to apply them in specific situations.

To use email marketing for restaurants, you can try the following strategies:

  • Find the right, easy-to-use email platform.
  • Segment your customer list and send them the right messages that match their taste.
  • Use triggers to promote limited-time specials and events in an instant.
  • Ask for customer feedback.
  • Get reservations through email to build your list.

Once you execute within this list, your email marketing toolkit can become akin to a dish that flies off the menu and racks up sales—it’s a gift that just keeps giving. 

Whether you want to promote a special or open yourself up to more feedback, email marketing for restaurants offers many opportunities to grow your business. 

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. Unlike other email providers, Emma puts their customers first. It's email marketing that works for you.

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