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Email Marketing for Restaurants

The most valuable asset a restaurant has is its people, but the second most valuable may be its customer email list. With all the flashier forms of digital marketing, email can be overlooked. But, email campaigns can still be successful.

Why are emails so valuable?

How many other types of marketing allow you a direct route into the personal inbox of your potential customer? This is a person who’s actively shared their information with you, and usually more than just an email address. You may know their age, gender, and purchase history, allowing you to carefully target promotions and information that will be valuable to them personally.

Unlike other forms of advertising such as TV, billboards, or digital display ads, emails require active engagement on the part of your audience. It’s a marketing channel that levels the playing field. Rather than the biggest spender winning the race, your compelling, creative message is what will get your restaurant email marketing opened, and the desired action clicked.

  • “Email is the most popular daily internet activity. In the US alone, more than 85% of adults send or read email.” »

  • “The ROI of email marketing is 28.5% better than for direct mail.” »

  • “Every dollar you spend on email marketing brings you $38 in return.” »

What is CRM?

The art of Customer Relationship Management is one that many restaurants do without even thinking about it. Good customers are hard to find, so when you have them you want to keep hold of them. That’s why it’s good practice to combine your art with the science of CRM software.

CRM software can supplement transactional communications (such as digital receipts) with promotional messages, and some non-salesy information too, such as newsletters.

You may already have CRM software available as part of your POS software package, or you may want to look at one of the popular generalist options such as Mailchimp, which doubles as both an email delivery service and audience data management tool.

While they may not be designed specifically for the hospitality industry, a non-sector-specific option is often better in terms of being able to offer up-to-date functionality and more advanced analytics.

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Email campaign techniques

Whatever tool you decide on, the fundamentals of what you can do with it are roughly the same.

Email collection

Getting email addresses could be done at the point of purchase via your front-of-house team, or through a website pop-up. Be careful about offering incentives for email signups — is the lifetime value of a customer’s email worth the 20 percent discount you’re about to give them?


An interesting subject line, some well-written copy, and clear links to click (referred to as ‘calls to action’) are all important. Brevity is an often forgotten art form when it comes to emails with the average time spent reading an email just 11.1 seconds.


Choose a clean template that’s mobile-friendly, using images with a low file size (so they load quickly) and all the elements that allow you to effectively show off your brand.


When you deliver your emails is as important (if not more so) than what you say. Response rates are often higher at night and early in the morning.


There’s no point sending out an email if you don’t know who’s reading and reacting to it. Most of the major email delivery platforms will have insight tools available so you can see your most engaged and least active recipients.

Data is everything

The best thing about email is it’s 100 percent trackable. Every click on every email tells you a little bit more about how well your campaign is doing, and how to adapt it for future success. Just some of the many areas you should monitor include:

Email Marketing
Open rates

Knowing how many people open your emails versus the number you send is the first piece of data email marketers often look for. This can vary from industry to industry, but somewhere between 15 to 30 percent is considered average.

Bounce rates

Many emails never even reach the intended recipient’s inbox. That may be because of an issue with the address provided (such as misspelling) or a technical fault. If your bounce rate is high, you need to investigate why.

Click through rates (CTR)

Once you’ve gotten someone to open an email, you want them to take an action. It’s harder to put exact figures on a “good” CTR as every email has a different intention. Set some benchmarks using your data and monitor when emails over- or under-perform.

Unsubscribe rates

Not everyone who opens your emails will want to read them. Some drop-off can be expected, but if you’re losing more than 0.5 percent of your subscribers every time you send an email, you’ll want to reconsider your strategy.

Your chosen email platform will often provide you with tracking links, but you need to be careful that tags are implemented correctly every time you send a new message or update a template. A poor setup can lead your strategy and spend down the completely wrong path.

Legal regulations and obligations

It may seem like a dull point to end on, but deploying restaurant email marketing means adhering to the CAN-SPAM Act.

The CAN-SPAM Act covers everything from how you collect data to how it’s stored and cleaned as well as the unsubscribe process for those who no longer want to hear from you. As you’ll know from your own experience, consumers dislike receiving unwanted, or too many emails from a business, even one they enjoy frequenting.

There are some heavy fines for any violation, but they’re generally in place to ensure those wishing to create good relationships with their audience via email do so in the right way. It’s not something that should put you off, but something to inspire you to be clear and transparent with your customers when communicating with them via email.

Emails that drive restaurant profit

Tips and tricks for delivering effective email campaigns.

Smarter email marketing

How to break through inbox clutter.

Email timing techniques

Find the right balance between promotional and pushy.

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