Complete Guide To Using Email Marketing For Restaurants

Email Marketing For Restaurants – An Ultimate Guide in 2024

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Running a restaurant business can be very profitable. But often, it may get stressful.

The main challenge you will face is that there are several other restaurants in the same neighborhood, i.e., high competition.

Hence, you must find effective ways to ensure that your guests prefer your restaurant over others, visit your restaurant more often, and trust your food enough to place online orders.

Today, you will learn about one of the best ways to ensure you achieve all of the above – email marketing for restaurants.

Email marketing, if done right, can help you increase your restaurant orders significantly without spending a fortune on promotion costs.

And today, you will learn how to use email marketing to grow your restaurant business.

In this article, we will focus on helping you learn about,

  • the core advantages of using email marketing for restaurants,
  • various email marketing strategies that can help you get more orders and
  • implementing restaurant email marketing the right way.

Eventually, you will be able to ensure you get more repeat customers and increased online orders.

So, let’s begin.

Why Is Email Marketing Important For Restaurants?

Proper execution of restaurant email marketing can help you get a lot of advantages, including the benefit of turning guests into long-term returning customers. In fact, most customers want you to email them.

According to a report on Orderup, 68% of guests expect to get notified about food menu updates, promotions, or invitations at least once every month, preferably via email.

So, it is evident that you cannot avoid using email marketing as part of your over-restaurant marketing plan.

But there is more. Following are some of the key benefits of using email marketing for restaurants.

1. Generate More Happy Repeat Customers

When you get guests or maybe an online order, your first priority should always be to impress them with your food and presentation. This will contribute to making the customer want to come back.

If you collect their emails, then you can consider sending out attractive promotions, highlighting delicious food, or maybe offering coupons in the next order. This will help to bring back the customer.

With time, this will turn occasional visitors into loyal fans who will keep coming back for their favorite food experiences.

2. Become A Local Restaurant Brand

Your restaurant can be more than just a place to eat; it can become a special brand linked with a particular kind of food or a heritage for your neighborhood.

Use emails to tell the story behind your recipes, share the history of your restaurant, and create an emotional attachment with the locals.

This will make the customers remember your restaurant by name, i.e., a brand.

3. Build A Loyal Customer Base

Regular email marketing will mean you will be in touch with your customers on a regular basis. This will help them remember you more often.

If you did serve good food in the past, they will end up becoming your loyal customers, giving you positive reviews online, spreading word of mouth, and supporting any promotional campaigns you run in the future.

In fact, you can even create an online community, let’s say a Facebook group, and invite your customers to join via email. This will create a stronger bond with your restaurant.

4. Promote Deals & Offers More Effectively

One of the best advantages of restaurant email marketing is you can promote your deals more comfortably.

You can send details on your deals and offers directly to the customers rather than waiting for them to find out. Since most restaurant deals have a fixed time limit, it is important that your news reaches as many people as possible right from the start.

For example, suppose you have a special 40% off during the valentines for 7 days. You have to plan a proper promotional email sequence to ensure your customers are well-informed about your deal. Chances are, many will directly visit your restaurant without considering other cafes just for the discount.

5. Inviting Customers To Food Events

Often, a good local promotion is to host a food event. And email marketing could be a great way to invite your customers to this event.

For example, you may host a Halloween party or New Year’s party with special-themed food. You can then invite your customers via email with all the details on the date, time, and the special food menu.

You could even arrange a food-eating contest to create a good buzz in the neighborhood for a day. Again, emails would be a great way to invite locals to register to participate in the contest.

Some restaurants often host weekly events, such as Pizza Hut’s “Family Friday,” where they offer “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” pizzas.

As you saw, restaurant email marketing is a great assent when it comes to promoting your restaurant and increasing your customers.

Now, it’s time you learn to conduct email marketing for restaurants the right way.

How To Conduct Email Marketing For Restaurants To Boost Your Orders

Now, even though this seems promising, I’m sure you are thinking, “How will I collect the email addresses, and what would be the right email campaigns to run?

Well, restaurant email marketing requires you to follow a few steps.

  1. Build an email list of customers & food lovers
  2. Segment the list as per food choice or demographics
  3. Use effective restaurant email marketing strategies
  4. Automate a few email marketing campaigns

And on the process, you will also require a few tools.

Following are a combination of tools we recommend we use to run a restaurant website and implement email marketing.

  • A WordPress Site
    We believe a WordPress environment would be the best when creating a website for your restaurant. It will make it easy, thanks to so many available plugins.
  • WooCommerce
    You may sell food via WooCommerce and manage orders there with the help of a POS plugin.
  • Mail Mint
    An email marking automation tool that will help you manage leads, design emails, send email campaigns, and set up automation flows for emails & segmentation.
  • A Phone App
    Having a phone app for your own restaurant would be a great way to send out notifications, collect emails via registrations, and get more online orders.

Now, let us look at the 4 steps of restaurant email marketing in detail.

1. Build An Email List Of Customers & Food Lovers

Let’s be real. Email marketing can only be done once you have been running your restaurant for a few months and have collected a good amount of leads.

Hence, the first step is to build up an email list of people who prefer one or two items from your menu.

Following are a few good ways to collect leads as a restaurant.

i. Offer Coupons Or Incentives (Free Food) To Join The List

Make a generous offer, such as a free appetizer, dessert, or any meal, upon joining your restaurant email list or signing up on your website.
You may even offer a discount or a coupon on the next order instead.

  • Promote it on your website using a pop-up or a banner image.
  • Send notifications via your mobile app.
  • Include a small section on the menu card to share this offer with guests in your restaurants.
  • Share the offer on social media.

To make the process easier, create a dedicated page for this where you highlight the offer and include an opt-in form. This will allow you to collect the email and the names, plus additional information such as location, age, preferred food type, etc. Once you have the page ready, link the website banner or the social post to this page. And on the menu, include a QR code for people to access this link via phones. In the App, you can directly include a form or do the same, direct them to this page upon clicking on the notification.

ii. Use Pop-ups Throughout The Website

Use various types of pop-ups to make the visitor sign up or at least provide their emails.

The best approach would be to highlight your reward program or first-order discount upon registering.

Here’s an example of how Ariete is using a popup in their website to collect emails:

Ariete Email Popup to sign up for a discount
Source: Ariete

They are trying to make their app more popular, which they manage through Inkind. Hence, they are offering $25 off if someone reserves their restaurant via the app and orders over $74 (a one-time offer).

iii. Request Registration Before Placing Orders

Yes, getting orders is good. But it’s best to make people register before ordering rather than allowing guest orders on your website.

This will ensure you have your customer details to promote to them later.

If you want, you can tie this up with a 10% discount for people who register for the first time.

iv. Organize A Loyalty Program Or Reward Program Sign-Up

Ask users to sign up for a loyalty program or reward program to get exclusive discounts, offers, and event invitations.

Here’s an example of a reward program by Killer Burgers.

A rewards program is the easiest way to grow your list with the least effort.

However, you do have to keep your word and make exclusive offers for them.

v. Run Food Challenges, Food Contests, or Private Events (Online or Offline)

You may arrange contests such as food eating contests or other exciting activities such as cup collecting (if you are a coffee shop), etc. You may also host members-only events occasionally, maybe in a private zone in your restaurant or during certain local food events.

In the process, make sure that people have to register to join.

However, the most effective tactic would be to run a food challenge.

If it’s a good challenge, you may end up making a lot more than you spend on giving free food to people who win.

Here’s an example of how Big Texan attracted tons of customers.

72-ounce Steak Challenge by Big Texan
Source: Big Texan’s Food Challenge

They offer to ask people to finish a 72-ounce steak. Whoever fails has to pay $74.

What’s ingenious about this is they have a dedicated page for it and even have a counter of how many succeeded vs. the people who attempted and failed.

Food Challenge counter

As you can see, they have already made 10 times more profit than what they have spent!

vi. Referral Discount Programs

You may ask people to refer their friends and family to claim a discount.

Ask people to sign up for a referral program to get a personal link. This, they may share with others. Any orders made through that link will grant him a 10% discount on the next order.

This often works quite well, especially if you have an app.

viii. Email in exchange for Wi-Fi password

This is probably an old-school approach, but you may consider asking people to provide their email addresses to get the password to the Wifi network in your restaurant.

This will work well if you are popular among students and young guests.

2. Segment the Email List As Per Food Choice Or Demographics

Whenever you collect emails, try to segment them in your CRM tool.

Just like preparing a variety of dishes for different tastes, segmenting your email list will help you personalize your messages to what your customers love.

Here’s how you can do it:

When you’re collecting information from your email friends, you can ask them a few extra questions in the lead form or the survey form. This can be about their favorite type of food or where they live.

Based on these, you may add them to specific lists or assign them tags in your CRM software.

For example, if someone loves vegetarian dishes, you can put them on the “Vegetarian” list. If they’re crazy about seafood, they go into the “Seafood Fans” list.

This will let you plan personalized campaigns for different customers based on their choices, which may generate almost twice as many results as generic email marketing.

3. Use Effective Restaurant Email Marketing Strategies – Here Are 10 Proven Strategies

So far, you have learned how to collect leads and segment them. Now, let us look at a few proven restaurant email marketing strategies you should implement to convert customers into ordering again.

i. Use Engaging Welcome Emails

First impressions matter, and that’s why sending welcome emails is a fantastic way to greet customers as they sign up for your email list.

But you may take advantage of this opportunity and make this a welcome email series of 3-5 emails and connect with your customers.

This could be a simple rundown of dish showcases or a storytelling experience.

Here’s an example of the themes of a good welcome series.

  • Email 1 – Thank you for joining our e-Club.
    Here, you thank them for signing up and then give an introduction to the best dishes on the menu.
  • Email 2 – Meet The Best Dish In Town
    Highlight one of your famous dishes with a good image and describe it in a way that the customer feels it’s delicious. Below the dish, add a couple of customer reviews about this dish.
  • Email 3 – Here’s Your Exclusive Discount
    Offer a 10% discount on their next order and showcase a few products that are on the menu. Then, add a CTA button to direct to the website food catalog, where they can choose and place orders.
  • Email 4 – Let Us Know Your Experience
    Check if they have placed orders. If they did, then this email will be sent out asking about their food experience or the time they had in the restaurant.
  • Email 5 – We Are Waiting For Your Next Order
    This will simply be a persuasive email explaining that if they crave good food, they should order again.

The whole journey will keep the customer excited about your restaurant, and many will love to order again.

But make sure to have a healthy interval between emails. Do not send 5 emails in a day or two. Delay 2-3 days between each email.

ii. Create Special Bonds With Customers with Loyalty Programs

If people only signed up on your email newsletter list but did not enter the loyalty program, you may send an email invitation to join your program.

For people who have joined already, you must keep them excited with regular special offers and persuasive emails. This is not a one-off thing.

The best option would be to plan out the rewards for the year and automate the emails for your loyal customers.

For example, maybe you planned a discount of 20% on Christmas Eve. But you want to offer a 25% discount (5% extra) to the people in your loyalty program.

In that case, prepare an image and copy that highlights how these customers will get more value than others. Plus, give them a glimpse of your restaurant decoration & the food menu during this event.

This will encourage many to visit your restaurant again as they will feel special.

iii. Create Well-design Holiday Campaigns

One of the common restaurant email marketing approaches is to run holiday email campaigns. Holidays and special events are the perfect opportunities to add excitement among customers.

During holidays, you could arrange exclusive holiday-themed menus, discounts, or festive packages to make the promotion more attractive.

Event invitations also play a significant role in keeping your customers engaged. Whether it’s a themed dinner night, a live music event, or a cooking class, sending out invitations via email generates anticipation and excitement.

Let’s say you are arranging a Halloween party at your restaurant. Create an email sequence to invite them and promote how grand it will be.

You could plan 3 to 5 emails 10 days prior to the event where you invite people and share different good aspects of the event that may convince the customer to book a spot.

Many others will also be sending out discounts and basic dine-in invitations via email. So, you have to make sure you stand out, and a good email sequence over 10 days would be a great way.

iv. Introduce the Amazing Chef Of Your Restaurant

Most restaurants are always focused on highlighting their dishes. Rarely do they brag about who cooks them. This is where you may stand out.

Maybe once a month, you can send an email campaign by introducing your chef and how he makes one of your dishes.

Rather than making it all text-based, initially, introduce your Chef with his image and name, and a sentence to describe his expertise.

Then, suggest the next Chef’s special for the week.

Here, you could include an image of the dish or add a Video Thumbnail which people can click to watch a video of the Chef preparing the dish.

Next, include 3 bullet points about the dish, such as its best ingredients or what makes it special.

And finally, add a CTA to visit the restaurant or book a reservation.

Here’s an example of a good “Meet the Chef” email (1st 3 sections):

At times, people value emotions and human ties over promotions. And giving them a personal introduction to the chef is a great way to connect with them.

v. Keep Customers Updated On Menu Changes, New Dishes, and Pricing

For regular customers, it is important that they do not get surprised with a new menu after they have planned to have a different dish or dine on a lower budget.

Hence, it’s best you always keep them informed about any changes to the menus.

But it’s not just about notifying them. You can take this as a marketing opportunity.

Whenever there is a new dish, send at least two emails over a span of one week to highlight that dish.
The email should include images of the new dish, ingredients included, why it is delicious, and positive reviews from other customers (if any).

In case you are making a complete menu makeover, then instead of just saying you are changing the whole thing, write a story of why the change had to be made. But don’t make it seem like it was a business decision. Try to find a “people” reason for the change and highlight it to the customers.

For example, suppose you had to change items because you wanted to stop using a sauce that was unhealthy. So in the email, you explain how concerned you are about your customers’ health and that you were ready to do a makeover just because you care about your customers.

About pricing changes, you have to be direct with your reasons. But, in return, do offer them an incentive so that they do not get discouraged with the prize. For example, you could offer a 10% discount on their next 3 orders as compensation for increasing your prices.

Normally, a drop in price is easy to advertise. But you never knew how an increase in price could lead to getting more orders as well, did you? Well, now you know.

vi. Personalized Celebration Discounts (For Birthdays and Anniversaries)

If you have your customers’ birthdays, you could offer something special just for their birthday.

At the same time, you could also collect data such as their marriage anniversaries or maybe their anniversaries of ordering from you.

On all these dates, you could offer something special, such as high discounts, some complimentary food, or a special arrangement such as decorations.

Many bakeries offer a complimentary pastry if you celebrate your birthday there. But what if they emailed you that, if you celebrate your birthday in their restaurant, you will get 50% off on all orders? Then it may be a great idea to have a generous birthday party there with your close family & friends.

But it doesn’t have to be mandatory to visit your restaurant to get the discount. You could simply give a warm birthday wish and give a coupon as a gift, which they may use to order online or in person.

These work really well.

Now, birthday and marriage anniversary offers are pretty common when it comes to email marketing for restaurants.

But one uncommon way to connect with your customers is to remember the first time they ordered from you (or at least since they joined your list). At that time, you may remind them how grateful you are that they chose to order from you and offer them a special treat if they order on the same date.

People will find this more personal than the birthday wishes as this is not something other restaurants usually do.

vii. Weekly Email Newsletter To Keep Constant Engagement

You may set up a weekly email where you may send the latest articles, news, and food updates about your restaurants.

A good approach would be posting some of your best Instagram photos from last week as an article on your website. Then, use that as part of the highlighted article in your newsletter.

Plus, highlight your latest deals, upcoming events, and food of the week in this weekly newsletter.

Here’s an email template you may look into for your weekly newsletter.

Restaurant Weekly Newsletter Template
Source: GDoc

Weekly newsletters will not always get a huge number of orders or customers, but they act as a good lead-nurturing approach and brand promotion tactic.

Viii. Attempt To Win Back Unhappy Customers

I’m sure your restaurant is great, and people love the food you serve. But sometimes, there might be a hiccup here and there – a customer may not be happy and give a poor review or feedback.

Is that really bad?

Honestly, no. If a customer is unhappy and gives you feedback, it’s an opportunity to improve your service or food quality because you never know if others are unhappy about it as well.

If you leave it unattended, chances are, many will no longer visit your restaurant or order from you.

The best approach here is to make an attempt to redeem yourself.

Send an email to your unhappy customers and ask for specific feedback. Then, try to see if it is possible to fix them.

If they aren’t unreasonable demands, then plan on implementing changes and inform the customer that you will fix these issues immediately and would like a chance to redeem yourself. Then invite him on a free meal at a later date, by which you are sure you will be able to sort the issues out.

This will not only win back your customers but also show how dedicated you are to maintaining high customer satisfaction.

When that happens, you could ask a customer to post a review of how you handled his case and even host an interview of the customer’s positive experience with you.

Eventually, the whole process will increase your presence on social media, and the customer will be more than happy to refer your restaurant to others.

Though this approach is not a direct restaurant email marketing strategy, having the email addresses of your customers will help you initiate the actions properly.

If you want, you can even automate the process. You may set up the initial email (where you ask for feedback) to be sent whenever a person gives a rating below 3 stars.

ix. Send “We Miss You” Emails For Customer Retention

Sending “We Miss You” emails is your way of letting them know that your customer’s presence matters to you.

Whenever you find out that a customer hasn’t ordered for over a month, you have to make an attempt to let him know that you noticed his absence.

This will allow you to ask for reasons why they didn’t order, highlight your best dishes, and invite them to come back (maybe by offering a discount on the next order).

But most importantly, it will help to make the customer feel valued and welcomed.

x. Enhance Online Presence Using Restaurant Email Marketing

To stay ahead of the competition online, you should try to gain popularity on every platform possible, such as Facebook, public review sites, and local food listing sites.

To do so, you could carry out the following email activities:

= Ask for Reviews: Gather Feedback from Your Valued Guests =

After you deliver an order or a customer has dined in, you can ask the customer to give a review via email.

Most people are very comfortable giving reviews at popular review sites such as Yelp, Google Reviews, TripAdvisor, etc.

You could just send an email a couple of hours after the order and ask them to share their feedback.

If you are confident your food is good and your service is top-notch, then you can expect a good rating, which will help you become a trusted restaurant online.

= Boost App Downloads: Enhance Your App Reach =

For people who don’t have your app, offer them some sort of incentive via email to get your app and register for the first time.

Having a popular app is a sign that many people prefer your restaurant. Hence, many new potential customers will try it out as well.

= Connect on Social Media: Expand Your Online Presence =

You can also promote your restaurant’s social media channels in your emails.

Simply dedicate a section to introduce your social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) in your weekly emails, or even run dedicated email campaigns to request users to like your Facebook page, follow your restaurant on Twitter, and maybe join your Facebook group.

Make sure to share a brief of what followers can expect, such as updates on deals, page/group-specific deals, live sessions, etc.

Keep the tone exciting to convey that you will be super happy to connect with them on social media.

4. Automating A Few Email Marketing Campaigns

While all the strategies seem pretty straightforward, carrying out all of them manually can be quite stressful.

It will get tough to keep track of all the customers while still managing the restaurant.

At this point, automating some of these email strategies would be ideal to save time and

In WordPress, you can use Mail Mint to create automation flows to make restaurant email marketing easier.

Mail Mint – Perfect Email Marketing Automation Tool for Restaurants

Mail Mint has the ability to collect leads via lead forms. This means that anywhere you need people to opt-in for a particular marketing campaign, you will be able to use a lead form from Mail Mint. That way, all leads will automatically be added to Mail Mint, where you will be able to manage them and segment them accordingly.

At the same time, you will be able to set up automation flows based on these form submissions so that you can automatically hook your email series to customers without any hassle. For example, when people join your reward program, they instantly initiate the welcome series, which will then automatically be sent every time people sign up.

Other than automation, you can also send out single email campaigns or email sequences on the when for a target segment for a specific marketing purpose. For example, you could partner up with another restaurant and then plan an email sequence for your customers to inform them of the benefits they will get in the partnership. Now, this cannot be set up with automation, but you can create a single email sequence for the whole campaign.

The newest feature of this plugin is the abandoned cart recovery, which can be very effective in the restaurant business. Basically, suppose a person added some dishes to the cart but forgot about it and exited the website. Then, you could send automated emails, maybe after an hour or two, to remind them that they forgot the order. Then, you may follow up the next day to remind them of their cravings. Often, people will not be able to ignore their cravings and end up completing the orders.

Mail Mint comes with several restaurant email marketing templates to help to create your email campaigns easily without wasting time.

Overall, Mail Mint is perfect to use, along with WooCommerce, to help you run a successful restaurant website and conduct email marketing with full control.

Author’s Note

Email marketing for restaurants can seem quite difficult at first. But once you have the automation flows in place, you will notice you are generating more an more orders with half the effort.

Now, one thing is for sure. You will need to develop some copywriting skills if you want the best results out of your emails. You will probably have to conduct A/B testing a number of times before deciding on the fixed set of email strategies that work for you.

But, it’s never gonna happen if you don’t start. So, go ahead and start using email marketing to grow your restaurant business. It might just be the game-changer you need to become the favorite restaurant in your area.

Fatema Tuz Zohra Nabila

Nabila is a product marketing manager at WPFunnels. She is a vivid storyteller and loves guiding people on email marketing & sales funnel tactics. Follow her on Twitter @nabila_zohra98

Fatema Tuz Zohra Nabila

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