Email Marketing Plan for Restaurants: A Full Guide on How to Start Off
Restaurant marketing needs a well-thought strategy to let the target audience know about your place. You may have a sophisticated menu, nice design, professional team, and top chefs, but people may simply not know about all the perks you have to offer.
This is where email marketing steps in. With email remaining the main customer communication channel, regular email campaigns are a tool that would help get your service in front of the right audience. With further help of proper communication and eventual retention techniques, prospects will turn first into clients, and then into loyal customers for life.
Ready to take off but don’t know where to get started? Our restaurant marketing plan will guide through main milestones, helping define target audience, grow an email list, build adaptive templates with relevant content, and automate your campaigns. Track every step below to optimize your time, money and budget for the best result.
Step 1. Define Your Target Audience.
The better you understand what people make your potential clients, the better you realize how to reach them and what deals to offer. To figure out your customers, conduct research and surveys. The definition shouldn't be based on your personal feelings and hypotheses.
If you already have a certain contact base, it’s definitely not homogeneous and consists of diverse groups, so you need to segment them and answer the following questions about each segment:
- Who are they? (tourists, teenagers, seniors, random passers-by);
- What is their family status? (singles, couples, big families with kids);
- What kind of food do they prefer (quick snacks, complex lunch, healthy options, modern trends, classy beverages);
- Where do they work or study? (students of the near college, office workers, passing drivers);
- Where do they live? (country, city, district, neighborhood);
- What’s their average check?
- How often do they eat out?
Depending on what stage your business is at, and when you’ve started collecting the data, you may not have the answers to all of these. But as you keep on researching, more fields will be filled, and you’ll be able to send relevant offers to each category: lunch sales for office workers, +1 cup of latte for students who bring a friend, promo codes for family Sunday dinners, etc.
Step 2. Define Your Goals.
Before approving restaurant marketing strategies and launching the first campaign, set specific and measurable goals:
- What’s the main purpose of the email channel and of each particular campaign? (generate leads, retain customers, promote brand awareness, notify on recent news);
- What is your budget?
- How much profit do you expect to generate from your email campaigns and within what period?
- How many customers do you need to attract to generate this profit?
- What brand positioning do you want to create?
- What communication pattern will you stick to?
- What other platforms can you engage to support your email efforts?
Some metrics, like brand recognition or customer loyalty, aren’t easy to scale, but all the financial goals need to have a clear direction to work towards. This will help you analyze your strategy and adjust some processes if needed.
Step 3. Start Growing Your Email List.
To launch a campaign you need someone to send to. If you’ve been collecting email addresses for a while, you already have a certain base to work with. If you start marketing a new restaurant, the first method you need to consider is a website subscription form.
A subscription form should be clear and simple, consisting of several most important fields like an email address and name. Too many questions scare off: people won’t be eager to spend much time telling about their marital status and education.
You’ll have your chances to ask for more details after you gain subscriber’s trust and prove your content is worth sharing. If you want to add some extra fields anyway, make them optional and let people skip them and come back later.
Placement and design of your subscription form is up to you – options are vast:
- directly in the main page below the logo;
- separate tab;
- small form in the middle or at the bottom of the main page;
- landing page.
You can also ask your customers to share their email address via other methods:
- when people subscribe to your loyalty program;
- when making a reservation:
- in exchange for a WiFi password;
- in questionnaires and feedback forms, both offline and online;
- via app registration.
It’s very advisable (and officially required by the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR) to implement Double Opt-In in your subscription form.
Double Opt-In is a two-step subscription process that requires additional confirmation by a user to add them to your mailing list. By asking people to confirm their email, you keep your contact list from spam traps and inactive or invalid addresses and ensure the people do want to hear from you. This would protect your sender reputation, improve deliverability and save you time and budget you may otherwise spend on inefficient messages.
To build an effective contact list, it’s also important to let people manage preferences. First, it would allow more precise segmentation and more relevant content. Second, people are more likely to opt for newsletters when they know their opinions matter, and they will receive only useful information.
You can provide such preference settings in the subscription form, but make them few or optional to avoid too long subscription process.
A better solution is to ask for preferences in a confirmation email or include a corresponding link in a welcome email. Your subscribers may return to it anytime and check the necessary boxes without hustle.
Automated email marketing for restaurants
Step 4. Segment Your Contact Base.
Proper segmentation is one of the best marketing strategies for restaurants. Even if you have only basic data, for example, name, age and sex, start segmenting your contacts for better personalization. As the info amount and quality will grow, you’ll be able to fill more and more fields to build a full customer profile. And the fuller it is, the more targeted your campaigns would be.
Extra data you can use for segmentation:
- preferred language;
- online/offline customer;
- family status;
- average check;
- visit frequency;
- loyalty program membership;
- eating habits (in-house vs. takeaways);
- most often used incentives (promo codes, % off, free delivery, + 1 meal).
And this is how a segment may look like based on some of this data:
The more conditions you add, the more relevant offers you’ll be sending.
Step 5. Craft a Recognizable Email Design.
With modern solutions, you don’t need to be a tech guru to build a beautiful email template. Using an adaptive drag-and-drop builder (like the one we have built in the eSputnik system), you’ll be able to create recognizable custom messages based on your corporate branding, email goals, etc.
For a start, you can choose a basic email template (+300 in our system, and they’re free for all users) and edit it according to the design of your website. It’s better to follow one design (logo, colors, text font, language style) across all your platforms and channels to promote brand recognition. Later, after you’ll have mastered coding, you’ll be able to add any other elements, like animation, GIF, image overlay, to your already saved template.
And here are some more specific features you can use in a drag-and-drop editor:
- drag any block or structure and fill it with the necessary content;
- save any ready block in your own block bank and use them for further campaigns to save time (logo, header, banner, footer, contacts, product cards);
- download images from your computer (or choose from a free bank in the editor) and edit them right in the builder: crop, resize, add text, change color, etc.
- add video and animation;
- add CTA and links to any element;
- preview desktop and mobile display in one click;
- send a test sample to your address;
- save any message as a template and use it for further campaigns with minor editing;
This is only basic functionality, and once you start exploring the builder, you’ll realize that for a good email you need to have only content – most of the technical issues are covered for you.
Step 6. Come Up with Quality Content.
And speaking of content, let’s see what are the components of effective digital marketing for restaurants. The below list isn’t the holy grail of content making, but you’ll know what pay attention to in the first place.
1. Subject lines are key to success.
A catchy original subject line contributes greatly to the effectiveness of all messages, and restaurant email marketing is no exception. A subject line is one of the first things people see in the Inbox, and it determines to a great extent whether they’ll keep on reading.
A good subject line should be crisp, clear and announce the information the subscriber will find in the copy. Try to stick to around 30 characters, otherwise mobile users may won’t see the full piece.
What's more important, avoid misleading information just for the sake of enticing effect. If you send a newsletter with recent menu updates, the subject line promising to reveal what to eat to live to 100 would look deceptive. And people don’t like when their expectations aren’t met.
To get your creative juices flowing, look at these email subject lines for restaurants we’ve found in out inboxes:
- Tongue Dancer Wines: Maker of the Month (DRY Greek Kitchen);
- It’s (free) Croissant O’Clock this Friday! 🥐(Pret);
- The Ronaldo’s back. Try it on us (Byron Burger);
- It’s YO Birthday. Get ⅓ Off Your Food Bill (Yo Sushi!);
- Join us for NYC Restaurant Week (Lincoln Ristorante);
- Since we can’t all win the lottery… (Pizza Express);
- Pret’s Veggie Menu is here (Pret);
- Our Dish of the Month: Poke (GrubHub);
- Start off the New Year with a Free Entree. (Mimi’s Cafe);
- Come on back – we made dinner easier! 😋 (Blue Apron);
- Waffles, bacon and eggs...Oh My! (O’Charley’s);
- No flowers, but alllll of the chocolate (Starbucks);
- Thanks! Here’s an offer for your next visit to Guerrilla Tacos (Guerrilla Tacos);
- Time’s up. Forks down. (Wendy’s);
- Free Moe’s Queso. What’s not to love? (Moe's Southwest Grill);
- *FREE Kids Meal* This weekend. Open for coupon (Fazoli’s);
- FREE 🍩 🍩 🍩 today! (Dunkin’ Donuts);
- Discover the new Italiano Range (Dominos);
- Welcome, Y'all! 🍻 (Austin Eastciders);
- The Peacemaker is the real hero of Valentine's Day ✌ (Mahony's Po-Boys & Seafood);
- Take a break from Cyber Monday. Have some Taco Bell. (Taco Bell).
And since the subject line is so important element, get a useful habit of running A/B testing to find out what options work best for you. This is how the test result looks in our system:
2. Send a welcome email.
Sending a welcome email at the start of the relationships with a subscriber is important for several reasons. First, you get a chance to properly introduce yourself and greet a new community member, Second, a welcome email is a good place to ask people to manage their preferences and select the topics they’re most interested in.
Third, when you’re only starting sending mass emails, active response by subscribers is very important. It contributes to your sender reputation and signals email clients you’re a trustworthy brand with interesting content. And the better your sender reputation, the better the deliverability rate – more of your emails will reach the Inbox. And since a welcome email has the highest open rate (57.8%), it will give your brand reputation a good start.
300+ free adaptive email templates
3. Plan ahead your marketing event calendar.
Use any opportunity to engage your subscribers and turn them into customers. Discounts and gifts are the first thing to come into mind, and they do bring results, but a smart marketer shall not live by sales alone.
If you plan to turn restaurant email into a profitable channel, don’t wait for (rare) seasonal menu updates. There are plenty of other occasions when you can reach out – deliver value at every interaction. Not all of your emails aim to generate direct sales: to simply stay in the game you should constantly remind of your existence. The restaurant industry is a rather competitive business filled with options, so make sure your brand doesn’t get lost among more creative competitors.
What to write about apart from deals and ingredients? Consider using some of these email content ideas for restaurants:
- introduce a new menu (seasonal, holiday);
- introduce a new staff member – chef, barista, sommelier, etc;
- announce an artist or band whom you’re going to host on upcoming days;
- introduce a new store or place design;
- send blog updates;
- prepare campaigns for widely celebrated international holidays (New Year, Valentine’s Day, Women’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas);
- prepare campaigns for topical holidays applicable to your speciality (Pizza Day, Pancake Day, Waffle Day, World Food Day, Coffee Day, etc.);
- congratulate customer on their birthday;
- reach out on your company’s birthday if you run some celebrations;
- share customer feedback or reviews by influencers, and from Yelp, Google Reviews, TripAdvisor, etc. If you have been featured in the Michelin Guide or whitelisted for any restaurant award, don’t keep silent;
- showcase behind-the-scenes life (share top recipes, tips by professionals);
- tell about charity activities you might be running (free food for underserved communities, donations, recycling, partnership with NGOs);
- tell about your local community commitment (cooking classes and workshops, social brunches, challenges);
- invite to events you might be participating in (festivals, fairies, markets, food fights);
- ask to give a feedback;
- provide instructions on how to order online, make a reservation, use your new perk system or app;
- write a thank you email.
4. Use quality custom images.
Pick the corresponding images depending on what you promote in a particular email: mouth-watering food, cozy or stylish design, friendly service. Yes, people come to your place to eat in the first place, but the background should comply as well. The dishes would look more delicious when served on beautiful plates alongside shining tableware. Faded colors and poor design don’t generate buying impulses. And your emails definitely aren’t a place for free stock photos of your meals: this is where custom imagery is a must.
Also, consider including user-generated content in your emails. Besides fashion, food is the most popular object for Insta shots and Facebook posts, so the options to choose of would be abundant. Moreover, user’s photos, as a rule, presuppose original settings and diverse models, and the quality of modern smartphone cameras allow professional quality.
Step 7. Empower Your Emails with Recent Design Solutions.
Email may look a stagnant channel in contrast to always changing social media, but be sure new trends appear here as well.
The AMP technology was the main news in the email marketing in 2019. In simple words, this new solution enables to take an action straight in the email body without downloading extra pages. This means a user can perform the following without leaving the email:
- make a booking;
- make an order;
- leave a comment;
- RSVP to an event;
- fill in a feedback form, etc.
For restaurant marketing, the possibilities are vast. Any kind of booking, delivery or reservation can be done from the Inbox. Imagine how convenient! You send an email with a new menu and a promo code for the first order. The subscriber can use it straight away without going to the website. Minimum actions + convenience + faster process = fewer people would get lost in between the email and the website.
And from January 2020 this functionality is supported for mobiles as well. Whatever your subscribers use to open your emails, they would see the content.
The above design is crafted by our friends from Stripo. In the eSputnik system, by far you can create an AMP-supported accordion and carousel (and new blocks are coming). For it, you don’t need to deal with code: just drag the necessary block and fill it with the necessary content.
Note. To send AMP emails you need to register with Google as a dynamic sender. Learn here all the steps.
Personalization is another huge trend of all digital world, and multilingual campaigns are its new representation. It’s no secret that people prefer perceiving any kind of information in their native language. This applies to email as well. Wish your campaigns resonate with recipients on a deeper level? Consider writing in their preferred language.
Gamification has been making its way in emails for the recent several years. This solution means adding game-like elements in order to catch and retain the subscriber’s attention, increase the average reading time, entertain, and finally prompt orders.
It acquires different forms and can be implemented in many ways: your imagination is the only limit.
By far, the most widespread option is to hide a promo code behind a puzzle or find the right option between several versions. More restaurant marketing ideas to try:
- quiz on your restaurant history;
- quiz on ingredients of a new meal;
- I spy game;
- build your promo code;
- reveal your gift (by scratching a plate);
- wheel of fortune;
- build your pizza (burger, milkshake, sushi set – any multi-component meal).
Step 8. Automate Your Email Campaigns.
To make the most of your campaigns, take advantage of email automation and workflows. A workflow is a series of steps that happen one after another according to the conditions you set up. Every workflow is started by a trigger (customer’s action) that you configure for it.
For example, you set up a trigger “When a subscriber confirms subscription.” The workflow that includes such trigger would get started after someone confirms their subscription to your newsletters.
Any action by the subscriber can be a trigger, but the basic ones suitable for almost any business include:
- subscription/registration confirmation;
- click on a link;
- personal profile update;
- annual event (birthday/anniversary);
- abandoned browse;
- abandoned cart;
- order or purchase;
You can add as many emails (web pushes, mobile pushes, SMS) in the workflow and set up time delay based on your marketing needs.
5 free workflows to automate your campaigns
Step 9. Track Results.
After you’ve been running regular email campaigns for a while, it’s time to see how effective they are and what changes may be needed.
The metrics to pay attention to are:
- open rate;
- click rate;
- click-to-open rate;
- bounce rate;
- unsubscribe rate;
- spam rate.
The first three should be as high; the last three – as low.
Regular analysis of email stats is necessary for have a clear idea of how profitable your restaurant marketing campaigns are, what rates need improvements, what material generates more clicks, and what domains and segments generate better response.
Best Restaurant Marketing Practices Beyond Email
Any of the below tips can be incorporated in your email marketing campaigns to create an effective omnichannel strategy. The more options you team up to boost engagement, the more effective each platform method would be.
1. Gift cards.
Gifts cards have been long used for selling clothes, gadgets, jewelry, perfumes ... . The list goes on and on, but what you definitely don’t give as a gift is a burger or cup of coffee? Or do you?
Today, you can buy a gift card for anything you want, and food is no longer an exception. And why should it be? Eating is one of few preferences common of all people, so enriching your marketing strategy with gift cards isn’t a bad idea: most major brands have been implementing this practice for years.
2. Loyalty programs.
There are many types of loyalty programs for restaurants, but the most widespread are probably the following:
- Points (bonuses, rewards) for an order;
- Referral incentives (free meal, discounts, access to exclusive offers) for bringing in your friends;
- Incentives for social sharing.
You may think of numerous ways to make these tactics work, but whatever option you stick to, answer one question: what’s in there for people who join your club? The answer will show which direction to move.
A pop-up can serve multiple purposes: invite to sign up for emails, ask to forward a friend, contain a promo code for the first order, introduce holiday incentives, etc.
The only thing to note, don’t use too many of them at one time. If a user enters the website and gets instantly attacked (before even taking a peek at your place) by a web push permission, location request, subscription invitation, and pop-up with deals, chances they’d keep on browsing are small.
4. Social media.
Social media are powerful platform to promote any business, so take a full advantage of them. Whatever you’re into at the moment (new wine menu, discounts for families with kids, challenges) a social post is one of the quickest ways to notify your audience. It doesn’t require much time to be composed and provide instant statistics (likes, shares, comments) of how applicable this or that approach can be.
5. Additional channels.
Web Push, Mobile Push and SMS serve great to inform on the latest news: menu changes, hot deals, holiday hours, or live video streaming. Cooking (literally) something special at your kitchen? Invite people to join via a short web notification.
6. Print ads.
Though we live in the digital era, don’t underestimate the power of good old printed advertising. Putting up a billboard, making a poster, and getting coverage in newspapers and magazines would promote brand awareness and help reach more people.
8. In-house events.
Depending on your audience, you may use different occasions to host in-house events:
- game nights (playoff, finals, local derby);
- movie screenings (pre-premiere, festival shortlist, most popular movies by directors, actors, actresses on their birthday);
- theme parties (90’s, Gangster Chicago, leather & latex);
- poetry readings;
- karaoke nights;
- wine tastings;
- comedy stand up;
- local farming markets.
As they say, people need bread and circus, so providing the late (alongside great meals of course), would help your place stand out among numerous competitors.Consider using geotargeting to advertise local events and show corresponding notification to subscribers who are currently located not far from your place.
Everything you need for email automation
Restaurant Email Marketing Examples
Instead of conclusion, we’ve put some pieces of restaurant email designs to get you inspired. There’s nothing wrong with learning from others, and the best way to see how things are done is to watch them put in practice. So take a look, note what you like (and why), choose the emails you’d rather response to and get down to work. May your emails be as delicious as the meals you serve!