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Email Marketing 10 min read

9 Email Marketing Best Practices for Restaurants and Food Businesses

Sarah Edwards photo

Written by Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Dallin Porter photo

Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter

Marketing Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 01 Feb 2023

While delicious food and excellent service can net your restaurant stellar reviews, you’ll usually need to look outside the box to attract new customers and keep your current clients returning consistently. One of the best ways to do so is through email marketing. Restaurants can leverage the power of this tried-and-true marketing strategy to ensure a steady flow of customers and better revenue.

Email Marketing: A Definition

Email marketing

Email marketing is a classic strategy that depends on regular communication with your customers via email. It may be tempting to go straight to paid ads or social media to generate buzz, but you shouldn’t overlook email marketing. Restaurants specifically can highlight new items on their menus, notify subscribers of a special discount, or ask loyal customers to leave a public review.

If you don’t already leverage email marketing, it’s not hard to do. First, you’ll need to build a subscriber list. This is the hardest part of launching an email marketing campaign for many businesses. But for restaurants, you have a few unique options that have proven to be quite effective.

For instance, it’s very difficult to turn down the opportunity to get free food. You’ll find that an extraordinary number of people are all too willing to hand over their email addresses if it means they’ll get a free appetizer. Another popular strategy is to use a digital point-of-sale system where they can enter their email address to get 10% off their next meal — a tantalizing offer. For a more passive approach, you can include a link on your website to capture emails from those wanting to stay updated on your menu.

Once you build your email list, you can start developing your marketing strategies. To this end, here are a few of the top techniques for email marketing restaurants use to drive more business.

Top 9 Best Practices for Email Marketing

If you’ve never tried email marketing before, that’s okay. It’s a skill that’s difficult to master but easy to learn. Follow these tips to get started:

  1. Send a Welcome Email

Welcome letter

If your customers are kind enough to give you their contact information, the least you can do is thank them for it! A welcome email is the perfect opportunity to onboard new subscribers, thank them for signing up, and maybe even reward them. This is a new relationship you’re building, after all. You want to make sure you get off on the right foot.

Besides a thank-you, your welcome email should include basic information about your restaurant (such as its location and contact details) and a link to schedule a future reservation, if applicable. Including a bonus for joining your subscriber list is customary, enticing them to return to your restaurant and look forward to future communications from you.

  1. Contact Your Subscribers on Their Birthdays

Most people enjoy feeling appreciated on their birthday. While family and friends will send them birthday greetings and gifts, it’s common practice for restaurants to send their regards on their customers’ birthdays. Most include a coupon for a free dessert or appetizer.

  1. Celebrate the Holidays

Leveraging the excitement of certain holidays is a tried-and-true method in email marketing. Non-profits especially appreciate this tactic, since around Christmas time in particular, people are in more of a giving spirit.

Restaurant traffic also tends to pick up around specific holidays, such as New Year’s, Christmas, and especially Valentine’s Day. If you can, try altering your menu during these holidays to attract more visitors to your business. 

For instance, many restaurants create a Valentine’s Week special, typically consisting of two entrees and a dessert to share. A restaurant that caters to the sports crowd could offer discounts on burgers and wings during significant sports matches, like the Super Bowl.

You can also celebrate lesser-known holidays that are relevant to your business. For example, April has several Southern food days that celebrate everything from peach cobbler to pecans to Eggs Benedict and spiral ham. So if your restaurant specializes in Southern fare, maybe choose April as a month-long celebration and offer unique Southern dishes or featured discounts. 

  1. Offer a Cooking Class

Picture from a cooking class

Your restaurant probably has a few meals that customers often order and would love to be able to recreate at home. So if you’re looking for a unique way to attract customers through email promotions, try offering a cooking class and showing them the steps to make their favorite dish at home. 

Don’t be afraid that your customers will stop frequenting your restaurant because they can make the food themselves. Most people enjoy the experience of a cooking class and feel empowered because they accomplished a tricky meal themselves. Rather than use it as an excuse not to return, they’ll come back to your restaurant with fond memories of the experience.

  1. Provide a Takeaway Discount

The traditional free appetizer or 10% discount are popular promotions, but you may not have considered running a takeaway discount. This strategy allows your customers to order anything off your menu at a lower price; the only rule is that they’ll need to pick up their food themselves.

Takeaway discounts are great for customers who prefer to eat in the comfort of their own homes. They may enjoy watching a movie with family while they dine, or they might be alone for the evening and don’t wish to sit by themselves at the restaurant. You’ll be able to meet their needs while also building customer loyalty.

  1. Inform Your Subscribers of New Menu Items

Newsletter example

Many restaurants continually add new items to their menus. Some restaurants change their menus based on seasonal offerings. If you find that you regularly update your menu, consider messaging your subscribers whenever you make changes. That way, they’ll know what to expect next time they dine with you, and you might just be adding a meal they’re excited to try.

Make sure you include pictures of your newest selections; the more appealing they are, the more likely you’ll see more traffic in your restaurant!

  1. Create a Customer Loyalty Program

It’s never a bad idea to reward your most loyal customers. After all, clients who continually frequent your restaurant will provide a consistent source of revenue, and they’ll probably get others to check out your eatery. 

Of course, you may not know who these devoted customers are. To this end, you should develop a loyalty program that you can implement via email campaigns. When they sign up for your email promotions, you can automatically enter them into your loyalty program. This way, every time they dine, they’ll earn points toward rewards, such as a free meal or discount on their next order. 

  1. Confirm Online Orders

Some restaurants allow their customers to place an order online. If this is the case for your restaurant, you’ll want to confirm their order via email, letting your customer know that you’ve received their order and processed your payment.

You can include additional information about their order, like when it will be ready for pickup or the expected delivery time. It also allows you to upsell, offering time-sensitive promotions on items like drinks or desserts if the customer adds them to the order in the next few minutes.

  1. Ask for Client Testimonials

6 steps to awesome customer testimonials

Most customers who sign up for your restaurant’s email promotions are probably already fans of your business’s food and service. This means that you have the perfect audience to ask for a positive review. If you can get even a small percentage of your loyal customers to leave a review on Yelp or Google, you can expect an uptrend in traffic and revenue over time.

To ensure you only get the most positive reviews, you can design a custom feedback form in the email that the customer can fill out, including a rating scale of 0–10. For those customers who rate their experience at a 9 or 10, you can create an automation that prompts these happy customers to leave a public review and boost your business.

Never underestimate the impact that a few constructive words can bring. The more positive reviews you gather through your email marketing campaign, the more likely your restaurant will attract future customers. 

Don’t Overlook the Benefits of Email Marketing

It’s not just retail and e-commerce that can benefit from email marketing. Non-profits, movie theaters, and, yes, even restaurants can benefit from this powerful strategy.

Use these tips to get started with email marketing. Restaurants that want professional help in designing email campaigns that return powerful results can reach out to Galactic Fed. We’ll help you develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes design, implementation, and analytics, meaning you can trust us to build your brand while you save time and money and get back to doing what you do best — creating and selling delicious food.

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Sarah Edwards photo

Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed