Restaurant Email Marketing

Emails should be a part of every restaurant’s marketing strategy. Not only do they help you stay in touch with your database and offer incentives for repeat visits, but the overall investment in email can come at little to no cost — meaning the potential return on investment is very high. In fact, studies show that email marketing yields an ROI that averages roughly $36 per $1 investment

There are a handful of factors that make up an effective restaurant email marketing experience. Covering all the bases listed below will ensure strong deliverability and engagement. 

Email Address Collection

Before diving into email creation tips, it’s important to first cover the topic of email collection. Consider the pen and paper or fish bowl method that some restaurants use to collect customer contacts. Not only does this method require manual entry on your part, it also leaves room for human error and there will likely be a delay as to when the data gets input into your CRM. 

Instead, leverage a value exchange like a guest WiFi access sign on or loyalty program, which captures the customer’s email and immediately gets their information into your database for real-time marketing use.

Some additional ways to collect guest emails include: 

  • A subscription form on your restaurant website
  • Your reservations page
  • Via a link on your restaurant’s social pages
  • On questionnaires or feedback forms

With efficient data collection set in place, you can focus on the next important step: email optimization. It’s worth taking the time to make sure your messaging and design follow these proven best practices.

Content & Design Checklist 

Subject Lines & Text Previews

Subject lines and text previews are the first things a person sees in their inbox. Make sure they’re attention-grabbing, enticing the recipient to open the email.

  •  Introduce the Call to Action

When including an offer in an email, mention it in the subject line, but don’t spill all the details. You want them to open the email to find out more.

  •  Shorter is Better

Subject lines should be clear, concise, and captivating. Long subject lines may get cut off in the preview. 41 characters is the optimal length. 

  •  Use Power Words

Power words elicit strong psychological responses from readers, making them more likely to open the email. Click here to discover 150 power words to use in your subject lines. 

  •  Emojis

Using emojis to express emotion or the tone of your email can be effective, but be careful not to overdo it. The rule of thumb is to treat emojis like punctuation. You wouldn’t end a sentence with three exclamation points, so you shouldn’t end a subject line with three emojis. 

  •  Avoid Spam Filters

Avoid using elements like non-numeric characters, irregular punctuation, random spacing, and all-capitalized words. These are telltale signs of advertising and are more likely to be caught by a spam filter.

Email Body

Restaurant email subscribers are likely to be social media-loving, review-checking, bargain-hunting experts. That’s why it’s essential to develop content that will keep them coming back for more. 

  •  Keep Important Information at the Top

Research from 2021 shows that email recipients spend an average of 10 seconds reading an email. Ensure that they see your most important information by keeping it near the top. 

  •  Include the Call to Action

Whether it’s a “claim promo” button or an Instagram icon to follow your account, make sure you give readers something to act on. 

  •  Double-Check Everything

Avoid grammar and spelling mistakes by getting a second pair of eyes on all your emails. It’s also wise to send out test emails, ensuring everything is formatted correctly.

Email Design

Design and content go hand-in-hand, so remember not to neglect either one. Great design makes an email easier to digest and helps highlight the most important points.  

  •  Keep Consistent Branding

What is your atmosphere? Is your restaurant upscale or casual? Who is your target audience? These questions will help you determine the best way to showcase your brand through design. From there, you can create pre-designed templates to keep your emails consistent. 

  •  Less is More

Don’t overwhelm the reader with too many design elements. Stick to a max of 2 fonts within your email and include plenty of space between headlines, images, and main copy. 

  •  Don’t Forget Photos

People eat with their eyes. Include photos of your tasty offerings to entice guests. Make sure you use a combination of images and text, as image-only emails can trigger spam filters. 

  •  Test New Things 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with new trends from time to time. In the past few years, for example, many companies have switched their emails to dark mode since it’s risen in popularity.

Segmentation & Personalization

Personalized messaging is one of the best ways to achieve high email engagement. But in order to achieve personalization, restaurants need the ability to properly segment their email lists. Segmenting contacts means dividing the email subscribers in your CRM into smaller groups based on a specific criteria (i.e. location, previous orders, loyalty program membership, etc.). By dividing your contacts into different groups, you can easily create emails with messaging that’s specifically tailored to their specific interests or behaviors.

One of the most relevant criteria for restaurants to segment their guest list is with visit data. Visit data includes insight related to in-store guest traffic, dwell time, visit frequency, and even time of day/week visited. Once a restaurant understands the nuances in their customer base, employing specific messaging to reach them should result in significantly higher performance. 

How exactly does this work? One example is to segment customers based on visit time, allowing restaurants to identify a midweek lunch guest versus a happy hour guest. Chances are, these customers will respond differently to different promotions. 

A BOGO drink coupon would be appealing to the happy hour guest, whereas a discounted appetizer coupon may be more appealing to the lunch guest. Having the ability to create segments like these and send personalized offers is a gamechanger, increasing the effectiveness of your emails.

Minimizing Spam Filter Risk

After taking the time to create valuable content for your recipients, the last thing you want is to be flagged as spam. Here are a few steps restaurants can take to minimize spam filter risk. 

Get the Explicit Opt-In

Your guest WiFi portal and online web forms are the best tools for ensuring your guests have opted-in to receive marketing emails. When signing up through your guest WiFi or a sign-up form on your website, your guests are giving expressed consent to join your email list.

Purchasing lists from other sources may sound like an attractive way to boost your customer database, however guests who have not signed up for your list are likely to hurt your sending reputation by flagging your emails as unwanted spam. This can damage your reputation with email providers and make it more challenging to achieve strong deliverability in the future.

Target Your Email Campaigns

It may seem like a good idea to reach out to everyone in your database, but Adentro customers see the best open rates when using our demographic and visit behavior-targeting features. You’ve probably noticed that your Tuesday Night Pub Trivia crowd is quite different from your Sunday Brunch crowd. Sort by characteristics like gender, age, customer type (i.e., new, repeat, loyal, or lost), and day and time of visit to reach the appropriate crowd with the right message. 

Pro Tip: Using a platform like Adentro makes it super easy to filter audiences and send targeted email campaigns. How does this work? On the Adentro platform, restaurants have the ability to use an automatic label scheduling feature. Click here to learn more. 

Find the Right Sending Patterns 

Erratic sending patterns are another spam indicator, so once you’ve settled on a schedule, stick to it. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should send emails because demographics and customer expectations vary. The best thing that you can do is let your customers decide what kind of content they would like to receive from you.

Make it Easy to Unsubscribe 

This may seem counterintuitive, but users who can’t easily unsubscribe from your list often flag messages as spam. If you get enough spam flags, email providers will notice and your messages will be redirected accordingly. Make sure to display the unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email in a color that is easy to read.  

Keep Your Subscriber List Clean

At a glance, your contact list may be impressive, but how many of these folks are actually opening your messages? More is not always better in email marketing. Low customer engagement also hurts your reputation with email providers.

Measuring Success 

A critical aspect of an email campaign is determining how to measure success. With a goal of incentivizing purchase or restaurant visit, open rates and even click-through rates may not be enough to confirm a purchase was completed, especially for restaurants who offer takeout/delivery services through third-party apps. The best indicators of purchase are a direct conversion through a restaurant’s website, the number of offer redemptions, and/or understanding the number of customers who walked into the restaurant within 7 days of receiving an email (we call this a Walk-Through Rate™).

Adentro is the only restaurant marketing solution designed to track Walk-Through Rates for email campaigns, smart email triggers, and even digital advertising campaigns. Imagine being able to see exactly how many guests walked through your doors after reading your email. The Adentro dashboard will give you those exact data points. Interested in learning more? Click here to discover how you can start tracking guest visit behavior and fuel your marketing efforts.


General Marketing Restaurants