(Image By David Dewitt)

The most important email you’ll ever send to a customer is the first one. Welcome emails have an unusually high open rate of 50% and 320% more revenue is attributed to them on a per email basis than other promotional emails. That kind of engagement makes it an ideal tool for introducing new customers to your company and putting them on the road to becoming a loyal customer.

Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer’s advice can be polarizing, but he does have some interesting things to say about customer loyalty. In an interview with marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk, he claims that if a customer has a flawless experience, the statistical likelihood of them coming back in is 40%. If everything continues to go well, the chance of return creeps up to about 70% by the fourth visit.

He believes that you have to drive at least three visits to make a customer loyal. He goes on to describe an old-school method using different colored napkins to indicate which visit the customer is on. This would inform a series of special offers the manager would present on business cards with the check.

This undoubtedly makes people feel special, but coordinating a server identifying a new customer, arranging special napkins and getting the manager present to hand off a card is extremely high touch and unwieldy. You can get similar results with a lot less effort using automated emails.

Start with a thank you

Most people who find a welcome email in their inbox have had some interaction with the business sending it. They’ve already given their email for a rewards program, opted in through social media, or entered their contact info for WiFi access. No matter how you get the contact, you should start with ‘thanks’.

The benefits of gratitude are well established for personal health. But there are upsides for businesses as well. An often quoted 2014 study published in Emotion found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. That can open up future opportunities, especially paired with an incentive to return.

You don’t have to over do it. A simple, bold ‘thank you’ at the top of the email is a warm way to start things off and leaves you room for more information and special offers. Kelly’s at Southbridge, a pub in Scottsdale, Arizona, provides a nice example. This email is sent automatically to customers an hour after they’ve visited and has a strong 41% open rate.

Give customers an incentive to come back

Your welcome email should contain some sort of incentive that makes the customer want to return. Bareburger, a delicious burger joint with locations all over the world, sends a series of emails with progressive offers to get customers back in.

Bareburger uses Zenreach to send its welcome emails which means they can track when customers are actually returning. We use a metric called the Walk-Through Rate™ to show when a customer who received an email visits in the next seven days. It’s similar to a click-through rate. The average Walk-Through Rate is about 2-3%. Bareburger’s welcome email more than doubles that at 7%.

Their current welcome email works so well for several reasons. The image and illustrations are really well done, especially the CTA button which is animated. It also features a fundraising effort for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is worth noting because it shows the incentive doesn’t necessarily have to be something that directly benefits the customer. People love supporting causes and doing good can actually be a great way to engage customers.


After the welcome email, Bareburger sends guests a repeat customer email about their ordering app. They also offer a free burger the first time they use it. After a few more visits, they alert customers that every $100 they spend using the app will earn them a $10 credit. This gives customers a reason to keep coming back and it replaces the need for customer loyalty punch cards.

Let customers know what you’re about

The welcome email is also a good time to introduce customers to your brand, its values, and the reasons they should choose your business over the other guys down the road. In the examples above, Bareburger has done an amazing job of communicating their concern for social causes and promoting the use of their mobile app.

You can also use this space to introduce anything that’s special about your business. For example, you might send parents a message about kids’ menu items. For health-focused crowds, you could talk about special organic ingredients. Does your bartender make her own bitters? Shout it out.

Another use for welcome emails is to announce special events and happy hours. Brooklyn, New York’s Krupa Grocery runs two different happy hours each day. This is definitely something customers should know. Their welcome email has a strong 49% open rate and a 9% Walk-Through Rate.

Check in with the customer experience

A welcome email can be a good time to get feedback about how you’re doing. A new customer will be seeing your business with fresh eyes and might have an interesting perspective. Asking your customers to provide feedback communicates that you value their opinion, and you care about what they have to say.

After thanking their customers, Michigan’s Chateau Aeronautique Winery asks them to report on how they enjoyed their experience. The welcome email includes a simple five-star rating widget. If the customer selects three or fewer stars, they are taken to a page that apologizes for any issues and asks for written feedback. This is followed up on quickly to help make everything right.

If the rating is four or five stars, the customer is given an opportunity to share their experience on social media sites. This has helped boost their ratings on TripAdvisor, where they have a score of 4.5 out of 5.

Like Bareburger, they follow the welcome email with a series of emails as customers continue to visit. After a customer’s 5th visit, they receive a free drink and $5 off their bill. This offer has a huge Walk-Through Rate of 39%.

Putting it all together

Don’t just ‘set-and-forget’ your welcome emails. If you see a dip in results, try refreshing your offer or changing the images you use. Keep the above advice in mind and experiment. With the right emails, you can make your customers happy and loyal.

Remember, your welcome emails can help nudge people into making decisions, but it’s up to you to make each visit memorable and give customers a reason to keep coming back. Whether you use Jon Taffer’s napkin method, or modern technology, you have to give your guests an experience they’ll love.

For more information on how to save time and automate your welcome email marketing campaigns, visit us at Zenreach.com.


Marketing Restaurants