5 emails restaurants should send during the COVID-19 pandemic

While many industries are struggling in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants have been hit particularly hard. 

Earlier this year, restaurants were forced to either close their dining doors or shut down their business completely to keep customers safe. Months later, some businesses have reopened their dining rooms and patios – where others are strictly takeout or curbside pickup only – and are facing a scaled-back marketing budget and strict safety protocols. 

But there’s a silver lining – and we’re here to help show it to you.

You can build customer loyalty and awareness through platforms like email marketing. Email marketing helps you entertain, educate, and surprise your customers with unique offerings surrounding your restaurant. 

How can restaurants use email marketing to drive more awareness? Let’s dive into why email marketing is important during the pandemic and the different types of content you should start sending.

Why is email marketing for restaurants important during the pandemic?

While the restaurant industry is in a difficult place, you can focus on unique ways to stay in front of customers with a strategic marketing approach. You may be accustomed to more traditional marketing tactics like billboards or radio. However, the world has shifted to a far more digital mindset in the past few months.

With over 306 billion emails predicted to send worldwide by 2020, email marketing remains the strongest digital marketing tactic that drives brand awareness and customer purchases.

Email marketing for restaurants allows you to build personal relationships with customers on their preferred platform. In fact, more than 50% of customers say that they check their personal email account over 10 times a day, and it’s their favorite platform to receive business communications. 

Consider these additional reasons to take up email marketing during (and after) the pandemic:

  • Provides an easy-to-use interface without needing coding experience

  • Cross-promotes with other digital channels like social media and content development

  • Offers an inexpensive communication platform

  • Gives your patrons a voice to leave feedback or ask questions

  • Allows you to quickly spread the word about updates, news, events, and more

  • Collects emails easily through reservations 

  • Analyzes your metrics to find future improvements

To adapt to the challenges that pandemic has brought the restaurant industry, email marketing offers your business the best way to connect and drive business with customers.

5 emails restaurants should send to drive business awareness

Now that you understand how email marketing for restaurants helps grow your business, it’s essential to know what types of emails you should send. With customers receiving “we’re in this together” messaging from most brands, you need to ensure your emails stand out.

What emails inspire customers to choose your restaurant during the pandemic? Let’s take a look at a few examples that will help you earn more business.

1. Communicate your cleaning and safety precautions

You need to educate customers that your food and facility are safe. If you’ve decided to reopen, it’s important to also indicate your hours and set expectations for what customers should anticipate. 

The key to this email is transparency, so focus on leading with how you’re keeping your employees and food safe. Depending on your state’s requirements, your cleaning protocols and safety precautions could mention:

  • Social distancing and reconfigured layout updates

  • Disinfected restaurant tables after each visit

  • Employees wearing masks and gloves

  • Temperature checks for everyone inside the facility

  • Frequent hand washing or sanitizer stations provided

  • Reservations through OpenTable or Resy

  • Non-cash payments preferred

  • QR code menus

The more you communicate about your restaurant’s precautions, the more comfortable customers will feel about coming to your business. You could send regular emails that inform customers of any new updates around their health. As a straightforward option, you’re enforcing the idea that your restaurant is safe. 

You could also prepare customers for a new dining experience by documenting your reopening journey and displaying behind-the-scenes footage. Show off your new floorplan, share images of masked employees, or display your new takeout window. These emails not only demonstrate that you’re opening soon but will also help soothe pandemic concerns. 

pandemic safety email example

Source: Really Good Emails


2. Offer special takeout and curbside delivery promotions

With many restaurants moving toward curbside delivery or takeout-only options, it’s essential to inform your customers of any ongoing deals you have around the new service. Instead of waiving delivery fees or offering discounts that potentially decrease your bottom line, discover new ways you can help solve your customer’s problems.

For example, consider offering bundled food in meal packages for families or a special date night. This strategy not only increases the customer’s purchase amount, but it also allows you to provide a standardized meal that your kitchen can produce quickly.

Within your email campaigns, target your messaging toward a meal replacement for the whole family. Customers are struggling with creating creative meals at home, so your bundle provides an all-in-one solution to satisfy the whole family. In the email, include:

  • The menu offerings

  • The price

  • Ordering information

  • Hard-to-resist imagery 

If you do decide to offer additional promotions, be sure to send out a consistent email with each new release to keep your customers informed and loyal to your restaurant. 

taco bell new product email example

Source: Really Good Emails


3. Show off your unique cooking skills and favorite dishes

Even as more restaurants open, your customers still might feel more comfortable at home. As a restaurant, you have unique skills from which others could be interested in learning. Why not use those talents by teaching customers your favorite dishes?

Now, you shouldn’t be giving away a top-secret sauce recipe or your grandma’s famous meatballs. However, your emails could inspire customers to try something new from your restaurant and help them feel more connected to you.

Consider the following ideas to include in email campaigns:

  • Online master class with a featured do-it-yourself (DIY) meal kit

  • Cooking tutorial on easy recipes customers can make at home

  • How-to-cook photo guide

  • Homemade recipes

To sweeten the deal, offer a biweekly meal kit available for curbside pickup that includes all the ingredients needed to create your dish. By either going “live” or pre-recording the video within your email, customers can learn to replicate a popular dish at home with your products – another way to increase your business’ sales. 

White Horse cooking video email example

Source: Really Good Emails

4. Highlight gift cards and merchandise

Whether you’ve fully opened or not, highlighting gift cards and other merchandise is a great way for customers to virtually support you without leaving their homes. 

Within your email, focus on the anticipation around visiting your restaurant when your customers feel comfortable. You could also showcase employee spotlights to highlight how your team has been coping with the pandemic and how additional purchases support their life. 

Additionally, consider partnering with local influencers or use user-generated content from social media. 

5. Become high-tech with order and delivery notifications

Did you know that 95% of restaurants agree that technology improves their revenue? 

While investing in technology right now may not be feasible, online ordering offers a huge competitive advantage and grows your takeout and delivery business. With more consumers looking to purchase online instead of ordering via phone call, an online platform allows consumers to place an order directly from your website. 

The best part? Instead of using UberEats or Postmates, you keep 100% of the profits. 

Transactional emails contain information that confirms an action was taken on an individual level. Often resulting in the highest open rates, transactional emails contain information that’s relevant to your customer. With each online order, send transactional emails that provide important information like:

  • Order confirmed

  • Order processed

  • Order delivered

  • Order feedback or delivery rating

While your customers will appreciate the online order convenience, you’re able to provide a great customer experience that keeps them coming back.

Chick-fil-A delivery confirmation email example

Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

The restaurant industry has been hit hard this year. Between the pandemic, civil unrest, and the uncertainties of what to expect next, marketing hasn’t been everyone’s focus. However, with the right email marketing strategy, you can continue to build customer loyalty and increase sales to support your restaurant through these hard times.

When developing email marketing during the pandemic, consider the following email themes:

  • Safety and health precautions

  • Special takeout and delivery promotions

  • Unique recipes or DIY cooking classes

  • Merchandise and gift card sales

  • Automatic transactional emails for online ordering

To send great emails that boost sales for your restaurant, you’ll need the right marketing tools at your disposal. Try a free demo of Emma today.

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