Own a restaurant? 8 email marketing trends you should care about

Restaurant owners are often concerned about one vital factor when opening up for business: the return of investment. And a typical restaurateur cares deeply about its menu and its customers. By investing in restaurant email marketing, you can reach a broader audience, care about you customers, and work toward that ROI, too.

The personal touch—a restaurant email trend that lasts.

One of the most optimal ways for a restaurant owner to get customers to visit their website is by sending an email providing the reasons why. A digital presence through social media isn’t the sole answer to gaining customer business or increasing a restaurant’s ROI. Restaurant owners have to enter the digital marketing era with a warm and caring strategy that appeals to potential customers.

Restaurant email trends, whether by automation or using a personalized touch, go directly to the bottom line of the sales outcome. Since the majority of the population is constantly digitally connected—whether by phone or computer—an email is the fastest method to reach the customer.

Whether offering promotions or discounts, this type of email gives the customer the advantage of seeing the menu directly from their online source and order in advance, while retrieving a restaurants’ offer, and ultimately using it.

The key is personalization. Target the email with a personalized touch during the promotional phase and it’s almost guaranteed the customer will return.

Restaurant email strategy you can use.

As a new restaurant owner, create a personal touch with the email. If knowing the recipient on the other end is someone who orders online or relishes with promotions, include offers that target them.

Having a little bit of background on the customer helps the email marketing process, as gathering their behaviors (do they order online often?) or perhaps their age and hobbies go a long way in offering a warm fuzzy feeling.

Everything a restaurant owner can gain in customer background will help bolster an effective marketing strategy. The location of the restaurant matters as well. In fact, some customers will drive further than their local eateries due to the thoughtfulness of a personalized email following a dining experience and offering discounts.

Everything a restaurant owner can gain in customer background will help bolster an effective marketing strategy.

Image from Really Good Emails


Since restaurants are widely competitive, staying ahead of what the customer wants in their food or drink choices is assured to help the ROI. For instance, in order to warrant loyalty and attention from a customer include these smart strategies:

  • Welcoming the customer at every turn – If an automated email is sent with fancy, high-profile verbiage welcoming the customer, there has to be a concrete offer contained in the email.

  • First impressions with catchy menu items – An email naming a new item offer with an accompanying image catches the eye of the customer, especially if it’s through direct marketing to their phone.

  • Asking the customer about themselves – People enjoy sharing who they are and what they do. It’s become commonplace on social media and it’s a benefit to the restaurant owner to their customers. The email asks simple questions alongside a promotional image.

  • Mouthwatering imagery – Who can resist a dripping bowl of freshly made pasta? Temptations to the customer provide a reason to visit the restaurant. Include a discount for a customer’s next meal next to the mouthwatering image and you’re almost guaranteed frequent visits. Brain retention through imagery rates 60,000 times higher than texts.

Restaurant email trends to shake up the industry.

Owning a restaurant doesn’t have to be laden with headaches or stress. A surefire solution to customer retention and increasing your bottom line is making the effort.

Restaurant emails are effective, they’re cost-efficient, and they work. The trends that are taking the restaurant industry by storm and every restaurant owner might want to try include:

1. Discounts and promotions

Offer a distinct discount for each customer purchase at your restaurant. The email states that “with every second drink you order, you’ll receive a complimentary dessert.” If there’s a prize for increased money spent, your bottom line as an owner goes up.

In the image below, Swiss Chalet celebrates the holidays by announcing the return of their famous Festive Special meal set. It’s worth sharing to their customers that the comeback meal comes with chocolate truffles and their festive scratch & win card—two things to attract customers more in dining in the restaurant.

Swiss Chalet celebrates the holidays by announcing the return of their famous Festive Special meal set.

Image from Really Good Emails


2. Eye appeal coupons

If a customer is receiving a restaurant email message directly to their smartphone, chances are the image is the retention factor. People need to see colorful images of food or drinks to tantalize their senses.

Once they catch a glimpse of the photo, the accompanying email message is equally as tantalizing. For instance: “If you want your senses to be heightened, try our jumbo stack of buttery and fluffy pancakes with a steaming cup of coffee for $5. Bring in this coupon to have breakfast on us!”

3. Music and live shows

A dining experience with music is a preference for many. If your restaurant requires white table cloths and suit and tie, a classy instrumental musical background heightens the mood.

Depending on the atmosphere and food served, a live show can help attract customers. Barbecue style, Mexican food, outdoor seating, these are the types of restaurants where music enhances the experience and encourages customers flock in.

An automated email to the customer could read: “Along with your lively meal is a lively band straight from the heart of Austin. Bring in this email to receive your first drink and single appetizer at 10% off.” The customer then knows that their experience will be fun and exciting—and also discounted.

4. First timers receive their first drink free

Some customers are reluctant to try something new. A restaurant owner who’s done their research of the local environment knows that luring in a customer can be tricky. Finding the sweet spot through email marketing is the key to customer retention.

For a first timer who receives a restaurant email, the personal touch works best. How would you feel if you’re on the fence about a new place to eat and then you receive a genuine message via direct marketing to your phone?

If the wording is appropriate and timely, the customer feels welcome. An example would be: “Welcome to the neighborhood! As a gift to you, please enjoy your first drink for free on us. Sip, gulp, whatever you desire, we’re here to quench your thirst.”

5. Appetizer discounts at happy hour

Depending on the restaurant theme, promotional discounts for appetizers makes good sense. Restaurant owners may not want to offer full meal coupons or complimentary drinks if their investment is just getting off the ground.

Appetizer discounts sent via automated emails give the customer an opportunity to try the food and see if it’s worth the value. A typical net sales return reflects more customers purchase appetizers at happy hour than a regular meal time. An example: “All small plate appetizers for $5 until 7 p.m. How hungry are you?”

6. Who wore it best?

Have a best-dressed competition. Customers love to play games, as long as the environment is casual and the prize is promotional. Sending a themed email that might say: “Who wore it best? Put on your craziest outfit during our springtime opening celebration and have your second drink on us!”

A restaurant owner can also capitalize on seasonal email trends. There’s St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, school’s out for summer, and a host of other holidays where a themed promotional email offering results in customer feedback and customer happiness.

7. Write the menu for the day

If customers have an opportunity to write any type of menu that relates to the restaurant style, what would it be? Restaurant owners and management who place the control in the hands of customers might be pleasantly surprised.

Not only would the restaurant have immediate feedback, but an idea or two could spring from the suggestions. An example automated email could be: “Are you ready to put your best ideas forward? Come and join us for an afternoon of menu writing. With every menu item we select and use, you’ll receive a complimentary dinner and bottle of wine for your efforts. Get your imagination in here today!”

8. Weddings and birthdays

Celebrations for momentous occasions go a long way toward endearing customers. If your restaurant offers to provide the venue and discounted meal and simple beverage items, it allows the customer to be enticed and want to schedule their event with your restaurant.

An ideal celebratory email marketing tactic: “Do you have a special someone you want to celebrate and have lasting memories? Our back room is designed for custom-made events such as weddings or birthdays. We’ll even bring our own wait staff, discounted menu items, and 15% off all cocktails from the bar if you book with us. We’re here to help you celebrate!”

Here’s a simple birthday greeting email from Pizza Hut. You might not be craving for pizza on your special day, but since you’re given the chance to have free cinnamon sticks—why not buy one, right?

Here’s a simple birthday greeting email from Pizza Hut. You might not be craving for pizza on your special day, but since you’re given the chance to have free cinnamon sticks—why not buy one, right?

Image from Really Good Emails

Wrap up

A restaurant owner has numerous opportunities to reach their audience. Restaurant email trends with personal touches and automation allow their message to spread and their ROI to increase.

To sum up:

  • Send emails with genuine, heartfelt messages that appeal.

  • Celebrations with promotions endear the customer.

  • Allow the customer to write their menu choices.

  • Gather feedback through welcoming emails and discounted items for first-timers.

  • Have a themed competition at your restaurant and the winner receives a complimentary dinner.

  • First drinks for free, happy hour and complimentary appetizers all invite customer retention.

Once you’ve opened your doors, send those emails to every house within a 10 to 15-mile radius. Success is merely a phone call and restaurant reservation away.

If you’re a restaurant owner and you’re experiencing slumping sales, try one of our numerous resources to get your bottom line back to success. Check out this inspirational podcast.

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