The Dos and Don'ts of Email Marketing for Restaurants

May 28, 2024 11:59:36 AM

Interested in spreading the word about your restaurant, exposing it to wider audiences, boosting your reservations, and building a community around your brand through email marketing? 


Keep in mind, however, that email marketing isn’t as easy as it may seem at first. And if you’re going to do it, make sure you do it right. 

That's where this article comes in.

Within, we outline all the dos and don'ts of email marketing for restaurants, explain their potential impact on your campaigns, and provide valuable tips that will help you make the most out of your emails.

Let’s get started.

The Dos

First, let’s talk about some of the best practices for successful email campaigns. 

They’ll ensure you nail your marketing efforts from the get-go. 

Invest In Email Marketing Tools

If you want to make your email campaigns truly shine, you’re going to need some help. 

Although it might seem fairly simple, email marketing involves a lot of work: from collecting customer information and managing addresses to personalizing messages and tracking campaign effectiveness. 

Doing all this manually simply won’t get you very far. 

It’s just too time-consuming and labor-intensive. 

That's where dedicated email marketing software comes in handy. 

These solutions automate all the tasks mentioned above, making email marketing that much easier, quicker, and hassle-free. 

Nina Zhang, Associate Marketing Manager at MailChimp, explains why automation is so valuable for email marketers:

“Automation helps you collect customer data and analyze customer data from various touchpoints throughout the customer journey. It helps you understand trends, patterns and segments of customers’ behavior. And being able to collect that data can help you understand how you can better target those customers in the future.”

That’s right:

It isn’t all just about making things faster, but about improving the quality of your campaigns through accurate, relevant data and personalization. 

But here's the best part: you don't necessarily have to invest in such a system to enjoy these benefits and run effective email campaigns. 

If you're already using any kind of software solution for your restaurant operations, chances are it can handle some email marketing tasks. 

Take Tablein, for example. 

It’s an online table reservation system that integrates with your website and various channels like Google, Facebook, or Instagram. 

The result? 

Guests can make reservations through any of these channels, and you can collect their data in a centralized database.

tablein screenshot

Source: Tablein

This data—dietary preferences, booking history, special occasions, and more—can then be used to segment your email list and personalize promotional emails, targeting customers with relevant offers. 

Plus, Tablein also integrates with email marketing platforms like MailerLite and MailChimp, further boosting your marketing efforts by allowing you to maintain consistency across all marketing channels. 

So, who says email marketing has to be a grind? 

Armed with the right tools, you can create stunning campaigns that actually yield results with confidence and ease. 

Optimize for Mobile

Your emails should look good on any device, not just computers. 

From checking the weather to monitoring bank accounts, our phones are our go-to for everything—including emails. 

Therefore, if you’re not optimizing for mobile, you’re missing out on a significant chunk of potential leads who may find it frustrating to engage with your content on their smartphones or tablets.  

Plus, being able to craft mobile-friendly emails is a good look for your brand, too. 

It shows that you’re aligned with current trends and care about your audience’s experience, which, in turn, boosts their perception of your restaurant as a whole. 

Dev Raj Saini, founder of the Digital Brand Agency, agrees.

quote about the importance of making emails mobile friendly

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: LinkedIn

But enough about “why”.

Let's talk about how you can make your emails mobile-friendly and captivating. 

Here are a few key tips:

  • Use shorter subject lines so they don’t get cut off
  • Stick to the point and keep it short to maintain the reader's attention
  • Avoid using multiple columns to ensure good readability
  • Don't overuse GIFs and images to avoid increasing the email loading time
  • Use larger fonts to make the text easier to read
  • Include and emphasize a CTA button to effectively convey your message and prompt the reader to take action

Following these simple yet crucial steps will make a world of difference. 

Your emails will be more accessible, easier to engage with, and generally provide a much better reading experience on any device. 

Keep Your Tone Conversational

To ensure your email campaigns hit the mark and get those coveted opens, inject some human touch into the tone of your messages. 

This will make your emails more friendly, engaging, and relatable, which is vital for fostering that personal connection with the audience. 

Jeff Kupietzky, CEO of Jeeng, a company specializing in automated messaging and marketing solutions, explains that today’s email marketing should be more centered around custom-made experiences:

“Now the expectation of the consumers is way ahead of where we are with email because you use Google, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok—all those things have personalized pages or feeds. [...] But yet, I could open up anybody’s email and it would essentially look the same as anyone else’s. So we’re missing out already, and if anything, we’re behind where the expectations are from consumers.”  

Customers expect it, and it's the key to standing out.

That’s right, personalization is the magic ingredient of successful email marketing, and the first step to achieving it is all about making your emails sound more human. 

If they read like a dry textbook, they won’t exactly exude warmth and charm but rather signal to the reader that it's just another mass email. 

That’s certainly no way to make them feel special and valued.

So, here’s what you should do to imbue your emails with a conversational tone that makes the reader feel like you're addressing them and them alone:

  • Avoid complex sentences and vocabulary
  • Use the reader's name
  • Write as you talk
  • Throw in casual phrases and slang
  • Ask questions to encourage interaction
  • Infuse your brand’s voice

Take a cue from ASK Italian, an Italian dining restaurant. 

Their email not only features an enticing discount but also exudes an enthusiastic, warm tone unique to their brand, all laced with a dash of humor.

restaurant marketing email example

Source: LinkedIn

This approach makes it feel like the email was written by a close friend, exclusively for the recipient.

The bottom line? 

Don’t view your emails as homework. And don't make them sound like homework, either. 

Instead, see them as perfect opportunities to showcase your brand's personality, connect with the readers, and maybe even win over some new loyal customers.

Make Subscribing to Your Emails Worth It

Now, email marketing should be, to a certain extent, a two-way street. 

It's not just about how many people subscribe to your emails, but about how much value they gain from them, too. 

The CEO of Fishbowl, a provider of marketing and analytics solutions, believes so as well. 

After all, these subscribers are entrusting you with their data and precious time, so it’s important to make it worth it.

quote explaining that people happily share their data if it benefits them

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: Enterpreneur

It’ll make them feel valued, more likely to interact with the restaurant's content, and, ultimately, incentivize them to visit the restaurant more frequently.

Not to mention that offering incentives not only rewards current subscribers but also attracts new ones. 

Let’s face it: immediate, tangible perks outweigh any perceived inconveniences of subscribing or the reluctance to share an email address.

In fact, as Jason Tebeau, President & CEO at Da Vinci Medical points out, these immediate benefits are what people have to come to expect nowadays.

quote explaining that people expect instant value from emails

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: Mailmodo

Without something in it for them right away, they simply won't be interested. 

Now, discounts aren't your only option when it comes to incentives for subscribers, let’s get that out of the way immediately. 

There's a myriad of perks you can offer, from exclusive, time-limited access to menus and insider information to behind-the-scenes stories or VIP access to contests and giveaways. 

The options are truly limitless. 

Just be sure to wrap it all up with engaging copy and captivating visuals, as shown in the example below, and you’ll be all set.

restaurant email subscribe form example

Illustration: Tablein / Photo: ©olenayeromenkophotos via Canva

At the end of the day, we’re all being bombarded with tons of information and messages on a daily basis. 

Your leads are no different. 

Therefore, if you want to capture even a fraction of their attention and interest, it's paramount to make it worth their while.

The Don’ts

Now, onto some common mistakes in email marketing, and how to bypass them. 

Don’t Use Misleading Subject Lines

Your subject lines should be a true reflection of what’s inside your emails. 

That way you build trust, avoid disappointment, and prevent your emails from ending up in that dreaded spam folder without even being glanced over. 

Being deceptive with your subject lines is a lose-lose scenario, really. 

Not only do they damage your credibility and brand reputation but they also fail to engage leads, which is their primary purpose. 

And guess what else? 

Misleading subject lines are illegal. 

The CAN-SPAM Act strictly prohibits any form of deceptive content in emails, including subject lines:

“It is unlawful for any person to initiate the transmission to a protected computer of a commercial electronic mail message if such person has actual knowledge, or knowledge fairly implied on the basis of objective circumstances, that a subject heading of the message would be likely to mislead a recipient, acting reasonably under the circumstances, about a material fact regarding the contents or subject matter of the message.”

When it comes to email marketing, honesty is indeed the best policy, no matter how you look at it. 

Now, let's delve into what exactly misleading subject lines look like so you can steer clear of them:

  • Using “RE:” when it’s the first email you’ve sent to a lead
  • Stating something is urgent when it's not
  • Making it sound like you know the recipient when you don't
  • Using clickbaity subject lines or those unrelated to the email content

While it's tempting to resort to these flashy tactics every once in a while, authenticity still remains your strongest ally. 

Remember, you can infuse your subject lines with as much enthusiasm, creativity, or humor as you’d like, but never compromise on honesty and transparency.

Don’t Make Your Emails Too Long

If you want your emails to capture and maintain the reader's attention, brevity is your best bet. 

Henneke Duistermaat, founder of Enchanting Marketing, aptly explains why that is.

quote explaining the importance of sending short restaurant marketing emails

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: AWeber

And she’s absolutely right. 

In today's world of overflowing inboxes and short attention spans, who has time for epic-length emails? 

The only thing you achieve by making your emails too long is losing the reader's interest and diluting the main message. 

Shorter emails, on the other hand, stand a far better chance of being read and absorbed. 

For example, Sarah Noel Block, Marketing Consultant for Tiny Marketing, was able to see for herself how much more effective shorter emails are:

“I recently switched from longer emails to shorter ones as a test. My open rate went from around 25-35% on average to 50%+ and my click-through rate went from around 5% to about 15%. I think the bigger reason is that my emails are focused on one subject instead of three, so people know exactly what to click on when they open my email.”

They are clearer, more concise, and consequently, more enjoyable and digestible. 

Plus, they demonstrate to the reader that you value their time. 

Now, let's talk numbers. How long exactly should your emails ideally be? 

AWeber analyzed 100 emails from 1,000 top marketers to find the answer to this very question. 

The verdict? 

Many of them keep it under 300 words, roughly equating to a 2.3-minute read time.

statistics about the average email length among top email marketers by word count

Illustration: Tablein / Data: AWeber

Naturally, there's some flexibility allowed, depending on the nature of the message.

For example, promotional emails may lean shorter, while newsletters can be a bit longer. 

The key lies in striking the right balance and delivering your message clearly, succinctly, and in an engaging way. 

Don’t Ignore Data Privacy Laws

Now, this is a big one. 

As someone engaged in email marketing, it's your responsibility to safeguard your leads' data and adhere to relevant data protection regulations. 

According to Harry Maugans, CEO of Privacy Bee, many overlook the connection between sending emails and breaching data privacy.

quote about the importance of following privacy laws when sending restaurant marketing emails

Illustration: Tablein / Quote:

This is a critical error, potentially leading to legal actions and hefty fines. 

For instance, severe violations of GDPR regulations can result in fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of the global turnover, whichever is higher. 

Depending on your location, you’ve probably heard of some of the following: the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL, GDPR, or CCPA. 

These are all laws designed to uphold data privacy.

As such, they have significant implications for businesses and marketers. 

Let's break each of them down. 

The law What it requires from email marketers
Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act
  • Include an opt-out link
  • Include their mailing address in every email
  • Never use misleading content
  • Never attempt to conceal their identity or the fact that they’re sending advertising
Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
  • Get consent
  • Provide identification information
  • Provide an opt-out mechanism
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Provide the option to unsubscribe
  • Get consent from a positive opt-in (not pre-ticked boxes)
  • Keep consent requests separate from other terms & conditions
  • Keep evidence of who consented, when, and how
California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • Inform the recipient about how their personal information is collected, used, and shared
  • Allow them to delete personal information collected from them 
  • Provide the option to opt out of the sale of their personal information


Ultimately, no matter which of these laws applies to you, it all boils down to two things: transparency and consent. 

Email recipients must be aware that their data is being collected and give you explicit permission to do so. 

That’s why incorporating a consent checkbox and providing a clear unsubscribe option have become common practices today. 

Moreover, given the dynamic nature of these regulations, staying informed about them is crucial, too. 

What's relevant today might not be tomorrow, making ongoing education a cornerstone of responsible email marketing practices.

Don’t Neglect Analytics

If your aim is to make the most out of your email campaigns, you shouldn’t just send out your emails and forget about them. 

Continually monitoring and analyzing your email performance is just as important as creating attention-grabbing messages. 

It helps you assess the impact of your marketing efforts, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately, take your email marketing strategy to the next level. 

So, do pay attention to metrics such as:

  • Bounce rate
  • Delivery rate
  • Spam rate
  • Open rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Reply rate

They all serve the same fundamental purpose: revealing how leads engage with your emails and guiding you toward the optimization of your marketing efforts. 

Seth Giammanco, Principal of Strategy and Technology at Minds On Design Lab, provides a compelling analogy to illustrate the importance of these metrics.

quote about the importance of metrics and analytics for the success of restaurant email marketing

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: AgencyAnalytics

We’re talking about a powerful tool for measuring ROI and gaining in-depth insights here, no doubt about that. 

Armed with this information, you can pinpoint what's working and what needs tweaking. 

Sometimes, even subtle changes, like adjusting the color of a call-to-action button, can make all the difference. 

But without diligent A/B testing and analytics, these opportunities will definitely slip under the radar.


Feeling empowered to create successful email campaigns, connect with broader audiences, and elevate your overall email marketing to new heights? 

We certainly hope so. 

Sure, email marketing may require some effort, especially at the beginning until you establish a smooth system, but it's ultimately worth it. 

Plus, with the right software, you won’t have to worry about tedious tasks like compiling and analyzing customer data, managing addresses, or determining the best times to send emails. 

You can focus on ensuring your emails are enjoyable to read, engaging, and comply with relevant regulations. 

Your recipients will definitely appreciate all the hard work you put in.