How to Grow Your Restaurant Email Marketing List

Jul 3, 2024 3:51:29 PM

Email marketing lists allow you to connect with your audience in ways other marketing channels simply can’t. 

They offer a direct line to your subscribers, keeping them updated on your restaurant’s latest news, boosting customer engagement in the process, and, ultimately, driving more traffic to your business. 

But for that, you need a strong subscriber base first. 

How do you build one? Well, you’re about to find out.

In this article, we reveal 6 incredibly effective tactics to take growing your email marketing list to the next level. 

Without further ado, let's get started.

Promote the Email List On Your Website

Do you know that every visit to your website is a golden opportunity to capture new subscribers and grow your email list? 

Think about it. 

Those who go to your website are obviously looking for specific information about your restaurant, whether it’s the menu or a certain upcoming event

In other words, they are already interested in what you have to offer, which makes them prime candidates for your email list. 

So, to make the most out of your website traffic, place the email sign-up form somewhere highly visible. 

This could be, for instance, at the bottom of your homepage.

That’s how Morimoto Asia, an Asian restaurant in Disney Springs, Florida, does it.

morimoto asia email list signup form screenshot

Source: Morimoto Asia

After visitors scroll through all the amazing-looking photos of your dishes and read about your fantastic chef, they’re greeted with a sign-up form that promises compelling rewards. 

At that point, it’s really hard to resist typing in your information and clicking on that “Submit” button, isn’t it?

Or, why not have a sign-up form pop up moments after opening the website, just like Lucarelli, an Italian restaurant in the UK?

lucarelli newsletter sign up form pop up

Source: Lucarelli Restaurant

Standing out against the website's background, right in the center of the screen, makes the pop-up window really hard to ignore. 

Generally speaking, pop-ups are quite effective when it comes to grabbing website visitors’ attention, especially if you pair them with an enticing offer. 

Just take the Ohio sports bar, Hail Mary’s Food and Drink, for example. 

Since they started using pop-ups offering discounts in exchange for email subscriptions, their email list has grown significantly—1,100 new guest emails in less than a year. 

Megan Novak, Former Social Media Manager at Hail Mary’s, explains that this allowed them to always stay connected to their customers, and, in turn, take their business to the next level.

quote about how email marketing can help keep a restaurant top of mind

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: Popmenu

See what a valuable asset a website can be when it comes to boosting your email subscriber base?

All you need is a strategically positioned, well-designed sign-up form to catch the website users’ attention! 

Use Your Table Booking System

Your guests can't make an online reservation without providing their contact information, right? 

So, why not maximize the potential of your online booking system and get them to sign up for your emails while they’re at it? 

It’s the most effortless way to grow an email marketing list. 

If you are a user of a table booking system like Tablein, you already know how smooth the whole process can be. 

Each time a guest books a table through Tablein, the system makes sure they’re asked if they want to receive your newsletter. 

See the example below—simple and convenient.

tablein reservation widget

Source: Casa Bunicii

Then, thanks to Tablein’s integration with email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and Mailerlite, their email addresses are automatically added to the list and your new subscribers start receiving the emails immediately. 

Provided they agreed to it, of course. 

But what about the integration process itself, you ask? How complicated is it? 

Not at all. 

For instance, if you want to connect Tablein with Mailchimp, you create a new email list on the platform, enable integration in Tablein, add the Mailchimp API key, and select “Subscribe all clients.”

tablein mailchimp integration process

Source: Tablein

Done in just a few clicks. 

Ultimately, when it comes to attracting new subscribers, simplicity is paramount. 

In most cases, people don’t want to waste their time typing in all their details just to subscribe to an email list. 

But for an online reservation? They’re already committed. 

That’s why your table booking system is the perfect bridge between your guests and your email marketing efforts. 

It can turn a customer into a loyal subscriber with only one click. 

It would be a truly missed opportunity not to take full advantage of that. 

Create Email-Exclusive Offers

Exclusive offers are one of the most powerful tools to entice people to subscribe to your email list. 

Here’s why this strategy works so well. 

First off, special offers ease any hesitations people might have about sharing personal information. 

As Adam Ochstein, CEO of a restaurant CRM platform Fishbowl, notes, people are far more willing to give their details and sign up when they know they’re getting something valuable in return.

quote explaining that restaurant guests are willing to provide their data if they're getting something in return

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: Entrepreneur

After all, access to VIP content or discounts is pretty hard to resist. 

Secondly, this strategy taps into the desire for instant gratification. 

Jason Tebeau, CEO and President of Da Vinci Medical, a tech provider for the health industry, says this is crucial in today’s world of short attention spans where every wish gets immediately fulfilled.

quote explaining that emails should provide instant gratification for subscribers

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: Mailmodo

Getting an immediate reward for performing a simple action? 

It’ll make the idea of subscribing to your emails almost irresistible to some people. 

Thirdly, offering special benefits to your subscribers shows them that you acknowledge the effort and time they put into signing up. 

This makes them feel valued and, in turn, boosts your image as a brand that truly cares about its customers. 

Now, keep in mind that whatever incentive you choose, it needs to be beneficial for both parties involved. 

If discounts don’t align with your current business strategy, that’s completely fine. This tactic can still work for you. 

You just need to think of something that your subscribers will find useful and relevant. 

This could be, for example:

  • Access to special menu items
  • A free appetizer or dessert on their next visit
  • Early access to new dishes
  • Early booking opportunities for special events
  • Access to exclusive recipes
  • Behind-the-scenes stories, chef interviews, or similar VIP content

The possibilities are truly endless, with each one providing a unique opportunity to connect with your subscribers and offer them something really special. 

They’ll surely appreciate the effort, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of a loyal, engaged email list.

Advertise Your Email List In Your Restaurant

Not all of your lead channels have to be online. 

Why not take full advantage of those fliers and posters within the restaurant to encourage the diners to sign up for your emails as they're waiting for their meal or perusing the menu? 

That way, subscribing becomes a natural part of their experience, seamlessly integrated and completely non-intrusive. 

Of course, the process of signing up itself still can’t be too cumbersome or time-consuming. 

That’s why going with QR code sign-ups is your safest bet. 

Once scanned, they lead your guests straight to the subscription form, so there’s really minimal effort involved. 

As a result, your customers will be much more likely to take those few seconds to subscribe. 

Claudia Sherrin, Partner at Innovative Marketing SA, an agency specializing in print and digital marketing, swears by QR codes as well.

quote about the benefits of qr codes in business and marketing

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: LinkedIn

They're not just easy to use, she explains, but versatile, too. 

Whether it's on your menu, receipt, or feedback form, QR codes can fit anywhere, grabbing attention at every point of your customer's dining experience. 

Not to mention they are super easy to make.

Today, there are so many free online QR code generators (check out the example below) you can use to create customized QR codes that align perfectly with your brand’s aesthetic, in seconds.

qr code generator screenshot

Source: QRCode Monkey

It’s a truly convenient, cost-effective, and efficient solution for promoting your email list. 

The key takeaway? 

Don’t view email marketing as something that happens exclusively online.

Instead, consider broadening your approach. 

You’ll be unlocking a whole new source of potential subscribers you never knew existed

Leverage Social Media

If you're active on social media, tap into your already engaged and interested audience to further grow your email list. 

Let’s face it:

It's far easier to turn a follower you have a connection with into a subscriber, rather than starting from scratch with a complete stranger. 

Therefore, don’t shy away from using your Instagram stories or bio, Facebook posts, or TikTok videos to call attention to your newsletter. 

Just remember not to go overboard, warns Dan Oshinsky, Founder of Inbox Collective, an email consultancy, and Former Director of Newsletters at The New Yorker and BuzzFeed.

quote about the importance of not promoting a newsletter too much on social media

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: Mailmodo on Youtube

Constantly pushing for subscriptions on every single post can seem a bit desperate and may backfire. 

Instead, let your social media channels complement your email marketing efforts and show exactly why people should subscribe.

Take a page from The Cheesecake Factory's playbook. 

They use their Instagram bio to promote their Cheesecake Rewards program, through which they build their email subscriber base. 

Essentially, their strategy combines two tactics from this article—incentives and social media promotion—so it can be a great source of inspiration.


Source: Cheesecake Factory on Instagram

This is great for raising awareness about the program. 

But there’s more. 

They also frequently engage with their followers through Instagram stories, where they answer questions regarding the program and share its perks.

This makes it feel less like a sales pitch and more like an exclusive club.

screenshot of a cheesecake factory instagram story promoting their rewards program

Source: Cheesecake Factory on Instagram

You can do the same for your email list. 

For instance, if your newsletters feature recipes, create an Instagram reel demonstrating how to make one of your top dishes, and add a call-to-action like: 

"Want more recipes? Join our newsletter! Link in bio." 

The key is to give the followers a taste of what they’re getting by signing up for your emails. 

Overall, social media is a very powerful promotional tool, and as such, can be a key player when it comes to building your email list. 

So, if you have some social media presence, be sure to take full advantage of that. 

Ask Your Guests to Sign Up Directly

What better time to ask for an email than right after guests have had a great dining experience at your restaurant? 

This is when they’ll be most receptive to additional offers, so consider capitalizing on that moment of satisfaction to grow your email list. 

Encourage servers to casually mention the benefits of signing up, or even better, offer a special deal like a discount on their next visit. 

This strategy works particularly well with those who prefer a bit of a human touch over technology.

And, according to Mary King, a Content Producer at TechnologyAdvice, a company specializing in marketing for technology businesses, there are still plenty of people who do!

quote stating that many customers still prefer human touch over technology when it comes to marketing

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: LinkedIn

It's easy to see why. 

A friendly suggestion from a server feels much more trustworthy and genuine than a generic sign-up form. 

To make the most out of this tactic, try incentivizing your staff. 

They already have a lot to handle, so a little extra motivation can make a big difference.

Offering a gift card, event tickets, or a cash bonus can significantly boost your team’s enthusiasm and participation.

For a fun twist, try out a server bingo game inspired by a great idea from this Redditor.

screenshot of a reddit comment thread explaining how the game of server bingo works

Source: Reddit

You can tailor the game to focus more on growing your mailing list by creating tasks like getting five tables to sign up or signing up three customers by the end of a shift. 

This gamifies the whole process, making it more enjoyable and less of a chore for your staff. 

Plus, a bit of friendly competition can really spice things up and drive results. 

So, don’t forget to make the most of those post-meal moments. 

Your guests get great offers, your servers get some extra perks, and your email list grows—everyone wins.


Hopefully, now you feel more inspired and empowered to tackle your email marketing like a true pro. 

As you can see, opportunities to reach new subscribers are everywhere. 

But remember, it’s up to you to create valuable and relevant content that will make your emails worth subscribing to. 

To do that, tap into your creativity and try to figure out what your audience can really benefit from in their daily lives. 

Once you’ve found the answer to that, the rest will feel like a walk in the park.