7 Easy Steps to Kickstart Your Restaurant's Email Marketing

May 27, 2024 10:58:15 AM

As a restaurateur, you're always looking for ways to fill those tables and get mouths watering, right?

Maybe email marketing has popped up on your radar. 

After all, it's accessible for any budget and is a tried-and-true method to connect with your restaurant guests. 

But the thought of starting from scratch can feel overwhelming. 

What should you even say in those emails? How do you get people to actually sign up for your list? 

That's why we've created this guide! 

We'll break down seven easy-to-follow steps to get your restaurant's email marketing off the ground.

We'll cover everything from setting goals and building your list to crafting engaging emails and measuring their impact.

So, let's dive in.

1. Determine the Goals of Your Email Marketing Campaign

Before you even think about hitting "send" on a single email, you want to figure out what you actually want to achieve. 

Every restaurant is different, so your email marketing goals should reflect your unique needs and priorities. 

Without this, you’ll lack much-needed focus and direction in your marketing efforts. 

Whichever goal you decide to set, the popular SMART framework comes in handy, guiding you to write objectives that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

With these guidelines, you can create ambitious but attainable goals, setting your email marketing on a clear path to success.

But, what kind of goals are we talking about? 

Well, some options are illustrated below.

email marketing campaign goals

Source: Tablein

Say your restaurant is struggling with low occupancy on certain weekdays. 

You could set a specific goal to increase reservations by 15% on Tuesdays and Wednesdays within the next three months. 

Or, maybe you’re interested in what your guests have to say about your restaurant.

This is a worthy email marketing goal in itself, and there are many free email feedback templates, like the one shown below, to help you out.

email feedback template example

Source: Unlayer

As potential diners often rely on online reviews to find places to eat, collecting and showcasing positive feedback can make a real impact. 

Plus, understanding what your guests enjoy can help you refine your offerings.

By defining your goals upfront, you create a roadmap that ensures your email marketing efforts are driving real, measurable results.

2. Choose an Email Marketing Platform

Now that you've outlined your goals, it's time to pick the right tool for the job. 

After all, sending marketing emails manually just isn't feasible once your mailing list grows beyond a handful of guests. 

Email marketing platforms simplify the whole process, letting you do things like the following:

  • Create and send emails to hundreds of subscribers at once
  • Track email performance metrics
  • Build custom signup forms for your website or social media
  • Use automation for things like sending welcome emails on sign-up

Let’s check out Mailchimp, one of the most popular email marketing solutions out there.

mailchimp email builder screenshot

Source: Mailchimp

With Mailchimp, you get a robust platform with all of the benefits we listed above. 

Plus, you can use their user-friendly design tools to craft eye-catching emails even if you have no technical know-how. 

Some other popular platforms to consider include:

  • Constant Contact
  • MailerLite
  • ActiveCampaign
  • ConvertKit
  • Moosend

To really make the most out of your chosen platform, though, look for ones that integrate with restaurant reservation systems

Tablein, for example, integrates with both MailerLite and Mailchimp, and also has a GDPR-compliant newsletter subscription module built right in, so you can collect those email addresses worry-free.

tablein email marketing features

Source: Tablein

The integration with these two email marketing platforms makes it easy to automatically add guests who opt-in to your email list directly to the platforms.

Plus, you can separate subscribers into specific lists, allowing you to tailor your messages accordingly. 

In a nutshell, an email marketing platform is your control center for reaching guests, building relationships, and tracking your results, so make sure to choose the best one for your restaurant.

3. Build Your Email List

Okay, you've got your goals in mind and the perfect platform at your fingertips. 

Now, it's time to build your email list.

Before we go any further, we urge you to never buy email lists. 

It's tempting to take a shortcut, but there are plenty of great ways to grow your list organically.

For example, you can use the online channels you are already on like your website and social media pages. 

The first step is simple—make it easy to sign up. 

A prominent button saying "Subscribe," or "Join Our Mailing List," should be on every page of your website, tucked into your social media bios, and even included in promotional posts.

manhatta restaurant email signup screenshot

Source: Manhatta Restaurant

If guests enjoy your restaurant, they're going to be happy to hear from you! 

Especially if you make it clear what kinds of emails they can expect from you. 

If you plan on sending exclusive email-only discounts, early access to events, or simply appealing content, you want to highlight these benefits of subscribing on your signup page and even in the welcome emails you send.

And to sweeten the deal even more, give guests a treat for simply signing up. 

Take a look at how Stan's Donuts did just this with a simple, but effective offer.

stan's donuts discount email

Source: Stan’s Donuts

That $5 discount is a small price to pay for a new subscriber who, if nurtured properly, could become a loyal customer for years to come.

The bottom line is: during this step, you want to make your sign-up options easy to find and tempting enough to get a large email list. 

4. Segment Your Email List

Let's now talk about the importance of segmentation.

Okay, let’s say you've successfully built a large email list that might look something like the following image.

restaurant mailing list example in a spreadsheet

Source: Tablein

Tempting as it might be to just hit "send" and blast the same message to every email on that list, resist the urge. 

You'll see far better results by segmenting your audience and tailoring your campaigns. 

Why? Because people respond to messages that feel relevant to them. 

By sending targeted emails, you'll increase open rates, clicks, and ultimately, conversions.

As a restaurant, you have several options for segmentation.

email list segmentation options

Source: Tablein

The most basic approach is demographics

This is as straightforward as not promoting your new restaurant location to someone in a different part of the world and tailoring offers to different age groups or income levels to maximize appeal. 

Next, consider segmenting by guest behavior

Are there guests new to your restaurant? Frequent visitors? Do you have a group of guests that only book for special occasions or events? 

By understanding these patterns, you can send promotions that are genuinely appealing.

Closely related is segmenting by guest preferences

For example, a dedicated email about your gluten-free menu would be a hit with those diners who have pointed out having these specific dietary needs in the past.

You might notice that, while demographics are easy to get, collecting data on guest behavior and preferences can be tricky. 

But that's where Tablein comes to the rescue again.

tablein screenshot

Source: Tablein

With our software, guest data that is collected through everyday interactions is stored in a comprehensive database.

This database is easily searchable and sortable, meaning you can create highly targeted email segments in no time. 

For example, you could send an exclusive "We miss you" offer to guests who haven't visited in a while, or a special thank-you message to those who consistently leave glowing reviews.

In short, segmentation helps turn generic emails into personalized experiences that drive results.

5. Develop a Content Strategy

Okay, you've got the foundation in place. 

Now, let's get to the fun part and think about what kind of emails you are going to send.

There's no shortage of content ideas when it comes to restaurant email marketing. 

Check out this handy list below.

email marketing content types

Source: Tablein

Remember, you don't have to pick just one type. 

A well-rounded strategy might include a monthly newsletter, weekly promotional emails to entice diners during slower times, and the occasional special announcement reserved for new menu launches or exciting events.

To keep everything organized and ensure you're sending the right message at the right time, consider creating a content calendar. 

Here's an example from SocialPilot.

example of a content calendar

Source: Social Pilot

Notice how holidays and events are highlighted on this calendar? 

Those are opportunities you definitely don't want to miss. 

For example, let's say the 3rd of June, or World Cider Day, is approaching. 

You could use this opportunity to send out an email with an offer like the one below.

email offer screenshot

Source: Harry’s Bar on Facebook

Get as creative as you want with your content calendar. 

Tie promotions to local events, sports games, or even pop culture references. 

The goal is to make your emails engaging and relevant to your audience.

Overall, you can think of your content strategy as crafting a menu—diverse, exciting, and always leaving your guests wanting more.

6. Start Sending Engaging Emails

This step is where the magic happens, or where it all falls apart. 

It's time to bring those email plans to life and send them out.

Even with the most carefully planned content calendar and targeted segments, a poorly designed email won't get you far. 

Luckily, the vast majority of guests actually want to hear from the businesses they support, and email is often their preferred way of staying in the loop.

statistic showing that 86% of consumers want to hear from businesses they visit

Illustration: Tablein / Data: Square

So, the good news is that your audience is ready and willing to hear about your latest offerings. 

Don't disappoint them with boring, spammy, or visually unappealing emails.

A winning restaurant email combines several key elements:

  • Engaging Subject Line
  • Personalized Content
  • Appealing Visuals
  • Enticing Food Photos
  • Well-Placed Calls to Action

Let's start with that subject line. Keep it short, snappy, and intriguing. 

Sometimes, simplicity is key, as shown in these examples.

email inbox subject lines screenshot

Source: Tablein

See how they're straight to the point? 

No fancy gimmicks, just clear messaging that gets the point across. 

If possible, try to personalize the subject line with your guest's name—a small touch that can make a big difference.

If your subject line is successful, the guest clicks, and now you want to wow them with the email's content. 

Check out this gem from The Charter Oak restaurant.

the charter oak email screenshot

Source: The Charter Oak

See how those atmospheric images capture the restaurant’s ambiance? 

The fresh-looking food photo makes your stomach growl, and the different sections for holiday reservations and showcasing the cocktail menu cater to different interests. 

Importantly, each section has a clean call-to-action button, guiding the guest towards booking or exploring the offerings.

This is a perfect example of how to blend enticing visuals with clear calls to action. 

The email feels warm and inviting, encouraging guests to take that next step.

Remember, your emails are a direct reflection of your restaurant's personality and style. 

So craft them with care, and your guests will be eagerly awaiting your next update.

7. Keep Track of Your Results

Finally, let's talk data. 

Your email marketing efforts don't end once those emails are sent out into the world.

Just blindly firing off campaigns and hoping for the best isn't a recipe for success. 

To truly understand what's working (and what's not), you need to track those all-important performance metrics.

Think of it like a report card for your emails. 

By analyzing various metrics, you can pinpoint which tactics resonate with your guests and fine-tune your strategy for maximum impact.

Here are a few essential metrics to keep an eye on.

email marketing kpis

Source: Tablein

Start with open rates and click-through rates.

They tell you what percentage of recipients actually opened your email and how many of those openers clicked on a link within the email. 

A low open rate might mean your subject lines are not hitting the mark, while low click-through rates can point to unappealing content or underutilized calls to action.

But it doesn't stop there. 

You'll also want to keep tabs on your list growth rate and unsubscribe rate. 

This helps you gauge overall engagement and whether guests are enjoying your content and waiting for more.

Luckily, your email marketing platform should track all of this for you. 

Your job is to take this data and make use of it. 

For instance, it’s useful to compare your numbers to industry averages to see how you stack up. 

Check out this data on the average restaurant email open and click-through rates.

statistic showing that restaurants have an average email open rate of 40.03% and an average click rate of 1.57%

Illustration: Tablein / Data: Mailchimp

If you find your metrics fail to meet the averages, it's time to experiment! 

Test out different subject lines, make them more catchy and appealing, play around with your email design, or try new types of calls to action. 

Refine your strategy based on what the data tells you, and don't be afraid to switch things up.

By consistently tracking your results, you'll transform your email marketing into a data-driven powerhouse that delivers great results for your restaurant.


And there you have it—seven actionable steps to kickstart your restaurant email marketing efforts! 

We've covered everything from setting achievable goals and growing your email list to segmenting your audience, sending out compelling campaigns, and tracking those all-important results.

Hopefully, you now have a comprehensive understanding of how to launch an email marketing strategy that not only reaches your guests but also drives engagement and boosts your bottom line. 

Armed with knowledge, it's time to take action! 

Start following these steps today, and watch as your restaurant's email campaigns become a valuable tool for connecting with diners and filling up those tables.