Top 5 Email Marketing Trends for Restaurants

Jun 27, 2024 4:07:38 PM

Let's face it: emails are and will continue to be a great marketing asset for restaurants. 

But keeping up with the latest trends while you're juggling a million other things as a restaurateur is no easy feat.  

If you're feeling lost in the ever-changing world of digital marketing, you're not alone. 

This article is for all you restaurant owners out there who are scratching your heads, wondering how to make your emails stand out in crowded inboxes.

We've rounded up five hot trends that are shaping the future of restaurant emails. 

Think automation, personalization, and a whole lot more.

Ready to take your emails to the next level? Well, keep on reading!

Embracing Email Marketing Automation

Thanks to the magic of automation, email marketing isn't the manual, time-consuming task it used to be. 

The restaurant industry is increasingly turning to email marketing tools that can automatically send out emails, saving time and ensuring consistent communication with customers.

These automation features aren't just for one type of email—they're versatile enough to handle both booking-related emails and your regular newsletter campaigns.

an illustration showing how email marketing can bring restaurant reservations

Source: Tablein

When it comes to bookings, restaurants can automate the entire process. 

This includes sending booking confirmations, automatic reminders before the reservation date, and even feedback request emails after the dining experience. 

These post-dining surveys are especially important for gaining insights that can shape marketing strategies.

Newsletters are another area where automation shines. 

You can set up rules or schedules for sending emails, allowing you to "set it and forget it." 

Whether you're making a weekly special announcement or a monthly event update, automation ensures your content reaches your audience consistently and on time.

To get a sense of what types of emails are most often automated, let’s take a look at the data from the 2023 State of Email Workflows Report by Litmus.

emails most often automated

Illustration: Tablein / Data: Litmus

Topping the list of most automated emails are those related to birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones. 

It's no surprise, really, as these events happen on fixed schedules and are relatively easy to set up in an automation system.

Following closely are subscriber re-engagement emails, designed to keep guests coming back for more. 

And we have feedback requests third on the list, reinforcing their importance in gathering crucial data to improve your business.

To achieve these automation goals, there are many powerful email marketing platforms available.

The three platforms shown below are ranked by the percentage of people across various industries that use them in their operations.

most used email marketing platforms

Illustration: Tablein / Data: Litmus

However, as a restaurant owner, you might want to consider platforms that integrate specifically with restaurant systems. 

For example, both Mailchimp and MailerLite offer integrations with our restaurant reservation system Tablein

This integration allows you to directly feed the guest data (like emails, guest preferences, reservation data, and more) collected through our system into these email platforms, and use it when planning out your email campaigns and segmenting your audience.

In the end, leveraging these automation options helps create more consistent and efficient email marketing campaigns.

Giving Subscribers the Inside Scoop

When it comes to content in email marketing, the key concept is personal connection.

Sure, sending out the usual discount offers, event invitations, and other promotional emails is important. 

But we're seeing a growing trend towards a more transparent and people-oriented approach to restaurant email marketing.

This shift is beautifully explained by Brad Stewart, Director of Food and Beverage at Noelle.

quote about the importance of providing restaurant guests with a good experience and building a connection

Illustration: Tablein / Quote: Bar and Restaurant

We couldn't have said it better ourselves! 

While great food is the foundation, having diners form a personal connection with your restaurant and your team makes them much more likely to become regular patrons. 

Email marketing offers a fantastic opportunity to foster this connection by giving subscribers an inside look into your operations.

Here are some ideas to consider for your email content:

  • Sharing recipes
  • Introducing regular and guest chefs
  • Showcasing your other staff
  • Sharing behind-the-scenes content
  • Showing where you get your produce

Let's take a look at some examples of how restaurants are putting these ideas into practice. 

First up, here's a part of an email from The Charter Oak.

the charter oak email screenshot

Source: The Charter Oak

As part of their newsletter, The Charter Oak included a section introducing their new director of events, even encouraging guests to meet her in person on their next visit. 

You might wonder why they'd go to all this trouble. 

Well, by showcasing this experienced professional in charge of events, they're subtly motivating guests to book a table for one of the restaurant's events. 

It creates curiosity and builds trust, making guests more likely to check out what all the fuss is about.

Or how about this simple recipe-sharing email from Sweetgreen?

screenshot of a sweetgreen email sharing their beet hummus recipe

Source: JoanaHsu

Sharing recipes like this can delight your guests, giving them a chance to try their hand at recreating a favorite dish at home. 

And here's the clever part—if they want to see how the pros do it, they'll be tempted to visit the restaurant and compare their attempt to the real deal.

It's a win-win: sending emails with some inside scoops into your business provides value to your subscribers while also forming that personal connection that will motivate them to visit.

Optimizing Emails for Mobile Devices

Next up, let's talk about optimizing emails for mobile devices.

It's no secret that we use our smartphones for just about everything these days, and checking emails is no exception. 

While it's true that we often skim through newsletters while we respond to emails at work on our laptops, when that phone notification pops up, most of us instinctively reach for our phones to check it out.

In fact, Mailmodo's 2024 State of Email Report reveals that we're not just mindlessly opening emails on our mobile devices—we're more likely to engage with them. 

Take a look at these interesting statistics shown below.

statistics about the email engagement from mobile devices

Illustration: Tablein / Data: Mailmodo

Mailmodo collected data from over 250 marketers, and the results are eye-opening. 

Almost half of them reported that 40-60% of email engagement came from mobile devices. 

Even more surprisingly, 22.9% said that this figure is closer to 60-80%. 

These numbers suggest that, when creating restaurant emails, you might want to prioritize how they look on mobile devices first.

But what does this trend urge us to focus on? 

Well, pretty much everything.

From ensuring that subject lines and email preview text are short enough to not get cut off on smaller screens, to making sure that the message, CTA buttons, and images look good on various phone screen sizes. 

It’s also important to pay attention to body text size, ensuring it's large enough to read comfortably on a mobile device.

This need to cater to mobile users has also pushed the trend for responsive email design.

restaurant email web view vs mobile view

Illustration: Tablein / Template: © Canvalue.std on Canva

Responsive email design means that your email automatically adjusts its layout and formatting to fit the screen size of the device it's being viewed on. 

This ensures that your carefully crafted email looks great whether it's opened on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer.

Luckily, you don't have to worry about manually tinkering with the look of your emails for different devices. 

The email marketing platforms we mentioned earlier can help you create responsive designs with ease. 

Plus, there are lots of pre-made templates available that are already optimized for mobile viewing, saving you time and ensuring your emails look professional on any device.

By embracing mobile-first design and responsive templates, you'll ensure your emails reach diners wherever they are, creating an enjoyable experience on any device.

Taking Personalization to the Next Level

Let's revisit the content you should focus on in emails.

With automation technologies and a nice set of marketing email ideas, some restaurateurs take a generic approach to their newsletter campaign, sending the exact same email to all subscribers.

But, with 71% of consumers stating that personalized experiences influence their decision to

interact with emails, and 70% saying that a personalized menu recommendation will “make them feel known”, this trend is shifting toward more personalization.

First off, let's take a look at what Litmus data shows are the most often personalized aspects of emails.

statistics about the most often personalized aspects of emails

Source: Litmus

At the very top, we have personalization in the subject line, which usually boils down to using a guest's first name in the subject. 

This simple addition can change a generic "Try our new seasonal menu!" offer to an email that feels more like a person-to-person conversation.

The other top practice is using dynamic content. 

This means using content that changes based on, for instance, a guest's past ordering history. 

With this option, a vegetarian might see an email with plant-based meal options, while a seafood lover might see the catch of the day.

Even a simple email that tailors an offer to different audience segments, say guests that may be recent graduates, can do wonders.

gaucho restaurant email promoting a free champagne offer for graduates

Source: Gaucho

As a final note, while AI-generated content was only represented with 10.3% on the Litmus list above, we should pay attention to this growing trend as well. 

Of the marketers that actually use AI in their email marketing efforts, 77% of them say it helps them with personalization.

statistic showing that 77% of marketers believe generative ai helps them with personalization

Illustration: Tablein / Data: HubSpot

AI can scour through guest data and identify patterns that humans might miss, allowing for even more targeted personalization.

For instance, it might notice that a certain guest always books a table on the first Friday of the month and suggest sending them a special offer for that specific day. 

Or it can analyze past order history to recommend dishes that align with a guest's tastes, creating a truly tailored dining experience.

With both simple and more extensive personalization options available, you have no excuse not to hop on this trend and reap the benefits. 

Sharing User-Generated Content

Finally, let's see how restaurateurs are using user-generated content in their email marketing efforts. 

This trend aligns with what we already discussed about building personalization and creating personal connections. 

As the name suggests, user-generated content (UGC) revolves around leveraging content created by your guests, turning their experiences and perspectives into powerful marketing tools. 

This approach helps show some authentic experiences in your restaurant and creates a sense of loyalty around your business.

Some of the benefits of this trend include the following:

  • Increased trust and credibility
  • Higher engagement rates
  • Cost-effective content creation
  • Stronger customer relationships
  • Improved social proof

When it comes to the kinds of content used, there are quite a few options, with some of them listed in the visual below.

user generated content ideas for restaurant email marketing

Source: Tablein

First and foremost, there's no better social proof than glowing reviews!  

When potential customers read about the positive experiences of others, it's incredibly persuasive.  

But a picture is worth a thousand words, right?  

With a guest's permission, using their photos of a birthday celebration, a delicious meal, or even just a fun night out adds another layer of authenticity to your message.

Take a look at this example from Condado Tacos below that can easily be translated into an email marketing campaign.

condado tacos instagram post screenshot

Source: Condado Tacos on Instagram

See how that genuine photo of a family enjoying their meal, paired with a simple Mother's Day offer, creates a heartwarming connection? 

It's the kind of marketing that feels real, not staged.

Another treasure trove of UGC is the content your guests create on social media. 

Those drool-worthy food photos guests love to share on Instagram or Facebook?  

Grab a few of those with permission (and proper credit), and create an email campaign showcasing your top picks. 

People love seeing their own content featured, and it reinforces that feeling of community you’re after.

Finally, don't be afraid to ask for UGC directly. 

Primavera Kitchen does this beautifully in their email.

screenshot of a primavera kitchen email asking subscribers for ugc

Source: Primavera Kitchen

Authenticity is key here, so avoid feeling overly promotional. 

Instead, focus on building those relationships with your guests and showcasing the joy they experience at your restaurant.


With that, we made it through our rundown of top email marketing trends for restaurants. 

We've covered a lot of ground, from all the things you can do with automation and personalization to the power of sharing behind-the-scenes peeks and user-generated content.

 And let's not forget about making emails look great on mobile devices.

We hope you're walking away from this article with some fresh ideas and a clearer picture of what works in email marketing right now. 

Think about how you can mix and match these strategies to fit your restaurant's unique vibe and goals. 

Maybe you'll start by personalizing your emails, or perhaps you'll experiment with showcasing your staff in your next campaign. 

Whatever you choose, remember that the end game is to create emails your customers actually want to open and read.