restaurant email marketing Articles
You’ve got your lists set up. You’re broadcasting menu changes, special events and coupons. Your regulars are responding and new customers are subscribing.
What should you do next?
It might be time to take a look at what the items you have set up to appear in every email. Are you missing any important side notes? What can you add to fill your tables with more hungry customers?
Example: Taleo’s Bill of Email Fare
Our friends over at Taleo Mexican Grill in Irvine, California have the recipe for a well-done newsletter with all the trimmings.
What can your restaurant put in its emails to impress patrons?
Link to them! A surprising number of restaurants don’t have their menus listed online. Describing your dishes can convince even frequent diners to come in for that interesting new combination or a mouthwatering old favorite.
If your restaurant doesn’t have a web site, you can create and post your menu here.
A small discount, exclusive to your email subscribers, may keep guests coming back – and keep them reading your new emails.
Here’s an example from one of Taleo’s emails:
Provide a link to driving routes, tips on parking, and public transportation information.
Take the guesswork out of getting there, and new customers may become regulars.
If you offer them, say so.
People are always looking for gift ideas, and are likely too wrapped up in the dining experience when on site to seek them out.
If you accept these, provide a link to a reservation page on your site, like this, or display your phone number.
Even if your number is listed elsewhere, seeing it listed for reservations suggests that subscribers call it for that reason.
Hours of Operation
When customers get your updates about happy hour discounts, lunch specials or live music events, they can glance over to see just when to plan their visit.
Save them the hassle of searching for your hours on your web site or showing up to an empty, dark building.
Calender of Events
After you announce a Tuesday-night open mic or a Sunday dinner discount, list it on a calender. Connect to it through a link, display a miniature version that can be clicked to open fully, or provide only the next week’s schedule in each message.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of colorful, tasty food is worth a thousand tummy-grumbles.
Wild cravings for your food might be the best enticement of all.
Taleo’s email didn’t include mix these in, but others have. And they might just be right for your newsletter.
Ask for feedback on your menu items, your seating options, your special events. You’ll collect valuable information, and you’ll show your patrons that their preferences are important.
Customer opinions you collect on comment cards can be powerful testimonials.So can emails of appreciation. Consider publishing a response or two per email, possibly in a sidebar.
This is a lot to add, so keep things organized, subtle and listed neatly to keep from overwhelming your readers. Go for a complete, but not cluttered, design. And remember to track your clicks to see which links customers are taking advantage of.
We appreciate your feedback. Please deposit in comment box below.
Which of these have you included in your newsletters? Which do you think customers look for the most? Do you include anything else that your readers seem to really appreciate?
Read "Email Marketing Essentials for Restaurants"
However, you may be at a loss for just how you might employ send windows in your campaigns.
Fortunately, with some creative thinking, we think every email marketer can come up with a use that will make a significant difference in their results.
Let’s take a detailed look at an example of how send windows might be used to boost the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign.
How a Restaurant Might Use Send Windows
The owner of a restaurant wants to send a series of autoresponder messages to all new email subscribers to advertise regular events and promotions. They can use send windows to help ensure they reach the subscriber in their inbox when they are most relevant and likely to provoke a response.
Here is what this autoresponder sequence might look like:
Note: If you’re unfamiliar with Autoresponder Send Windows and how they work, you may want to learn a bit about them before reading further.
Message 1 – Welcome Message
Every autoresponder sequence should have a welcome message.
In this case, our restaurant may want to provide some basic information about their restaurant (e.g. link to menu, directions) and set some expectations about what the subscriber will receive later.
Note: This message has no send window, since it is always sent immediately after someone subscribes.
Message 2 – Mornings, Monday through Friday: Buy a breakfast sandwich and receive a free coffee
To promote a work week, on-the-go breakfast special, we probably want to catch our subscribers early in the day, the first time they check their email.
By setting a send window covering Monday through Friday, from 6:00AM to 9:00PM, perhaps we can hit them when they could really use some breakfast and a coffee.
Message 3 – Sunday through Thursday: Buy one dinner, get a second dinner at half the menu price
Sunday and weekday dinners are often relatively slow at restaurants, so our restaurant provides a price incentive to help fill tables.
By setting a send window covering Sunday through Thursday, from 6:00AM to 3:00PM, we can send messages advertising a discount that arrives in the inbox when subscribers are looking to solve their dinner plans for the week.
Message 4 – Wednesday Dinners: Free dessert on a bill of $25 or more
We send each subscriber a message giving them something for their sweet tooth to look forward to, with our send window for this message set to Wednesday, again from 6:00AM to 3:00PM.
Message 5 – Thursday Lunches: 20% off entire lunch bill when business card presented with check
Our restaurant has a large banquet room with a TV that has video inputs perfect for laptop slideshows. We send a message with a send window set for Thursday between 6:00AM and 12:00PM, to target subscribers when they might be thinking of planning their next lunch meeting.
See Them in Action
The calendar below shows an example of a subscriber who (conveniently) signs up on the first of the month for the campaign described above.
Toggle on and off send windows, hovering over the green highlighted calendar dates to observe how they affect this sequence of autoresponders.
Notice that with send windows off, we don’t accomplish what we set out to do with our message campaign – target our subscribers when each message is most relevant to them.
Only with send windows on do we deliver these messages to all new subscribers when they are most likely to bring them into our restaurant as patrons.
Send Windows Aren’t For Restaurants Only!
Of course, the benefits of targeting subscribers during specific windows of time are not unique to restaurants, and we’ll highlight some other examples we’ve developed in future blog posts.
For the meantime, we might all benefit from some real examples from real businesses like yours. Have you setup your send windows, or do you have any ideas about how your industry might use them you’d like to share?
Read "Using Send Windows for Exceptional Targeting: A Restaurant Example"
The thing is, these ideas (and others that we’ll continue to publish here) don’t do much good if you don’t have any potential diners to send to!
Just as with any other business, a restaurant’s email marketing campaign has to start by getting subscribers.
So where/how can restaurant owners build their lists?
On Your Website
As part of the research for this post, I looked at a number of restaurant websites, and was struck by the fact that most of them did not offer any email signup at all.
This is a no-brainer for any business. Get a signup form on your website already!
Restaurants in particular should put a signup form in at least two places:
- The homepage
- Their menu page (if you have separate pages for lunch/dinner, all the better – get the form on each of them)
Ideally, you should have a signup form on your other pages as well, but your home page and menu/s are a good start.
In Person At Your Restaurant
Comment cards have been popular for years at restaurants.
Include an email signup on those cards and bring them with the check!
Be sure to bring a pen with the check, too – even before you know if the customer is paying by credit card. That way, they can pass the time (while the server brings them their change or runs their credit card) by signing up to your email list!
With Takeout/Delivery Orders
Insert a card promoting your email campaign with your takeout and delivery orders.
Simply put your site URL on it and tell people to go there to subscribe.
Or, for a twist have them fill out a form on the card and bring it in on their next visit (this could work well where you’re offering a signup incentive like a coupon or half-price menu item).
On Menus and Other Promotional Pieces
Do you offer paper menus for customers to take away? Or send direct mail pieces?
If so, mention your emails on them.
As with the takeout cards, you may want to have people fill out something in person and then bring it back to your restaurant – that way, not only do they not have to wait until they’re at their computer to sign up, but they have an extra incentive to come back (to drop off the card and get whatever bonus you’re offering new members)!
When People Make Reservations
You don’t have to wait for customers to finish their meals before offering an email signup. Heck, you don’t even have to wait for them to arrive at your restaurant!
Someone making a reservation is identifying him/herself as a customer, someone especially interested in your restaurant (compared to say, someone who happens to visit your website but is not yet committed to coming in and dining with you).
Sites like OpenTable know this, and offer diners the chance to sign up to restaurants’ email lists when making reservations.
If you take reservations on your site, you should be doing so, too. It helps drive repeat business.
In theory, you should also be doing this when taking reservations by phone, but to be honest I haven’t quite worked out when during the reservation I would ask that, or how I would word it (your suggestions are quite welcome here!).
What Other List-Building Opportunities Do Restaurants Have?
In a future article on restaurant marketing I’ll talk about incentives you can use to make list-building easier.
For now, though, let’s come up with some other ideas that restaurant owners can use to build their email lists.
Share your ideas and suggestions in the comments!
Read "Restaurant Marketing: 5 List-Building Ideas"
First impressions will take you only so far. Last week, we illustrated how consistency is key to the success of your restaurant.
Even if you leave diners with a good experience the first time they visit, if their next one is poor, they may:
Never return Relay their bad experience to others
In this post, I’d like to suggest two steps to take, whether you think this is an issue for your restaurant or not. In any case, these ideas should help you to identify hidden problems and work with your staff to fix them.
Read "Two Steps to Better Service at Your Restaurant"
It’s expensive to get people in the door for the first time. If your restaurant relies entirely on these visitors, it’s going to be hard to turn a profit.
Why people don’t return to your restaurant can be hard to figure out. But if you don’t have a regular customer base, it would be reasonable to assume a few things about people who don’t return. For instance:
- They don’t eat out frequently
- They want to try a variety of restaurants
- Their first meal at your restaurant was not enjoyable
These are important, but there’s still one more hurdle that can make the difference between having every seat in your restaurant filled or tumbleweeds blowing through the rows of empty tables on Friday nights.
Read "Why Aren’t Customers Returning to Your Restaurant?"
In our last post, we established that there’s more to an email campaign than economic incentive. You need to build a relationship that establishes unique selling points to cultivate a return customer base.
Who better to establish these points than the lead creative force of your company? In the case of a restaurant, the head creator is the chef.
In this article, I’ll describe how introducing your chef can add a personal face to your email campaign and how even if you don’t have a restaurant, this type of message can benefit your own business.
Read "Restaurant Marketing Tips: Meet the Chef"
How can email help restaurants best capitalize on a dining market while the local fast food joint pump out millions of burgers faster and cheaper?
As the first of a series, in this article I’ll offer advice on how quality oriented restaurants can use email marketing to increase their profits through cultivating a base of regular customers, something that could benefit a business of any type.
Read "Restaurant Marketing Tips: Beyond Coupons"