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Writing a restaurant email newsletter

Anytime you send an email as part of your restaurant marketing plan to the kind folks who have signed up to be on your email list, you have to ask yourself one question: how does this email benefit my users?

If you think to offer 10% off a meal is a huge deal for your customers, you have to know that anyone with an IQ above room temperature knows that they’ll have to spend at least $100 to save the modest amount of just $10.

7 Tips for Restaurant Email Marketing

So, when you’re sending your next email, make sure that whatever you are offering them truly gives them a reason to open their email newsletter. The following best practices come from the email newsletters of independent restaurants from around the country.

1. Write a click-worthy subject line (ideally with an emoji)

Provide value whenever possible, and then highlight it in your subject line. If you’ve released a new menu, hosting a wine dinner or offering a free recipe, make sure to put the most important detail in the subject line (and be concise; many email clients truncate the subject line after 35-50 characters).

2. Don’t Bombard Your Customers With Emails

Let’s be honest, there is nothing newsworthy enough in your restaurant to elicit a daily email newsletter or promotion. If you offer a restaurant menu that changes daily and want to send that email out, we’d suggest creating a separate email list for those who truly want to know your specials each and every day.

Believe it or not, restaurant email newsletters have substantially high open rates, because those on their email list truly do want to hear from them. They also trust that you’ll only send an email newsletter when there’s something worth sharing. If you start bombarding them with too many emails, they’ll be sure to unsubscribe quickly and without regret.

Here are 3 tips from the experts about how often to send emails:

  • The more you send, the better. Dan Zarrella, the Social Media Marketing Scientist over at Hubspot does a lot of research on email delivery. He knows to send emails on the weekends for the highest open rate, and never on a Tuesday  (the highest unsubscribe rate). Zarella also says that there’s no drop-off in click-through rates regarding frequency. In fact, the more you send, the lower your unsubscribe rate.
  • Let impact determine your schedule. Mark Brownlow from Email Marketing Reports agrees, saying “given the competition for attention in inboxes, your newsletter has to appear often enough to trigger recognition and build awareness.” He recommends sending email more than once a month, but to make sure every email offers exceptional value or impact. If you can’t do that, send less emails and make every one count.
  • Reduce volume, increase frequency. Christopher Knight, Publisher & CEO of EzineArticles.com writes, “no one has time to read 4-15 features or articles per newsletter…so reduce the content volume and increase your frequency.” Instead of sending a massive email once a month, send a short, impactful email once a week.
All of this expert advice points to the same direction – send more emails, but only when you have something to say. If you send an email that customers look forward to reading every single day, then send an email every day. Most small business owners don’t have the time or the content to stick to this kind of publishing schedule though, so send emails when they’re important.

3. Send at the Best Times

Dan Zarrella at Hubspot presented The Science of Email Marketing recently. Here are 3 valuable tips about timing your emails:

  • Send on the weekends: Saturdays and Sundays have the highest open rate.
  • They’re on to your Tuesday promotion schedule: Tuesday has the highest unsubscribe rate.
  • Send your emails early: Click-through rates are highest early in the morning. Unsubscribe rates are highest early in the morning too.

4. Include a Personal Message

A quick note from you, your executive chef, or someone that is known as the face of your business will quickly help you gain rapport with your subscribers. It could be a quick hello with a brief introduction to what they’ll find in the email, or it could be a little friendly story about what’s happening at your restaurant this month.

5. Use Photos to Make People Hungry

Photos draw the eye, and when you’re a restaurant, the easiest thing for you to do is include photos of your food.

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Use photos to illustrate a topic. If you have an event coming up, use a great photo from a past event. If you’ve come into some fresh local produce that you’re proud of, post a photo of that before you talk about your updated menu.

6. Use website analytics to come up with content ideas

Think about why your customers joined your email list in the first place. They asked to receive promotions and now it’s your turn to deliver. Use your website analytics to interpret a story about what your guests are looking for, whether they often visit the pages with your weekly restaurant menu, clearance rack specials or local events you’re a part of, the traffic to your webpages act as a helpful guide.

Contact for a reason, stay for the ride. Photography studios have customers checking-in on the status of their prints all the time. The Portrait Gallery, a small studio in Matthews, North Carolina, initially uses email to notify clients when their photos are ready to be viewed online. After that first contact, the studio stays in touch with occasional reminders about the services they offer for life’s milestone events like weddings and graduations.

  • Where web analytics come in: Website analytics would tell the studio when users are trying to access their album pages with enough notice to know that the customer may be getting impatient.

Get repeat visitors from afar. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a small marine animal hospital and tourist spot in Clearwater, Florida, sends updates to fans from around the world about their most famous resident (Winter, the dolphin-star of the movie Dolphin Tale). To encourage visitors to come back during their next Florida vacation, the aquarium also publishes calendars with upcoming events and classes.

  • Where web analytics come in: The Aquarium would know that people are most interested in Winter, the dolphin, by watching their Twitter and Facebook analytics. When people respond most to updates about Winter, they know that updates through email will be just as effective.

Deliver the VIP treatment. Give customers on your email list the first glimpse of upcoming events and incentives. Charlotte Children’s Theater in North Carolina announces new programs, acting classes and “early bird” ticket incentives to their email list before publishing the information elsewhere. And, as mentioned, Upserve merchants, can say “thank you” through email whenever a frequent customer stops in, which gives a truly VIP experience.

  • Where web analytics come in: The best strategy here is to collect email addresses at your events because the people attending are more likely to participate in more events, and thus provide a solid list of leads to send event information to. Depending on how much web traffic goes to your event pages and how event-focused your business is, event email marketing could be your only strategy!

Marketer and strategist Lisa Barone says, “The goal of newsletters is to get your customer out of their inbox and back onto your store.” For more ways to get customers out of their inboxes, read more small business email marketing tips.

restaurant online ordering from a couch

7. Include Contact Information

Sure, customers can find the contact information on your website – but why should the reader have to click through? You have their attention now. They’ve just been reminded that they volunteered for their school or church bake-sale and your cupcakes would be perfect for that—they want to call right away to put in an order.

Try listing your phone number prominently in the header or just below your logo, with a link to your website and social networks. If your newsletter isn’t too long, you can include these details at the bottom, just make sure they are clearly featured. If space allows, including hours and location is also a nice touch.

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As part of Upserve’s family of more than 10,000 restaurants, The Chef is Restaurant Insider’s secret weapon in the kitchen. As a restaurant expert in all things marketing, menu building, management, training and more, restaurateurs trust The Chef and the award-winning Restaurant Insider to dish out the ingredients needed to make your business a sweet success.