Restaurant Email Marketing Tips That Convert into Reservations & Sales

a photo of Bianca Esmond

Bianca Esmond

5 min read

Feb 1, 2023

Restaurant Email Marketing Tips That Convert into Reservations & Sales

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways for restaurants to build loyalty and drive reservations and sales, but only if your emails are actually opened and read. 

We all receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails a week from companies and brands vying for our attention. So how do you ensure that your emails stand out in an overly crowded inbox?

In this helpful guide, we‘ll point out easy-to-implement tips that can help improve your restaurant email marketing strategy, drive incremental revenue and boost customer loyalty.

Why Email Marketing Is Crucial For Restaurants

When it comes to reaching new guests and keeping existing customers engaged, email marketing is one of the best channels for restaurants. In fact, we’ve seen restaurants drive as much as $400,000 in revenue in a single year using email marketing! 

When executed well, email marketing for restaurants can:

Drive incremental revenue and sales: Email helps you nurture guests throughout the customer journey. Whether you’re targeting new subscribers or existing customers, email allows you to leverage incentives and special experiences to drive more business and increase sales.
Generate new customers: Email is easy to share, especially if you have a referral program in place. Ask your guests to invite their friends and family to dine with you in exchange for discounts, coupons and special perks.
Improve guest loyalty and repeat business: Consistent, relevant communication can deepen relationships with your guests. Use email to reward your frequent diners and incentivize new ones to come back.
Keep your restaurant top of mind: Whether you’re announcing a new restaurant, changing your hours or launching a weekly happy hour, emailing your guests can keep them up-to-date on what’s happening at your restaurant.
Stay ahead of the competition: When it comes to dinner tonight, your customers have plenty of options. Consistent email communication and timely offers can separate you from your competitors.

Restaurant Email Marketing Tips that Drive Sales and Guest Loyalty

1. Build a Quality Restaurant Email List

The first step to leveraging email marketing is building a quality email list. If you’re just starting out, this might seem like a heavy lift, but there are ways to make this process seamless. 

For example, if your restaurant offers in-house wifi, ask guests to provide their email addresses in exchange for internet usage. If you take online reservations or online orders, capturing a guest’s email should be built into that process through your website and reservation platform. Speaking of your website, you can also add a “join our newsletter” capture form to your most visited pages to encourage guests to opt-in. 

Another great way to build your email list is to promote special events and contests via social media. Link to your reservation or event landing pages in your posts to attract new customers and grow your email list.  

For more tips on taking your email list to the next level, check out our latest article below.

restaurant email marketing

The Ultimate Email Marketing Guide for Restaurants

2. Pick a goal and stick to it

Your subscribers should be able to draw a straight line of thought from your email subject line to your call-to-action (CTA).

Whether you’re announcing a new restaurant or promoting a special offer, create a clear goal for each email marketing campaign. For example, your goal may be to get first-time visitors to return. Once you’ve set your goal can start to build your email with a tempting subject line, preview text, email copy, images and CTA that will resonate with subscribers and hopefully drive more visits.

FYI: Don’t complicate your email with competing ideas or numerous CTAs. Stick with one clear CTA and keep it above the fold: the content that the reader sees when they open the email before having to scroll down.

3. Choose your audience wisely

Instead of creating one long email and sending it to everyone in your guest database, craft a series of concise, segmented emails that are only sent to guests who are interested in that type of content. Using the example above of getting first-time visitors to return, you would segment your list by those who have only visited your restaurant once. The more targeted and relevant you can get with your email campaigns, the more engagement you’ll get from subscribers.

After all, our inboxes are already overcrowded, why waste time having to delete emails from a brand that doesn’t even know who you are or what services you’re interested in?

4. Optimize Subject Lines for Higher Open Rates 

Your emails can’t convert if they‘re never opened. When up against dozens of other unread emails, it’s all about making that pivotal first impression – which means creating a great subject line and compelling preview text. So what makes a subject line work? While there are many ways to get your reader’s attention, it’s best to follow a few simple guidelines.

Keep it Short

If your subject line is so long that it gets cut off before readers can view the entire message, you are doing something wrong. This is especially important for mobile phone viewers, where cut off can happen after only five words (~30 characters). Think about the main point and use concise, actionable language that conveys that concept.

Keep it Accurate

Your subject line should sum up the primary message of your email. So whether you’re promoting a culinary event, a speciality dinner, or sending a welcome email, it should be abundantly clear in the subject line. 

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that no one appreciates a bait and switch, so if your subject line is promising something specific, make sure you deliver on that. The last thing you want is an angry response email or opt-out.

Don’t Forget About Preview Text

Preview text is the short message that appears just after your subject line. While it does vary among email providers, you usually have about 35 to 140 characters — so don’t waste them! Make sure this copy directly supports the message in your subject line and adds context. For example, if your subject line is: “Thanks For Being Loyal, Here’s 20% Off,” make sure the preview text supports that message. For example: “Come back this summer and enjoy 20% off all wine.”

Personalize and Make it Fun

Personalization is so much more than just including the customer’s first name in the subject line. By leveraging key information from your customers, you can segment them into specific lists.

For example, if you have a group of customers who are tagged as known whiskey drinkers, segment them in a list for upcoming tastings or cocktail specials can help drive awareness and boost customer loyalty.

Additionally, the usage of emojis can make your emails more fun. It not only adds a pop of color into your email, but emojis are a great way to break up sections of text and give your reader a quick breather before looking at more information.

Have an upcoming happy hour? Pop in a 🍸and 🍟 emoji to promote it!

5. Write Compelling Content

Keep it Brief

In today’s world, you need to be snappy and to the point. We live in a very on-the-go culture, so if your email reads like a novel, people won’t give it the full time it deserves.

By crafting your email around a singular CTA (your goal), you can explain the main point in just a few short sentences. No need to explain every single small detail either, just highlight the main benefits and value of the promotion before ending with a single call to action that links to a landing page with more details.

Give it Room to Breath

People’s eyes instantly glaze over when presented with a giant block of text. It’s crucial to approach your email as a balancing act between content and design. This includes:

Making use of white space
Creating paragraphs that don’t exceed 2-3 sentences
Integrating images between text blocks

Write with Style

No one wants to get an email from a robot. If you want your audience to connect with your message and take action, keep the tone professional, on-brand and most of all, human.

Having a warm, brand centered tone that sounds conversational is key. Your audience wants to be spoken with, not to. So skip the typical marketing speak and treat the email like a conversation between two friends.

Promote Engagement with Active Voice

A quick grammatical reminder — use the active voice instead of the passive when writing your email. For example:

Active voice: Johnny won the chess tournament.
Passive voice: The chess tournament was won by Johnny.

While both sentences are technically correct, the active voice example is direct and engaging (and less wordy). Active voice also comes across as more confident and reassuring – something every brand wants to represent.

Conversely, passive voice tends to use more extraneous words, which goes against the rule of keeping your content as concise as possible. Use passive voice sparingly, as it makes the reader feel further removed from the subject, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

6. Use Bold, Clear CTAs

One of the most important things to ensure about your email is that it has a clear CTA. If there’s no call to action, you’re leaving money on the table. What is your goal? What action do you want the reader to take? 

Having issues getting people through the door? Add a button for an easy reservation link. Do you know a customer who has an upcoming birthday? Set up an automated birthday email and invite them in for a free dessert on the house to celebrate!

It may seem small, but having a bold and clear call to action is crucial for your email’s success and to help improve your click-through rates.

7. A/B Test Your Emails

A great way to test out certain elements of your email is by A/B testing your email marketing campaigns. A/B tests compare the performance of two versions of the same email to a split audience. 

For example, let’s say you want to test the placement of your CTA button. You would create two emails with different button placements and send V1 to 500 subscribers and V2 to the remainder. The email with the most clicks clearly has the better placement. 

You can use this method to test subject lines, images, templates, messaging and really any element of your email you want to improve.

8. Choose an Email Service Provider Built for Restaurants

Today, there are dozens of email service providers (ESP) to choose from — but which one should you work with? Choosing an ESP built for the restaurant industry is key.

While most ESPs offer customized and pre-built email templates, easy-to-use functionality and email metric tracking, many of them lack core metrics specific to restaurants. 

At SevenRooms, our Email Marketing and Automations solutions integrate reservations, online ordering and POS systems to track specific metrics back to your email marketing efforts. In addition to standard email metrics like open and click-through-rates, we track:

Reservations: total number of reservations the email generated
Covers: the number of guests who dined at your restaurant as a result of the email
Online Orders: total number of takeout and delivery orders generated
Revenue: Total sales generated from the email

Tracking these metrics helps you both prove and improve your email marketing ROI.

restaurant email marketing

Restaurant Email Marketing: How to Track and Measure Your ROI

9. Look for inspiration that moves you

While it’s never a bad idea to see what the competition is up to, there’s no reason to resort solely to the hospitality industry for campaign inspiration. Just look at your own inbox. What grabs your attention? Which brand emails do you always open? Use what you like and test it in your own campaigns.

With these restaurant email marketing tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating emails that convert time and time again, driving more guests to your restaurant and boosting revenue and loyalty. 

Interested in learning more about SevenRooms Email Marketing and Automations solutions? Book a demo today!

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