Email Marketing for Restaurants


Today, email is by far the most cost-effective way to market directly. For example, in 2004, compared with standard mail marketing, email marketing generated 17% more sales per dollar spent on marketing. Furthermore, adults under the age of 34 are more open to receiving email promotions than other kinds of direct marketing promotions [Source]. So if young people make up a large portion of your business, you should primarily use email for direct marketing.

Building a Database

Before you can begin your email marketing campaign, you will need to build a database of customer email addresses. Some of the best ways to do this include collecting emails during giveaways, for take-out orders or through your website. There are many other methods you can try to build your database.

» Learn More About Direct Marketing for Restaurants

Writing the Email

A strategically written email will be effective at influencing the customer to try your restaurant. The purpose of the subject line, written copy and design is to get customers interested in your promotions without annoying them.

Subject line

Your subject line should be short, to the point and enticing. Emails with more precise subject lines perform significantly better than emails with long subject lines [Source].

  • Example of good subject line: “Valentine’s Day Special”
  • Example of bad subject line: “This Month at the British Bulldog: $2 Budweiser Drafts on Thursday Hockey Nights and $3 Well Drinks on Sunday”

Written copy

Do not include more than a paragraph or two of copy. On average, people only spend about 15 seconds reading promotional emails [Source] so you want to emphasize the most important points at the beginning of the copy. Consider attaching a coupon and linking to either your website homepage or a coupon page of your website. At the end of the email, you should include all of the basic information on your restaurant, like address, telephone and hours. Avoid including any elements that sound like spam, like the phrase “click here” or all-capital letters.

Design and layout

You want to design your email to be easy to read and to avoid spam filtering. Spam filtering often filters emails because of spam-like HTML coding. Furthermore, many email programs block images. and this can make your email ineffective or impossible to read due to blocked images. Therefore, it is often best to send a pure text email. If you do want to include pictures in your email, consider including them as attachments, or make sure that at least part of the email is written in text. You can also find more spam-proof HTML templates on the Internet.

Sending the Email

Promotional and/or newsletter emails should be sent no more than every other week. To be safe, you should consider sending emails once a month. If you send too many offers, you will annoy your customers. And worse yet, members of your customer audience may decide to opt out of your email marketing program as a result of a cluttered inbox (even if your offers are amazing.) The fewer emails you send, the more impact the ones you do send will have.

Determining the Email’s Success

It is important that you assess the success of your email marketing campaign. You can do this in the following ways:

Email marketing programs

There are numerous email programs that will gather statistics on how people are reacting to your email promotion. Some of the most popular include, or You simply compile the email, send it out and then get all the stats. These programs will provide you with the following information and more:

Open rates. The open rate will tell you how effective your subject line is at getting customers to open the email. If your open rate is below 20%, you should consider using a different kind of subject line. Sometimes, low open rates can be caused partly by spam filtering, so make sure to take that into consideration.

Click-through rates. The click through rates will tell you the percentage of recipients that clicked on a link to your website or a link to a coupon.

Click-to-open rates (CTOR). The CTOR will tell you what percentage of recipients who opened the email also clicked on the link you included. If you include a link to a coupon, this will tell you how effective your copy is at getting people interested in the coupon. A bad click-to-open rate means you should probably revamp your copy.

Spam filtering rates. If people are reporting your email as “spam,” it is probably because you are annoying them. Consider reducing the amount of offers you send or making your offers more enticing. Some programs can also determine how many of your emails are being filtered by spam control. You can expect about 10% of your emails to be filtered. If they are getting filtered at a higher rate, you probably need to make it look less like spam by using pure text instead of HTML, getting rid of explanation points and spam-sounding phrases like “CLICK HERE,” and using capital letters in moderation.

Coupon codes

If you send a coupon with your email, you can use special coupon codes. Then, if a customer redeems the coupon, you know from the designated code that those sales came from your email promotion.

Customer surveys

If you do not use coupons and you cannot afford an email marketing program, you can include a “how did you hear about this promotion” question on your satisfaction surveys or comment cards. This will let you know if your email promotion is working.

» Learn More About Restaurant Marketing Assessments
When it comes down to it, the success of your promotions has as much to do with your marketing strategy as with the promotion itself. Email marketing is probably one of the most effective ways to market a promotion, so make sure you are doing it right. You cannot afford to have your emails ignored.


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