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March 11, 2020

Are Your Emails Automatically Bringing In Restaurant Guests?

Email marketing has been around since the dawn of time.

And for good reason.

In 2020, email marketing generates a higher ROI when compared to any other marketing channel. It generates 38 dollars for every 1 dollar spent.

I’m not sure about you… but if I got 38 dollars back for every dollar I spent, I’d eat at 3 Michelin Star restaurants as often as I wanted to.

Today I’m going to show you how to get the same or more ROI from email marketing for your restaurant.

Restaurant Email Marketing Results

If done correctly, email marketing is perfect for restaurants because it doesn’t require much maintenance. The cherry on top is that, even though it doesn’t require much maintenance, it is still perceived as a dynamic marketing campaign from the customer’s point of view.

Let me explain.

Email marketing has a feature called email automation. Email automations are emails that can be sent based on a trigger.

The types of triggers can vary based on when the person joins the email list, the person’s birthday, or any other data you might have about your email subscribers.

Since the trigger is based on their personal experience, every single one of your email subscribers will be on their own customer journey.

This strategy is the most effective way to execute email marketing because, in order for email marketing to be effective, you must send your emails to the right person at the right time and right place.

Doing so is called relevance.

The more relevant you are with your customers, the higher chance they will resonate with your emails. When they feel like they resonate, they will open and engage with your emails.

The greatest part about email automation is that you only have to set it up once and it can run for as long as you’d like.

Click here to see my customer lifetime journey automation.

When I implement this for restaurants, they see a significant boost in their revenue. Within 1 month, I was able to produce just over $10,000 in additional gross revenue for the restaurant. 

See the case study.


Restaurant Email Marketing Preparation

As previously stated, restaurant email marketing has a good amount of setup. However, once completed, you won’t need to touch it much more.

In order to get started with email marketing for your restaurant, you need:

  1. Email marketing software
  2. A custom domain name
  3. An email address at a custom domain name

Luckily, it doesn’t take much to get started. Even better, it doesn’t cost much to get any of these things either.

There are many email marketing softwares that have free trials. Although all free trials are structured differently (some are free for 7-14 days, some are free until a set amount of subscribers), some are much much better for restaurants.

My recommended email marketing software for restaurants is Mailchimp.

It has everything you need to produce the outcome that you want: producing restaurant guests on demand through email marketing.

Not only does it have everything you need, it’s also free (forever) until you hit the 2,000 subscriber mark.

This means that you have as much time as you need to try the software and see results before the 2,000 subscriber mark.

Just to give you some context on that, the results I posted earlier about generating just over $10,000 for a restaurant were from just under 1,000 subscribers.

So Mailchimp would be a great place to start for picking your email marketing software.

Oh, and yes, the case study was done using Mailchimp as well. However, they were on a paid plan because they needed to share their account with me (you can only have team members on your account on a paid plan).

Next, you need an email address at a custom domain name. It is against any email marketing service’s terms of service to use a free email address such as gmail.com or yahoo.com. They do this to reduce the chance of spam on their sending networks.

If they allowed anyone to send emails so easily on their networks, they would have a very hard time keeping their networks clean and ready for legitimate senders.

If you already have a domain name, you should be able to use your current email address (ex. name@restaurant.com) or create a new one in case you don’t want to publicly give out your main business email.

For example, you can use first.l@restaurant.com.

Once you have these two, you’re ready for restaurant email marketing.

Setting Up Your Restaurant Email Marketing Software

Whether you went with my email marketing software suggestion or not, you should be able to complete the upcoming steps I am about to explain to you. Most email marketing providers have the features I am going to talk about. However, they may be named something else or they also might require some more or less work to produce the same function.

Before you start writing your first emails, you have to make sure that the emails will arrive in your subscribers’ inboxes.

The content of your email won’t matter if it doesn’t get sent, right?

In order to make sure that your emails get sent to your subscribers, you’re going to have to think like the email servers. Email servers are the ones that determine if your emails make it from you to the internet and then into your subscribers’ inboxes.

This is how email servers determine if your email makes it through:

  • Domain verification
  • Sender reputation
  • File size of email
  • Email format
  • Legality
  • Spam Complaints

Once you have these configured correctly on your email account, you should be good to go.

Writing Your First Email To Restaurant Customers

When writing any message to anyone, whether it be an email, an ad, or adding something to your website, you have to know your audience and make sure the messaging is relevant to them.

For example, you wouldn’t want to send a Mother’s Day email to someone who doesn’t have a good relationship with their mom.

So, how can you make sure that you provide the most relevant experience for your subscribers?

You have to know more about them.

The more you know about your customers, the better you can communicate with them.

And the better you can communicate with them, the higher chance that they will like you and return back to your restaurant. We are in the relationship business, after all.

I’m sure you know most of your customers pretty well. At least, you would know the average demographic that visits your restaurant.

Let me ask you this: what would you say to a person that you’ve never seen before at your restaurant?

Would you welcome them with open arms and a smiling face?

Well, I think you’d be great at email marketing – because that’s what you would do in your “Welcome” email as well – welcome them with open arms and a smiling face (in digital form).

I think though, sometimes restaurant owners, managers and marketers are great with marketing in person but not so much on paper or in digital form.

So, I created this restaurant email template for you to use in case you had writer’s block.

This email template helped me get up to 89.5% open rates.

You can literally copy and paste the email template into your email editor then fill in the blanks with your own information.

Choosing Who You Send The Email To

Now that you’ve written an email with a specific person or people in mind, you now have to tell your email marketing software to send the email that/those people only.

For example, if you just wrote a welcome email for new subscribers, you would tell your email marketing software to send to new subscribers only.

You can do this in most email marketing softwares as well. But as stated before, they just might be in different formats or wording.

Restaurant Email Compliance

Now you must be thinking – if email marketing for restaurants is so easy… why don’t all restaurants do it?

I can tell you for a fact that the number one reason is that they either have bigger priorities or they have shiny object syndrome

But there is another small reason – there are some rules that you have to follow in order to do email marketing. For example, you have to make sure to follow FCC law by adding your physical address and an easy way for subscribers to “unsubscribe” in your emails.

Many people see these as risks because all of their hard work could disappear if people just unsubscribe from their email list.

However, I’ve never seen such a thing happen.

Email Testing

Before you press that send button, you want to make sure that there is nothing wrong with your email to the point where it won’t be sent to your subscribers. Although we did some setup before which would prevent sending possible spam, we have the chance to do it one more time to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Think of this as having a guy who double checks food after the kitchen puts it out and before it gets to the customer.

There are two free tools that give you some pretty good data about your email. 

This data will tell you why your email would make it to your subscribers’ inboxes and why it wouldn’t.

The first tool is mail-checker.net. They give you an email address which you can send a test email to. Once you do, you click on the button on their website and they will tell you if there was anything in your email which could mark it as spam.

The second tool is 

Sending your first email.

Once you double check the look of your email and the free tools about check the spam probability of your emails, you’re ready to send!

Very exciting.

Sending more emails.

Alright! We just set up an email that welcomes people to your email list. In most cases, this would be some kind of offer to get the person in your door as soon as possible. The faster that person becomes a customer, the faster they can be set on their customer journey.

After their first visit, you can send some data back to that person’s profile in your email marketing software, then use that as a trigger to send another email to get them back in the door again.

This can go on and on, but you have to make sure that the emails you send aren’t too repetitive, or the customer will get bored and unsubscribe.

Managing unsubscribers

Some people may unsubscribe. That’s just a fact that we have to accept. I’ve seen some people subscribe to an email list just to get the welcome coupon, then unsubscribe. Funnily enough, they use the coupon so they still became a customer. HOwever, if they stayed a subscriber, we would be much mroe confident that they would come back.

Getting more email subscribers.

There are many ways to get more email subscribers for your restaurant. However, only some of the ways are truly the most scalable for your restaurant.

I remember when I first got invovled with restaurant marketing and I was helping this Japanese restaurant with their email address collection.

They had servers go to each table with a clipboard and ask them for their email address in order to win a drawing for a $25 gift card.

Can’t say it didn’t work though, because they built their email list to 1.4M subscribers when they had 33 locations.

Pretty insane.

However, it took a lot of work to build that list. Not only did they need to train each server to carry around the clipboard, but each server had to write down the email address. Then the manager would have to enter in the email addresses by hand into the email marketing software.

This was a huge time hogger for the whole staff at the restaurant.

And this is something you definitely don’t need to do for your restaurant in today’s highly-automated age.

Here are the best ways I know of to capture just as many email addresses but without using manual processes or training your staff members:

  1. WiFi

You can have customers log in to your WiFi via their social media profiles or their email address. Once they do, you can transfer the email addresses to your email marketing software.

  1. Coupons

You can have customers sign up in order to get coupons and promotions.

  1. Loyalty Programs

You can have customers sign up for your loyalty program.

  1. 3rd party platforms

You can get customer emails from the emails they use on 3rd party platforms you are connected to like reservation systems.

These four methods alone were enough to help Kura Revolving Sushi collect 41,659 email addresses in 90 days.

Once you get the email addresses from customers, tag them or put them in the correct group, then send them the email that best suits their tag/group or combination of tag/groups.

For example, you only want to send a coupon to someone who signed up for the coupon, but you want to stop sending reminders for the coupon to people who already used the coupon.

Now that you know everything about how restaurant email marketing is really supposed to be executed, are you ready to setup your email marketing strategy, watch customers come in from your emails, all while watching your email software work for you like a all-star salesperson?

I’m just as excited as you are! 

What piece of the puzzle were you missing for getting this strategy running?

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Wilson Muh


Wilson Muh

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