restaurant email marketing
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Restaurant email marketing is one of the easiest ways to promote your restaurant and win over new customers while showing them why you’re better than the competition. If you’re not doing it yet, it’s time to start by reading this guide.

I go through some restaurant email marketing ideas that are guaranteed to have customers drooling in no time. Included are also some of the best email marketing campaigns I’ve seen, along with what makes them great, for some extra inspiration.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is the process of sending emails to potential or existing customers to promote your brand’s products and services, usually with the goal of converting. However, any type of email you send is considered email marketing, whether you promote an offer, announce a product release, or simply introduce yourself.

Does Email Marketing Still Work?

You might have heard that email marketing is a thing of the past. The reality is that this type of marketing is still alive and thriving. It can help you increase your restaurant sales easier and with less effort than other marketing tactics. While you can still use an omni-channel call center, social media, and other popular methods, email is still the best one for professional relationships.

If you’re looking for more reasons why you need restaurant email marketing, here are just a couple of its benefits:

  • Helps you forge meaningful relationships with your customers.
  • Won’t break your budget.
  • Relatively easy to set up, test, and distribute.
  • Will help you increase sales.
  • Suitable for up-selling and cross-selling.
  • Can help you nudge people who’ve abandoned their cart in the middle of an order.
  • You can use it to boost traffic on slow days.
  • Enables you to target segmented customers so that you only send emails that they’re interested in.

How to Build a Restaurant Email List

Before you start sending out emails, you need a reasonably hefty list of customer emails. Here’s how you can build one:

  • Add a pop up on your website featuring an opt-in.
  • Create online-only offers.
  • Do WiFi marketing.
  • Promote your newsletter on tabletop cards, delivery flyers, and all printed materials.
  • Add subscription buttons on your social media accounts.
  • Create an email-based loyalty program.
  • Offer downloadable templates and cheat sheets that people can get on their email.
  • Have an exclusive email giveaway.
  • Create a referral program.
  • Ask customers directly if they’d like to be informed of exciting new menu items, exclusive offers, and other restaurant updates on their email. Use autoresponder software to reach out in an automated mode to customers who haven’t opened your email in the past few months.

Also, before sending emails, make sure to use a tool for email warm up to increase email deliverability.

Restaurant Email Subject Lines You Can Try

No one should underestimate the importance of a catchy subject line in an email. It’s what your customers see first. If it’s not impressive enough, they might never even open your email, let alone read it. You need to craft catchy email subject lines for sales to increase.

Some of the best restaurant email subject lines you can use are:

  • Last Chance to Taste Our Exclusive Steakhouse Burger!
  • Late Night Cravings? We Now Deliver 24/7!
  • The Oscars Are Tonight at Pronto Restaurant. Come Join Us!
  • [First Name], Would You Do Us a Favor?
  • Happy Birthday, [First Name]! The champagne is on us!
  • Quick – Two for One Pizza Offer Ending Soon!
  • Unwrap Our Christmas Gift for You! Offer ending at midnight.
  • Bored? Play Our Game to Win a Gift Card.
  • Get Priority Access to Our Newest Menu Item. Claim It Now!
  • Hey, we miss you. Here’s 30% off Your Next Order.

12 Restaurant Email Marketing Ideas That Work

1. Welcome customers with an email

Sending a welcome email is customary for most businesses because it’s a simple and easy way to introduce yourself to your customers and start on the right foot. Ideally, this “welcome to our restaurant” email should also contain some exclusive offer as a thank you for their patronage.

Since this will be your first email to them, it’s essential to establish the tone of voice you’d like to address customers on, as well as the general vibe of your brand.

email marketing for restaurants

Source: Bruegger’s Bagels

What they did right:

  • Feels exclusive and personal (“inner circle,” “insider,” “your friends.”)
  • Offers a freebie.
  • Has a friendly and upbeat vibe.
  • Includes a delicious-looking photo of what you’re going to get.
  • Presents the benefits of joining their email list: “the first to know about new menu items, promotions and deals.”

2. Celebrate customers’ birthdays

Another common type of email but one that is successful without fail is a “happy birthday” email. Assuming you have enough information about your customers to know their birthday, sending them a congratulatory email and a lovely gift will come as a pleasant surprise.

You could invite them to your restaurant on their birthday and say the champagne and/or dessert is on the house. Alternatively, you could give them a discount code they can use at checkout when ordering online for the same perks, except in the comfort of their own home.

birthday email marketing campaign for restaurant

Source: Bonefish Grill

What they did right:

  • Makes the customer feel special.
  • Provides two options for a birthday gift.
  • Has a visible and straightforward call to action.
  • Includes social media handles.
  • Uses powerful words like “memorable” and “special.”

You can also shake things up a little bit and send half-birthday wishes and freebies.

email marketing ideas for restaurants - birthdays

Source: ASK Italian

What they did right:

  • Contains an element of surprise (not many people would expect this or even know about it).
  • Includes a generous discount.
  • Shows flexibility (can be redeemed at any of their restaurant locations nationwide).
  • Includes an eye-catching visual.

3. Promote events and parties at your restaurant

Are you organizing a karaoke night? Celebrating Halloween with a masquerade party? Let your customers know via a celebratory email and ramp up excitement by giving them a teaser of what they can expect.

If you are serving unique menu items like ghost cookies and eyeball spaghetti on Halloween night, include that information in the email next to a representative photo. Don’t forget to also highlight exclusive promos like “Everyone who signs at Karaoke Night gets a free drink!”

best restaurant email marketing tactics - parties

Source: The Knife

What they did right:

  • Looks festive and elegant.
  • Is open and clear about the price.
  • Briefly presents what you can expect at the party.
  • Includes contact information for reservations.
  • Has a catchy tagline: “All yours, all inclusive.”

4. Highlight holidays

As a restaurant owner, you probably already know you should capitalize on all holidays, from big ones like Christmas and Halloween to specific ones that apply to your restaurant. For example, if you own a pizzeria, you should do something special for National Pizza Day.

Send a lovely holiday email personalized for the occasion to wish your customers happy holidays and announce your special plans for the day. If you’re closed, mention that in the email and say you’re looking forward to seeing them when you reopen. If you’re open, let them know what menu items to expect and if there are any promos to look forward to.

restaurant promotion email sample

Source: Trestle

What they did right:

  • Created their own food holiday to capitalize on.
  • Brought in a new topping that customers can add to multiple pasta options.
  • Includes a visible CTA.
  • Makes an excellent connection with December as the month of giving.

5. Promote online ordering

Restaurant email marketing is a good place to promote any new features you add to your restaurant operation. Let’s say you’ve just started taking online orders. This is the perfect opportunity to share a special first-order promo with your loyal dine-in customers to show them you’re grateful for their patronage.

Create a First-Order Promo for Free Sign up for GloriaFood’s online ordering system.

Similarly, if you’ve added a table reservation feature or customers can now pay for their order online, don’t hesitate to share that information in an email. These are things customers want to know about the restaurants they love.

restaurant email marketing templates - online ordering

Source: Tortelli Pasta Bar

What they did right:

  • Brief and compelling message.
  • Highlights the discount customers will get.
  • Includes the website URL where people can order.
  • Nice juxtaposition of the yellow box that includes all the essential information on the black and white illustration, making the box stand out.

Suppose you’ve just introduced a new menu item, revamped your menu for a specific season, or even added a limited-time menu item. In that case, your customers will want to know about it. If there are multiple items, present them briefly, and don’t forget to add a photo of each.

For a one menu item spotlight, you can afford to go more in-depth, from the story behind it to the ingredients, shots from different angles, and more. Your goal should be to make customers crave it so badly that they place an order on the spot or visit your restaurant.

restaurant email templates - new menu

Source: Gusto

What they did right:

  • Simple and elegant design.
  • Reads like a cozy winter story.
  • Name-drops locations where the restaurant got the inspiration for their Italian menu. This gives a sense of authenticity.
  • Includes a link where people can view the new menu more in-detail.
  • Has a clear CTA that encourages customers to book a table to enjoy the new menu items.

7. Share COVID-19 updates

Email is the perfect medium for sharing Coronavirus-related updates with anxious customers. First off, they will want to know you are abiding by all health and safety regulations in place, so make sure you put their minds at ease with a comprehensive list. Second, they will also be interested in new features that can help them enjoy your food safely.

restaurant email marketing tips - share updates

Source: Dunkin’

What they did right:

  • Includes video of health and safety protocols. Videos are a more enjoyable way of consuming content.
  • Has relevant vectors depicting each topic.
  • Gives customers a contactless way to order and pay.
  • Remains true to the brand using its representative colors.

8. Come up with special offers on slow days

Do you need a boost on days that are naturally slow for your restaurant? There’s nothing like an appetizing offer to make customers flock to your restaurant and fill those seats. This is a surefire way to boost your revenue. Make sure you underline the urgency of this deal in your subject line by using terms like “Hurry up,” “Act fast,” or “Limited-time offer.”

catchy sales emails for restaurants - offers

Source: Pizza Express

What they did right:

  • Each offer has a catchy name.
  • Eye-catching, colorful design.
  • Two CTAs (one at the beginning and one at the end).
  • Includes their timeless slogan at the end: “Good food. Good times. Since 1965.” establishing the restaurant’s long tradition.

9. Encourage reviews & feedback

One way to get customers to admire your restaurant is to show them some stellar reviews that past satisfied customers have left. Choose a couple from TripAdvisor, Yelp, or your own restaurant website and invite customers to leave you a review as well.

Alternatively, you can do it like Jack’s Backyard BBQ and send a heartfelt message. Tell customers how vital reviews are for your business and that you’d love it if they could leave you one.

marketing messages for restaurants - reviews

Source: Jack’s Backyard BBQ

What they did right:

  • Includes a photo of the owner to give it a more personal touch, like the owner himself is asking customers for a review.
  • It reads like a personal letter, both in format and in writing style.
  • Easy to spot review button makes it easy for customers to leave a review.
  • Includes relevant information like restaurant address, website, opening hours, and phone number.

10. Use gamification

Restaurant email marketing can become boring fast if you don’t make your emails engaging for customers. One way to do that is to use gamification to give them something to do, whether it’s a quiz, a slot machine, a scratchcard, or an actual game. For example, you can invite them to spin the wheel for a unique prize.

You Might Also Like: The Best Restaurant Gamification Tips & Secrets that will Drive Customer Loyalty

restaurant email marketing statistics - gamification works

Source: Taco Bell

What they did right:

  • They invested time and resources to create an actual virtual board game.
  • Uses humor.
  • Sparks curiosity through the use of creative copy and animations.
  • Offers multiple ways to play.
  • Intentional decision to leave the brand’s name in the background and make the actual game the highlight.

11. Share recipes & cooking tips

While this may not immediately get you sales, like other tactics on this list, sharing your expertise with customers will make them love you more and feel closer to your brand. Not to mention many people are experimenting with cooking in lockdown, and they might want to recreate some of your famous recipes.

restaurant email marketing - recipes

Source: LeBasil

What they did right:

  • Gorgeous-looking images that induce hunger.
  • Uses expressive food descriptions: “flavour,” “tenderness,” “buttery.”
  • Highlights that these are easy recipes, encouraging customers to make them at home.
  • Offers a little bit of everything: a soup, a main course, and a dessert.

12. Highlight blog articles

If you have a restaurant blog, it would be nice to share some of your articles in a newsletter. Since blogs can be really personal, don’t shy away from stories about how you started the restaurant, interviews with your chef and personnel, or news that involve your brand.

Read More: 20 Restaurant Blog Ideas That Will Bring More People to Your Website

blog updates restaurant email

Source: Babbo

What they did right:

  • Reads like a newspaper.
  • Touches on multiple topics: recipe spotlight, positive review, socials highlight.
  • Includes various CTAs to anticipate customers’ needs: “View Review,” “Book Online,” “View Recipe,” “Babbo Facebook,” “Babbo Twitter.”
  • Includes a “Forward to a friend” link that increases the email’s chances of reaching more people.

Bottom Line

Restaurant email marketing is an excellent tool for connecting with your customers and increasing sales without spending a fortune. Focus on promoting your menu items and newest features, but also find the time to share personal stories and reward customers for dining with you.

We hope the restaurant email marketing examples above have inspired you to craft unique emails for your own restaurant customers. If you’re going to invest in email marketing, remember to use a quality email hosting service.

You Might Also Like: How To Do Restaurant Email Marketing With MailChimp

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.