You know that putting delicious dishes on the table is only half the battle. You also need to learn how to attract and keep loyal customers. Today, email marketing is one of the best ways to do that.

I have helped many restaurants make more money by improving their email marketing. In this post, I'll share my best tips so you can feast on success too. From list building to segmentation to timing your campaigns just right, we'll cover everything you need to create mouthwatering email campaigns.

Restaurant Email Marketing Ideas To Win More Customers | Selzy Blog

So pull up a seat at the table, and let's dig in!

Build a Tasty Email List

Install pop-ups, banner/footer signups on website to capture more emails
Set a goal of 10+ new email signups per server per shift
Create a small giveaway item to incentivize email signups

You can have the most creative email campaigns in the world, but if you don't have an email list, you have nobody to send them to. That's why list building needs to be priority number one.

There are two main ways to build your restaurant email list:

How to Create Restaurant Email Lists (A Complete Guide)

1. Collect Emails on Your Website

Every page on your website should give visitors the chance to sign up for emails. This includes:

  • Your homepage
  • Your contact/about page
  • Blog posts
  • Online ordering pages
  • Reservations page

Use pop-ups, banner sign-ups, footer sign-ups etc. to maximize conversion rates. Offer a lead magnet like a free appetizer or e-cookbook to incentivize sign-ups.

To Understand Zero-Party Data, Think About How You Collect Emails - Fairing

2. Collect in Person

Your host stand is a goldmine for email sign-ups. Train your hosts to collect email addresses from guests as they seat them.

  • Set a goal for a certain number of emails per shift
  • Make it part of your reservation/waitlist process
  • Hold contests between hosts

Receiving relevant emails from a restaurant you enjoy makes you more likely to return. So most guests are happy to share their email if asked politely.

Pro tip: Don't make the rookie mistake of just compiling a list of your customers' email addresses without permission. That's a one-way ticket to getting blacklisted for spam!

Segment Your List for a Custom Tasting Menu

Speak with point of sale vendor to access detailed customer purchase data for segmentation
Survey email list for key demographics like age, location, dietary needs
Create re-engagement campaigns for 3 customer groups - new, inactive, VIP

Do you serve every diner at your restaurant the same 5-course tasting menu? Of course not! You tailor the menu to your guests' tastes and preferences.

Your email list is no different. With segmentation, you can group subscribers by their common interests and create hyper-targeted campaigns for each segment.

The Power of Customer Personas in Crafting a Winning Marketing Strategy

Here are some powerful ways to segment your restaurant email list:


Group subscribers by:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Family status (families vs. no kids)

Then tailor email content and specials to align with each demographic's preferences.

Purchase History

Create groups like:

  • VIPs: Customers who visit 3+ times per month
  • Inactives: Haven't visited in past 3 months
  • New Customers: Joined email list in past month

Craft targeted win-back and re-engagement campaigns for each group. Give your VIPs sneak peeks at new menu items and exclusive deals to increase frequency.


If you collect enough data on your subscribers over time, you can segment by interests and preferences like:

  • Cuisine types
  • Dietary needs
  • Special events and holidays

Then customize offers and messaging around these specific interests for each group.

When emails are ultra-relevant to subscribers, you'll see higher open and click-through rates. It does take some upfront work to get quality data on your subscribers. But the effort pays off massively eventually through better segmentation.

7 Email Templates Every Restaurant Business Should Be Using

Craft Crave worthy Email Copy

Write down 5 enticing adjectives to describe popular dishes and menu items
Find 2-3 real customer testimonials to showcase per month
Test a personalized email for high-value customers segmented by name, preferences

You know how mouths start watering when diners first lay eyes on your menus? That's the feeling you want your email copy to evoke too.

Content FormatWord CountGoal
Welcome Email200 words or lessWarm subscriber introduction
Promotional Email100-250 wordsSpotlight deals and offers
Blog Post1000+ wordsAttract search traffic
Print Newsletter500 words per articleBuild brand awareness

Here are the ingredients every mouthwatering email needs:

1. Triggers the Senses

Paint a picture of the remarkable scents, textures, flavors, and atmosphere customers will experience. This builds craving and urgency.

πŸ‘Ž Bland Copy
Come try our new line of salads!
πŸ‘ Appetizing Copy
Our new Southwest Salads burst with smoky char-grilled corn, crisp romaine, zesty lime crema and slow-roasted black beans. Take your tastebuds on an adventure! For a limited time only.

2. Clear Call-to-Action

Every email should focus subscribers towards one clear action, like:

  • Make a reservation
  • Order takeout
  • Book a catering event

Without a strong CTA, subscribers won't know what to do next.

3. Personalized when Possible

The highest performing emails address subscribers directly by name and with customized content. Leverage what you know about each contact from past interactions and preferences.

πŸ‘Ž Impersonal Copy
Thanks for joining our email list! We can't wait to share our weekly specials with you!
πŸ‘ Personalized Copy
Thanks for joining, Alison! We noticed you ordered our Buttermilk Fried Chicken during your last visit. Keep an eye out in Thursday's email for a special Cajun Chicken special we think you'll love!

Personalization takes more effort, but results in 2-3x higher open and click rates on average.

Time Your Emails Right

I once consulted a restaurant owner who wondered why his Friday night specials email got low engagement. He sent it every Friday at 10 AM. By then, most recipients already had Friday dinner plans!

Subscriber SegmentOptimal Send DayOptimal Send Time
FamiliesTues-Thurs5-7 PM
RetireesMon-Weds10 AM-12 PM
Weekend RevelersThurs-Fri7-9 PM
Office ProfessionalsMon & Fri12-1 PM
Sending Too Many Emails - FasterCapital
Source: FasterCapital

Timing is everything in restaurant email marketing. Pay attention to:

Day of Week

  • Mondays: Recap weekend & preview week ahead
  • Tues-Weds: Announce deals and events for the coming weekend
  • Thursdays: Share new menu launches and rotating specials
  • Fridays: Last chance to book tables or order catering for the weekend
  • Saturdays: Encourage future reservations
  • Sundays: Share pics of happy customers from the weekend

Of course, adjust based on your own business trends.

Time of Day

  • Mornings (7-10 AM): Catch people as they start their days
  • Mid-Day (11 AM- 1PM): Hungry subscribers on their lunch breaks
  • Afternoons (3-5 PM): Captive commuter audience
  • Dinner times (5-7 PM): Prime impulse purchasing times
  • Night Owls (8-10 PM): West coast subscribers

Test send times to see when your subscribers are most engaged. Tools like Boomerang make this easy.

TrackEmail 1Email 2Email 3
New SubscriberWelcome messageRequest menu preferencesProvide personalized recommendations
InactiveWin-back offerPoll for feedbackBirthday or loyalty reward
Big SpendersVIP welcomeInvite to exclusive tasting25% off next visit

Track Open and Click Rates

Record rolling 3-month benchmark averages for open rate, CTR
Review metrics by segment after each send to optimize future content
Survey a sample of inactive subscribers on reasons for disengagement

Now comes my favorite part - digging into the email campaign analytics!

Reviewing your open and click-through rates after each send shows what's resonating with your subscribers. And what's flopping hard.

Benchmark Your Metrics

It's tempting to look at open and click rates in isolation and make snap judgments. But you need context.

Here are ballpark industry averages for restaurants:

Metric Average Rate Good Rate Excellent Rate
Email Open Rate 15-25% 25-40% 40%+
Click-Through Rate 2-3% 4-8% 8%+

Of course, these vary widely based on your subscriber quality, offers and more.

Track your rolling averages to benchmark success for YOUR list and offers. Watch out for any sudden drops - that likely signals an issue.

Dig Into Segment Performance

Do engaged subscriber groups like your VIPs have above-average open/click rates? How about recent subscribers?

Compare metrics across segments to learn what content and offers excite each group. Then tailor future emails based on what you discover.

Monitor Unsubscribe Rates

It's inevitable that a small % of subscribers will unsubscribe from your list each month. 1% or less per month is ideal.

If unsubscribes spike for a particular campaign, that's a red flag something is turning subscribers off. Shorten your emails, improve relevancy for each group, and confirm subscription preferences to win back subscribers.

Stay On Top of Email Deliverability

Setup a Boulevard Pro inbox placement test to uncover potential issues
Download a blacklist check tool and run email domain/IP monthly
Add unsubscribe links, preference center to next email campaign
12 Expert Tips to Improve Email Deliverability in 2023
Source: Mailmodo

You could create a digital masterpiece of an email campaign. But if it gets snagged in spam filters and never reaches inboxes, then what's the point?

Maintaining your sender reputation and deliverability should be an ongoing focus. Here are best practices to follow:

  • Keep your list clean: Immediately remove bounced email addresses so they don't hurt your sender score. Monitor abuse reports closely as well.
  • Add your address to contacts: Encourage subscribers to add your β€œFrom” address to their contacts. This signals to Gmail/Outlook you're a legitimate sender.
  • Give subscribers options: Offer 1-click unsubscribe links in each email and an email preference center. This increases trust and engagement over the long haul.
  • Monitor blacklisting: Use a blacklist monitoring tool to catch any sudden issues that could tank your deliverability overnight.
  • Personalize when possible: Segmentation and personalization signals to ISPs that you're not just blasting spam out.

I'll leave you with one final thought...

Don't Let Your Email Marketing Go Stale!

Like an exquisite dish at your restaurant, dazzling subscribers with innovative, crave worthy email campaigns requires care and constant refinement.

Don't just set your emails to autopilot! Continuously test new ideas, segment your list further, monitor metrics, and ensure excellent deliverability.

By mastering restaurant email marketing, you'll attract new guests while delighting existing loyal customers. Your bookings will be full, your tables will keep turning all night long, and your business will thrive for many years to come.

Want hands-on help creating mouthwatering email campaigns for your restaurant? Get in touch here to discuss a custom plan for your business.

Bon appΓ©tit!