Email Marketing: Is your restaurant utilising email to retain customers?

“Come back soon” you say as the customer hands back their bill with a smile… but will they come back?

email marketing

We’d love to think that the great food and friendly service will pull customers back in again and again but in reality, in an increasingly saturated marketplace, it’s becoming harder to ensure that it’s your restaurant that the customers are flocking to. 

As an independent restaurant, email marketing is an increasingly helpful way to remind customers that you’re still there and that your food is just as good as last time they ate there. Without the big bucks marketing campaigns and your branding on every high street it can be difficult to keep your name in the spotlight, but email is one way that can help give a little wave to those that have stopped by before.

Now obviously, before the customers come flooding in because of your email campaigns there are a few things to take into consideration which could stop you in your tracks without proper planning- things like GDPR, privacy policies, sending too many or too few emails, and just having your emails ignored, to name but a few- we’ll be able to walk you through those areas and even worry about them for you if you’ve chosen email marketing as one of our restaurant marketing add-ons!

Collecting customers’ email addresses

So first things first, where do we get these email addresses from? These are people that have visited your premises on one or maybe even multiple occasions, so why don’t we know more about them by now?

It’s 2019, and let’s be honest, everyone has an email address, it is probably the least intrusive piece of personal data that a customer can give you, knowing they still have full control of unsubscribing if they don’t like what’s in their inbox, so this is really the minimum that customers should be handing over along with their money. 

Here are a few of our top tips on how to capture your customers’ email data…

1.    Create an email opt in on your website

This is pretty straight forward, with customers choosing to actively opt in to your email marketing through a link or form on your website. This could also be a tick box added to booking forms so that customers can sign up whilst they’re already filling their details in.

2. Promote a competition

The best way to do this would be to run a competition through social media, with the entry criteria including opting in to receive your emails. This will then not only reach your current clients but even new ones who haven’t dined with you before.

3.    Sign up to use your restaurant’s Wi-Fi

Although frowned upon, a lot of us like to use our phones or even laptops in restaurants and coffee shops. The chances are your customers will now expect you to have free Wi-Fi, so why not create a login that means the customer needs to provide their email address to be able to benefit from your Wi-Fi!

4.    Be proactive!

49% of consumers say they would like to receive weekly promotional emails from their favourite brands (Statista, 2017), in this instance it may be a cheeky discount every now and then, they may be interested in knowing when your menus change or what events you have coming up so they can plan their next visit accordingly. Publicise the benefits to them on your menu, specials board, or receipts so that it is visible to them throughout their dining experience and ask them at the end of their meal whether they’d like to sign up for news and offers.

5.    Encourage your subscribers to share

Once you have a reasonable list of subscribers, it’s always worth adding a call to action for them to ‘email to a friend’ or share the email on social media. This is an easy way for customers to share the great ‘exclusive’ deals you offer and will not only mean others might redeem the offer, but it may also mean that they sign up if you’ve included a ‘subscribe’ call to action on the email too.

email marketing

 Why is email marketing useful?

So let’s talk about the benefits of email marketing for your restaurant and the styles that we can use…
First and foremost, it is the quickest way to get in front of potentially thousands of customers with minimal cost. To put the value for money into perspective, on average, for every £1 spent on email marketing the return on investment is around £28 (DMA, 2018), this makes it the most cost-effective form of marketing to previous customers.

We understand that sending an email campaign isn’t completely fool proof, who knows if it’ll land in their spam folder or if it will get opened? BUT, at least with email we can track who’s seen your email, who’s acted on that email and how much value the email was really worth- all at a much smaller cost than a direct mail and with twice as much information, meaning that next time around we can make predictions on the success of the campaign with much less guesswork. 

 What to put in your email

OK, so your email has arrived in the customer’s inbox and because you’ve used a great subject line they’ve opened it! 

Now we need to include interesting content and a strong call to action. A good call to action will mean that the reader is a lot more likely to complete the goal that you have set out for the email to achieve, such as clicking through to your website’s booking page or liking your social media accounts, ultimately making your brand more prominent in their eyes. 

Your content and call to action can incentivise your customers to come back and dine again. You could include basic deals and discount such as ‘Use the link in this email to book for 15% off of your bill’, ‘try this week’s special!’ or even just include a coupon to show their server prior to ordering their meal for an exclusive discount or a free glass of wine. A personalised Happy Birthday email is always a winner, by offering a small discount for a short time period this not only creates urgency, but it can also influence them to book a table for their birthday meal. 

These are simple, tried and tested quick wins to draw those lost or unengaged customers back with a gentle reminder and an incentivised nudge, who doesn’t love a special offer!

Using emails to gain feedback

Following up either an online order or a booking that was made through your website is a fantastic way to gain valuable customer feedback as this is a quick way to reach your customers before the memory of their evening has faded. The best way to do this would be an email to signpost the customer to your Google reviews, as the more authentic and positive reviews you have the higher you will appear on the Google search engine results, even if you gain negative reviews a well-thought out and sincere response can still work out positively for your brand (this is also something we can help with on our response package!).

review feedback

Dependant on the size of your establishment, you may want to set this up as an auto response to the type of action they are taking. If they have booked, maybe implement an auto response email for the day after their scheduled reservation to ask how their whole experience was; if they ordered food online then possibly send an email a few hours after their order was delivered so that their meal is still fresh in their mind. 

This feedback can both improve your restaurant by gaining points to improve on, as well as improve your reputation and online search rankings. If you find that people aren’t leaving feedback, giving an incentive for this can work wonders and mean the customer may come back purely based on that!


It can be a little overwhelming to know how to create an effective and successful email campaign, but we can do all of that for you! In our email package we will create and send tailored emails to your customer database on your behalf and give feedback on the campaign, saving you the hassle and giving you results! Our customers with the email package have seen great results with above industry-average open rates of up to 58% and click rates of 21%, with bookings off the back of it.

Author: Nathan Pound