Woman working on a laptop with a cheeseburger and french fries
Email Marketing

Restaurant Email Marketing #3: 5 Tips for Better Emails

Welcome to Part 3 of my Restaurant Email Marketing series! Check out Part 1 and Part 2 to get caught up.

At this point in the series, we’re ready to chat about your regularly scheduled email content.

What you write will vary widely from business to business. But how you write and reach your list can follow some best practices to maximize responses and minimize unsubscribes.

Think about your own email inbox.

Chances are that you’ve subscribed to a few different email newsletters. There are some that you open right away, and some that you let languish in your inbox until you either delete them or mark them as “read” without ever opening.

What differentiates the two?

Here are five email marketing tips for the restaurant industry to get your emails noticed and added to the recipient’s “must open” list.

1. Write to one person

Here’s a common problem with “business writing” — the corporate jargon-bot that lives within each of us rears its mechanical head.

We try to sound professional, but we strip our writing of all personality and warmth in favor of ten-dollar words that we’d never use in real life. It’s an odd phenomenon, but one that few of us are immune to.


man writing a personal card by hand

The best solution? Don’t write to “the list.” Write to one specific person on that list.

This is your ideal customer. If you could put her in a cloning machine and make 10,000 of her, all your problems would be solved.

If it helps, give her a name and a face. You could even pick someone you know, and pretend you’re writing to her.

It sounds silly, but it works. Write to ONE person, and see how much more personable and likeable your emails get.

2. Make it scannable

While I wish that my readers savored my every word, I’m a realist. I know that most people are scanning my content.

That’s why I make it easier on them by making it easily scannable.

That means:

  • Breaking up text with subheadings
  • Using short paragraphs
  • Using bulleted or numbered lists
  • Adding images
  • Using bold and italics.

The more you help guide them down the page, the more value they’ll get out of your content, and the more likely that they’ll take the action you want them to take.

Case in point — this blog post. Give it a scan. You’ll see everything I mentioned above.

3. Write with the customer in mind

If you scan through the emails (and websites) of most restaurants, you’ll find a lot of “we” talk.

We make the best…
We have been serving the area since…
We have new menu items…

To be blunt — no one cares.

They want to know what’s in it for them. What will I feel like when I visit your restaurant or venue? What are you doing for me?

Reframing your email content with the customer as the focus can do wonders for your email marketing — for all marketing, really.

Here’s an example from a local coffee shop Austin Java, doing it right:

“Our Coffee for a Cause is a single origin Ethiopian blend with hints of fruitiness. It’s got bold rich tones to help you get through these #WFH days. Plus, you get a super cool AJ mug — winning!

Email marketing tip from Austin Java

This message starts out informational. But then it tells you what’s in it for you — a tasty caffeine boost, PLUS a sweet free mug.

Focusing on the customer doesn’t have to be flashy or complicated. Just make sure you’re answering the question, “What’s in it for them?”

An easy way to check — do a search for the words weus, and our. Then do a search for you. The you’s should outnumber the we’s.

4. Keep it brief

Most of the emails that I never get around to reading are just too long.

They could be chock-full of great information and sparkling witticisms. But I don’t have all the time in the world, so I skip them. That’s why email marketing should usually be on the shorter side.

Provide the news, updates, or promotion you want to share, and then get outta there.

Now, this email marketing tip doesn’t necessarily apply to all industries. Some email newsletters can provide great value in long-form writing.

But for the restaurant and hospitality industries, customers are generally not looking to read essays. They want deals and quick updates.

5 email marketing tips to help restaurants and event venues connect with their readers and avoid the dreaded unsubscribe!

5. Personalize it

The more personalized and niche your email marketing efforts, the better results you will get.
Customization and segmentation can lead to a 760% increase in revenue!

Instead of sending one email blast to your entire list, send focused emails to smaller sections of your email list.

This is where e-commerce has the benefit over the restaurant and hospitality businesses. Online retailers can easily track spending patterns, online behavior, and demographics.

But since restaurant and event customers usually interact in person rather than online, it can be a challenge to get the data you need to segment your list. 

Here’s one way you can do it.

In one of your early emails (probably as part of your Welcome Series), ask for some more info about the subscriber. With a quick survey, you could ask:

  • Do you usually dine-in, or order takeout?
  • What is your favorite menu item?
  • When is your birthday?
  • Where do you live? (Especially helpful if you have multiple locations.)

You can then use the data to segment your list.

You can send an automated Happy Birthday email, for example, to everyone whose birthday is in the coming month. Takeout customers could get a focused email about new to-go options or promotions.

There are other ways to automate your segmentation, beyond a survey.

You can add customers who opt in to your email list while ordering online to an “online ordering” email segment. And if you have an in-store Wi-Fi platform like ZenReach that captures email addresses, you can add them to the segment of dine-in customers.

Segmenting can get complicated, but there’s no need to dive into the deep end. Just start with a couple groups, and build up from there.

Bonus Tip: Seek inspiration

A great way to see what works and what doesn’t is to sign up for other industry email lists. 

Visit your favorite restaurant websites and look for an email sign up form. Analyze their subject lines, content length, and layout to see what resonates with you as a customer. Use those ideas as inspiration in your own email marketing. But never copy!

In next week’s post, we’ll talk about some technical things you can do to increase your open rate and click through rate.

And sign up for Shift Notes! (→ on desktop, ↓ on mobile.)

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