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Restaurant Email Marketing Tips, Tricks and Best Practices

Restaurant Email Marketing Tips, Tricks and Best Practices

In the age of social media, restaurant email marketing might seem old-fashioned, but it is still the best way to deliver targeted and personalized offers, announcements and messages directly to the people who want to hear from you most—your loyal customers. 

In this post, we’ll cover:

Advanced Guide to Restaurant Marketing

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Restaurant email marketing terms

There are a lot of terms and acronyms specific to email marketing, but these are the ones that will be most important to you as a restaurant owner. These insights will tell how your emails are performing and help you implement some of the email best practices below.

  • Bounce rate: Emails that do not make it into the recipient’s inbox. They could have deleted that email account, their inbox could be full or a number of other reasons.
  • Acceptance rate: The number of emails that were delivered to the recipients (not bounced back). This doesn’t mean the email landed in the inbox, as it includes emails filtered into the spam folder or a promotions tab.
  • Open rate: The percentage of recipients who open the email.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of people who clicked on your email—tied to the number of recipients, regardless of whether they opened the email or not.
  • Click-to-open rate (CTOR): The percentage of people who clicked on your email, tied to the number of people who opened the email.

Over the shoulder photo of a person looking at their ipad. On the screen are multiple graphs and charts.


Restaurant email marketing best practices

Build your email list

The first step to restaurant email marketing is to generate a list of contacts. To build your list as quickly as possible, here are a few tips:

  • Offer an incentive for guests to add themselves to the list, like a discount or free item on their next visit.
  • Have a sign up sheet at your takeout counter so guests can sign up while they wait for their orders.
  • Put a postcard inside the check presenter for dine-in guests to sign up.
  • Add an easy-to-find link or form on your website for email subscribers.
  • Include the email subscription link on your social media accounts.

Welcome your customers

Eight out of 10 customers expect to receive a welcome email after they sign up for a mailing list. It’s the first interaction your business has with your new subscriber and it’s worth introducing your brand. 

Sending a welcome email allows you to give new customers a positive perception of your restaurant before even entering the building. With hungry diners doing more and more research before they decide where they want to dine, this is a powerful way to sway them in your direction.

Don’t overwhelm your customers’ inboxes

Open rates for restaurant marketing emails are some of the highest compared to other industries, meaning your customers really do want to hear from you. They also trust that you’ll only send a marketing email when there’s something truly worth sharing. If you start bombarding them with too many emails, they’ll be sure to unsubscribe quickly.

Don’t just send an email because you feel like you have to stick to some arbitrary schedule—send it when you have something important, unique, or exciting to share. 

Send your restaurant marketing emails at the optimal times

There have been a lot of studies done on the best and worst times to send marketing emails, and the data varies greatly depending on who you ask. The best thing any business can do is to test out sending emails at different days and times. Then, keep track of your open rates and clicks (more information on that below) and see what days perform best for you.

A person with blond hair in a light blue shirt and dark blue apron stands in a restaurant dining room. They're smiling and looking down at an iPad in their hands.

Write a click-worthy subject line

Getting customers to open the email is the first step. The trick to email subject lines is grabbing their attention with language that won’t get you sent to the spam folder. You also want to keep it short (between 35-50 characters), since that is the limit for many email clients before the tail end of the subject line is cut off.

Basic email marketing structure

To capture your guest’s attention, an email should have three basic elements. If you’re using an email marketing tool (like the ones listed below), the templates you choose will have this structure set up for you.

  1. Headline: Encourage the reader to keep scrolling with an eye-catching headline. It should be different from the subject line, but related in some way so as not to confuse them.
  2. Body copy: This is the “meat” of your email, where all the important information lives. Be sure to still keep things sweet and simple, as attention spans for reading emails are fairly low.
  3. Call to action (CTA): Try to include a call to action in every email. This can be a normal link, but people are more inclined to click on a button with a short command (the call to action button). This can be whatever action you want them to take, like “Reserve a Table Now,” “Order online,” “View the new menu” or “Get 15% off.”

Personalize your messaging

Customers want to frequent small businesses as a way of supporting their community and neighbors. Put a human face on your business by including a personal note from the owner, by featuring a star employee or having the executive chef write to inform them about exciting menu changes.

Use high-quality images to entice hungry readers

Photos of your new menu item or a haul from a recent farmer’s market trip can be the difference between someone just reading your email or clicking the “order now” button. You don’t have to hire a professional photographer to get great photos, either—just make sure you have some natural indirect lighting, a relatively new smartphone camera and brush up on some composition tips from the pros.

Over the shoulder shot of a person taking a photo of a plate of food with a hamburger and french fries on their smartphone.

Include contact information

Sure, customers can find the contact information on your website, but why should the reader have to click through? You have their attention now, so it’s time to grab their business as quickly as possible.

Try listing your phone number prominently in the header or just below your logo, with a link to your website, social networks, online ordering and/or reservations link. If the email isn’t too long, you can include these details at the bottom, just make sure they are clearly featured. If space allows, including your hours and address is also a nice touch.

Be aware of email marketing laws

There are a number of laws in the UK, Canada and the state of California that aim to protect consumers from predatory or spam marketing. A good restaurant email marketing program should help you to avoid making any unintentional mistakes, but it’s good to be aware of the rules before getting started.


Examples of restaurant email marketing tools

There are hundreds of email marketing tools available, but not all of them work for small, independent businesses. Below are some top picks for quality programs that won’t stretch your budget too thin.


Mailchimp is a favorite amongst small-to-medium-sized businesses, freelancers and artists. Their free account allows you to store up to 2,000 contacts and send up to 10,000 emails per month. From there you can upgrade as your business grows, with higher-tier plans ranging anywhere from $9-299/month.


Their free plan only allows for 250 emails per month, but upgrading to unlimited emails is just $13 per month, and also comes with advanced support, reporting and other features. For their highest plan, which includes all the bells and whistles, you’ll need to contact one of their sales reps for pricing.


While there is no free option, you can try Flodesk free for 30 days, no credit card required. As a newer player on the market, they only have a single option which you can pay for monthly ($38) or upfront for the year ($418, a savings of $38 over the course of the year). A nice feature they offer is their Flodesk University, with video lessons from experts on how to create great emails using their software. 


A leader in marketing, Hubspot is used by small businesses, Fortune 500 companies and nearly every other type of business inbetween. While their paid accounts can be very pricey, especially for small businesses, their free account includes email templates, up to 2,000 sends a month, contact management and post-send analytics. This would be a better choice for a larger restaurant group that may want to test things out before diving into one of Hubspot’s more robust offerings. Like Flodesk, they also offer free marketing lessons online via the Hubspot Academy.

Looking for a tech partner to help you create even more buzz about your restaurant? Talk to one of our experts to find out how Lightspeed can help. 

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