These days, customers are well accustomed to receiving transactional emails from the restaurants they order from — we’re all familiar with order confirmations and email receipts.
But how else are you communicating with your customers via email, beyond the transaction?
If your answer is “not at all,” you may be missing out on an opportunity to drive more sales and build up customer loyalty for your restaurant.
Email marketing is prevalent in many industries, from technology to retail and everything in between. The restaurant industry is no different. Among the many ways one can promote one’s business, email remains one of the easiest and, frankly, cheapest methods for reaching a wide audience.
With email, you can make big announcements about your restaurant, highlight new menu items, and run promotions that get more people through the door. But before you can do all that, you first need to build up your restaurant’s email list.
In this article, we’re going to explore exactly how to do that.
Why Restaurants Need Email Lists in the First Place
There are many benefits to be gained from growing your restaurant’s email list, including (but not limited to):
- Being able to communicate directly with your customers
- Keeping your restaurant top-of-mind when it comes time to order
- Driving loyalty and repeat business (AKA more money in your pocket)
Your restaurant is a part of a community. You play a role in the local ecosystem, providing meals when people don’t have the time or opportunity to cook. You make nights special, bring families together, and play a part in the local supply chain.
Having an email list helps you grow that role in the community. Your emails can help bring your regulars back for special nights, help you sell what’s fresh in your kitchen, and bring back past customers who’ve been gone for a while. We have plenty of restaurant clients that relied on email to keep customers informed about closures and re-openings during the tumultuous early months of the pandemic.
A good email list — and of course, good email campaigns — keeps your customers engaged and interested in your restaurant while still offering comfortable ordering options. You want customers who are deciding what to eat for dinner to choose your restaurant, and those planning for an event to consider your catering, so you need to get in front of them as much as possible.
How to Grow Your Restaurant’s Email List
There are many easy ways to grow your restaurant’s email list, including:
- Leveraging your loyalty program
- Offering rewards for ordering direct or opting in
- Incorporating QR codes in your menu and asset design
- Collecting email addresses at the table
- Running an email raffle and weekly prize
- Providing guest Wi-Fi
Let’s explore each of these options in greater detail.
1. Loyalty Programs
The single best way for a restaurant to build its email list is through a loyalty program. Loyalty programs reward returning customers by giving them points and offering discounts or savings opportunities the more they order. You can gamify your program with interactive on-site games and on-prem events, or you can simply provide a steady stream of points and rewards to keep your return customers coming back time and time again.
Anyone who loves your food once will want to sign up for the savings, which means giving their email for the account. You then have an interested customer in the perfect mindset for a series of engagement emails that sweeten the pot with personalized, habit-boosting offers.
(By the way, with 9Fold’s restaurant marketing services, we design and deploy all of those email campaigns for you, so you don’t even need to lift a finger to see results. Just saying!)
2. Direct Ordering and Email Signup Forms
Third-party ordering services may open up markets, but they’re bad for restaurants trying to grow their email lists. Many third parties don’t share customer data, as they’re often more interested in marketing their own services than promoting individual restaurants. That’s why it’s important to have your own direct online ordering system and work on marketing tactics to put an emphasis on getting direct orders over of third-party orders.
During the order process, simply have customers enter their email addresses as part of the new customer signup. Create a saved account — even if you don’t have a loyalty program — that helpfully remembers each customer’s details (such as their delivery address) and keeps their email for your restaurant email list.
If you run your own restaurant website (which you really should, in general), you can also place a signup form on every page to capture even more email addresses from people who aren’t ordering right now, but plan to in the future.
3. QR Codes Throughout Your Restaurant
Now let’s talk about QR codes. These handy little squares of black ink and white spaces are surprisingly effective for getting your customers to engage with you more often.
QR codes make it easy for customers to scan a code and quickly navigate to any page on the Web or in your restaurant’s mobile app (if you have one). QR codes can take customers to your loyalty program or a sign-up page where they can opt in to your email list. You can even invite them to sign up for specific email lists, such as for ongoing deals or events.
The great thing about QR codes is that you can weave them into every element of your restaurant’s on-prem and online experience. Put them onto your website and let customers quickly sign up for what they want most. Print them on your menu, table signage, and even your receipts to make it easier for dine-in customers to sign up right there at the table.
4. Ask for Emails at the Table
Speaking of getting emails at the table, you can train your staff to build your email list. Many restaurants today are integrating the online and at-table experience; apps that help you order, digital menus, and even asking for reviews has become perfectly normal. Therefore, you can also start asking for emails at the table.
This, of course, works best when you have a good reason to ask for the email. For example, surveys can give your guests a good reason to give a few notes of feedback while also sharing their email. You can also invite your guests to sign up for something fun while they enjoy their dessert after a satisfying meal.
5. Email Raffles and Prizes
One great way to get people to sign up and share their emails is to give them a chance to win something. Your restaurant can start holding raffles and prizes that can be won by signing up with an email.
You can tie this in with the aforementioned survey (e.g. “tell us what you think and be entered for a chance to win a free dessert!”), that way they’ll be motivated to provide their real email addressed to be reached if they win the prize. Loyalty members can automatically join or sign up easily every week. New customers can sign up once or take the opportunity to join your loyalty rewards program.
Raffles and prizes are a great opportunity to ask for emails and give people a reason to want to hear from you. Once a customer has had a delicious meal and won a prize, they’re sure to be ready for more great experiences with your restaurant, both in your dining room and in their email inbox.
6. Provide Guest Wi-Fi
Finally, there is one elegant and excellent solution for any public venue: guest Wi-Fi. For guest Wi-Fi, you provide a Wi-Fi network and signal for your diners so they don’t have to use their phone data to browse the Web or use most apps.
This is a great courtesy and a surprisingly low expense to add. When a customer opens your guest Wi-Fi each time they connect to the network, they will see your landing page and be asked to log in with their email. By sharing their email, they will gain easy access to your guest Wi-Fi network and be signed up for future emails from you.
Final Thoughts on Growing Your Restaurant’s Email List
Communicating regularly with your customers before and after a meal is absolutely vital to building a lasting relationship with them. The more they hear from you, the more likely they are to think of your restaurant when it comes time to eat. But it’s equally important to make it worth their while by offering incentives and rewards for opting in.
Are you ready to grow your restaurant’s email list, your engagement with your customers, and your connection with your community? So are we. Our online ordering system comes with built-in restaurant marketing that is 100% white-glove, which means you get all the benefits of great email marketing without having to hire dedicated marketing staff or do it yourself.
Be sure to book a demo today!