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The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Email Marketing

by | Feb 17, 2020

As an entrepreneur, you know what it takes to thrive in the hyper-competitive $867 billion dollar restaurant industry. And, chances are, you already know what email marketing is. Like many digital marketing strategies, restaurant email marketing is all about getting more diners. But unlike other strategies, you don’t need a fat wallet and a savvy marketing team to reap success.

In fact, email marketing is one of the most budget-friendly marketing strategies on the planet. And, it has an average ROI of $44 for every dollar spent. That’s a 42x return! If you invest a couple of hundred bucks in an email marketing campaign, you can expect thousands in profits — but only if you create effective campaigns.

Ready to dominate restaurant email marketing in 2020? Buckle up! Let’s dive into some basics.

What is Restaurant Email Marketing? 

In simple terms, this type of marketing utilizes emails to reach a targeted audience. For restaurants, email marketing is the use of email promos and coupons to connect with diners. The average restaurant margin sits somewhere between 3-5%. Given the cost of restaurant rents for places like New York City (which can easily top $120-per-square-foot) and disruption by the ghost kitchen industry, finding budget-friendly ways to get more diners is the key to winning in 2020.

Here’s the truth: Emails aren’t going to reach every diner. In fact, 90% of diners probably won’t even look at your emails. And, we’d venture to say that social media marketing and local SEO reach a far larger audience and are more instrumental in increasing restaurant traffic. If you could pick only one marketing strategy, we would put a high amount of emphasis on local SEO.

That said, you don’t have to pick just one marketing strategy. Email marketing’s primary value driver is its price. It’s relatively inexpensive. With modern email marketing automation tools, you can send emails to thousands of diners at an affordable price. MailChimp costs about $299 a month for unlimited, personalized emails to 10,000 contacts. That’s three pennies per contact. And, you can send each contact an unlimited number of emails.

At 9Fold, we bundle email marketing into our platform — which allows you to send hyper-personalized, branded emails to customers who use your online ordering portal. This removes the added complexity (and hassle) of harvesting email addresses from every diner who steps in the door.

Meanwhile, PPC ads can cost up to $50 PER CLICK. And, Instagram ads cost around $3.50 per click. In other words, email marketing is the best price-per-contact investment on the planet. The benefits don’t end there, however.

The Benefits of Restaurant Email Marketing

We’ve already highlighted the ROI of email campaigns (somewhere around $44 per $1 spent). But, that only scratches the surface of what they can actually do for your bottom line.

  • 99% of diners check their emails daily, and 50% of them check it more than 10x per day (OptinMonster)
  • 59% of diners who look at your emails say that those emails directly influence their purchasing patterns, and 50% of them will make a purchase because of them (SaleCycle)
  • Around 60% of marketers say email marketing is their single biggest source of marketing ROI (HubSpot)
  • The average order value of an email is 3x higher than that of social media (McKinsey)
  • 57% of diners spend anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour browsing marketing emails every week (ChoozOn)
  • Email subscribers are 3x more likely to share your restaurant content on social media
  • 73% of millennials prefer businesses to contact them through email (Adestra)
  • Your marketing message is 5x more likely to be seen with email than with Facebook (Radicati)

In other words, email marketing works. Ready to set up an amazing restaurant marketing campaign that has diners scrambling to get in the door?

Your 4-Step Guide to Restaurant Email Marketing

1. Pick Your Platform(s) & Set Up Your Email Lists

The email marketing platform you pick can make-or-break your campaigns. Sure, we have an email marketing tool integrated into our online ordering portals here at 9Fold. But, we definitely don’t expect you to use ONLY one platform. Over 25% of marketers use two or more email marketing systems, and they’re dominating email conversions because of it.

Why use two?

Let’s say that you collect emails at your restaurant as part of a promotion. You can plug those into Mailchimp and deploy campaigns aimed at getting those diners to return. But, return customers aren’t your only customers. 60% of US adults order food online every single week.

Should you really use the same email tool for both audiences? How about using email tools that are designed to target separate audience types? For example, our 9Fold email marketing system lets you send high-quality emails to people who’ve ordered food through your portal. The startling truth is that “welcome” emails drive 320% more revenue than normal marketing emails.

By using separate email tools, you can leverage tools pre-designed with the right templates and configurations to reach the right audiences.

What tools do we like?

And, there are plenty more out there. If you use 9Fold, you will have access to the FullRail marketing system which directly integrates into online ordering systems and uses the customer data that you are gathering through transactions.

2. Gather Email Addresses From Diners

Now that you have a platform, you need email addresses. There are many ways restaurants can collect these.

  • In-person: You can incentivize your staff to gather emails from customers. This can be during the ordering process or as part of a promotion. For example, offer a free entree in exchange for an email address. The collection process can be even more efficient if your servers and bartenders use tablets.
  • Via your website: You can always lock content behind an email (“lead magnet”) Think about creating some recipes for your customers’ favorite foods. Or, you could have them sign up for a newsletter to get regular discounts. You can even have them trade their email address for a high-discount coupon.
  • On your online ordering portal: If your online ordering portal is robust enough to remember customer favorites and provide unique customization features for signing up, you’ll collect a ton of emails directly from online orders.
  • With social media: Again, there are plenty of ways to use social media to collect email addresses. You can set up social media contests. You can even use social media to drive people to the lead magnets on your website.

If you use all of the methods above, you should be swimming in emails. Sure, you may only collect 350 emails, especially if your restaurant is small. But, that’s ok. You don’t need 100,000 emails to take advantage of email marketing. In fact, 71% of restaurants have email lists with less than 500 emails. Remember that your email list will grow over time, and as time progresses, you’ll see the value of email campaigns.

3. Create Email Campaigns

Ok, you have several email marketing platforms and a list of emails.

It’s time to create email campaigns. Try these on for size.

  • Welcome Emails

Don’t underestimate the value of a simple welcome email. With open rates of 91% and read rates that are 42% higher than any other email type, welcome emails are the most-viewed and most-read marketing emails in the world. Here’s why: When people sign up for your newsletter and make that first online order, their interest is at its highest.

Try to personalize a welcome email with the name of the user. Personalized email subject lines have 26% higher open rates. Also, don’t be afraid to get casual. Brands that stick emojis in subject lines see 56% higher open rates.

  • Personalized Discounts

A whopping 72% of diners will open emails containing discounts. Given that 85% of Americans regularly use coupons and 75% of diners expect restaurants to offer coupons, sending personalized discounts is one of the easiest ways to get higher open rates and more business. If you can personalize these offers to include the types of food each customer likes, you’ll have achieved the Golden Ratio of restaurant email marketing.

To get personal, segment your campaigns by what diners have purchased in the past. Restaurants that segment campaigns see a revenue increase of up to 760%. Also, CTRs (click-through rates) of segmented campaigns are about 100% higher than that of non-segmented campaigns.

It can be easy to think of coupons as lost revenue. After all, customers with coupons pay less. However, discounts can be a driving force in diner acquisition. A study by Valassis shows that 32% of diners choose meals based on “price offers,” and coupon-using customers will visit a restaurant 7x per month instead of the usual 4.8. Also,  40% of diners feel smarter when they use email coupons, and 65% of people will spend MORE MONEY to be able to use a coupon offer.

So, don’t underestimate the power of discounts and don’t be afraid to send out those “Buy Two, Get One Free” emails.

  • Online Ordering Followups

Ordering food from your online portal is about as intent-driven as a customer can possibly get.

Yet, you may never see the online ordering crowd at your physical restaurant location. 24% of Gen X diners order online more than 3x per week. So, making sure that you follow up with them via email is a crucial component of maintaining this digital diner base.

Want to nail online order followups? Check out our email software that’s baked-in to our online ordering system. With our portal, retargeting online users has never been easier.

4. Set Up Automated Workflows

What’s better than sending out fresh, engaging emails to your customers using segmented lists?

Getting it done automatically.

Email workflows let you automatically send out emails to customers based on pre-configured criteria. Did someone just sign up for your newsletter? They should get an automatic “welcome” email. Did someone just order piping hot pizza from your delivery portal? You should be able to send them a coupon ASAP. If you’re using a portal like 9Fold, it should let you set up these workflows. Also, the 9Fold online ordering portal comes equipped with email workflows that target both former and regular customers.

That said, here’s the shocking truth: 90% of restaurant managers don’t segment or automate their email lists!

Whatever you do, don’t send emails manually or send the same email to 10,000 customers. You have options. Set up those workflows and watch the sales roll in.

How 9Fold Can Help You Leverage Restaurant Email Marketing to Reach Your Core Audience

Do you have your own online ordering system? 70% of your diners would rather order directly from you than from 3rd party delivery apps. And, when you use 3rd party apps, you don’t get ownership of your email lists and marketing campaigns. Don’t throw away gold bars to score some silver coins. Check out 9Fold’s incredible online ordering system that’s jam-packed with features like email automation for online orders.

Ready to embrace online ordering mania without handing your checkbook over to an app? Contact us for a free demo today.

Own a restaurant? Let’s chat.

Learn how 9Fold can help streamline your takeout operations and get you more commission-free orders!