Is email marketing part of your recipe for success?

It takes more than great food to get customers into your restaurant. It also takes a healthy serving of email marketing.

Email marketing is the most effective way to incentivize your best customers to spend more money with you, win back diners who haven’t been to your business in a while, and attract people that have never visited. For example, 44 percent of people check their email for a deal from a company they know, whereas only 4 percent will go to Facebook.

It may come as a surprise that social media is not the preferred way most consumers shop for promotions and deals. Research compiled by Campaign Monitor reveals that 72 percent of people would rather receive brand content through email, while just 17 percent look to social media platforms.

With that in mind, here’s some tips on how to leverage email marketing to keep your restaurant busy year-round.

Collect email addresses

To connect with potential diners, you’ll first need to collect their email information. Embed an email signup form on your website. Sweeten the deal by offering customers that opt-in a free appetizer or desert that they can use the first time they eat with you. Additionally, you can do a drawing for a free meal and ask people to enter by leaving their business card.

Also ask for email information when people order online and make reservations. And when they book a table, ask if it’s a special occasion so you can send birthday and anniversary emails later. Also print your email signup URL on all receipts.

Make your words count

Below are some topics to include in emails:

  • Highlight new and seasonal menu items, specials and themed menu nights
  • Tell the story of how your restaurant got started
  • Introduce subscribers to the restaurant owners, chefs and staff members
  • Give tips on food preparation
  • Show off interviews, reviews and positive coverage
  • Celebrate your customers
  • Provide discounts, deals and coupons
  • Ask customers for reviews and to send in ideas for new menu items

Another idea is embedding a video that shows how you create a recipe in your kitchen. On this surface, this may seem like you’re giving away secrets, but most people don’t visit your restaurant because they are incapable of cooking for themselves. They come for the food, convenience, atmosphere, and quality service. Recipes get people thinking about your restaurant, and eating there.

Emails should always point people to your website and information about your location, operating hours, how to order online and make reservations, as well as details about private dining or catering, gift cards and loyalty program. In addition, don’t forget to create an irresistible subject line that compels people to open your emails, otherwise it will be dead in the water.

Timing is everything

Develop a predictable email cadence without being spammy. Today, 87 percent of customers prefer to receive restaurant email marketing messages at least monthly – and 63 percent want them weekly. For a happy medium, send 3-4 emails per month. The time and day you send email marketing matters, too. Research finds that late mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best time to send emails. The worst day and time are Sunday afternoon.

Pay attention to email marketing analytics to see which emails work best and when you’re getting the most opens and clicks, then use this information to tweak your approach.

About Heartland

Heartland provides entrepreneurs with software-driven technology to manage and grow their business. The company serves more than 400,000 merchants nationwide, delivering trusted solutions for payment, payroll and human resources, point of sale, customer engagement and lending. Heartland is a leading industry advocate of transparency, merchant rights and security. Heartland is a Global Payments Company (NYSE: GPN). Learn more at