The restaurant business in Texas is big business. Just in the Houston area, there are more than 10,000 restaurants with the average Houstonian dining out more than residents of any other city—4.1 times per week, compared with the national average of 3.1. Still, the average meal in Houston costs restaurant goers on average $5 less than the national average.1 So how do you connect with patrons and prospects cost effectively and drive them into your restaurant?

Did you know 61 percent of consumers enjoy receiving promotional emails weekly?2

Email marketing continues to be an effective way to connect with customers across industry segments. There are some nuances to marketing for the restaurant industry, but email remains a top tool. Used strategically, restaurants can reach consumers who prefer email communications2 over other communication methods. In this post, we explore 5 tips for email marketing for restaurants.

  1. Build your database of loyal customers so you can communicate with patrons how and when they wish to receive news. Remind patrons to sign up while dining with you. A simple table tent like the one below can often be enough to boost your subscriber list.
  1. If your restaurant has more than one location, segment your customers and email them location-specific promotions. For instance, one restaurant may be located near a popular neighborhood event (such as the Memorial Villages Independence Day Parade) or a large affair that draws a crowd like the annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston. Tailor emails to local residents and professionals who may be involved in those happenings.

Consider promotions like these:

  • Cool off with our Independence Margarita after enjoying the Memorial Villages Independence Day Parade.
  • Attending OTC this year? Bring your prospects to our restaurant for delicious dinners and drinks! Our exceptional customer service will also be a positive reflection on your business.

3. Partner with local schools by hosting fundraisers. We recommend drafting a template email with your program’s details that can be sent to local Parent Teacher Organizations/Associations (PTO/PTA), which are often keen to fundraise. Offer to donate 5 percent to 10 percent of the proceeds on all dinners on a specific date, when guests mention they are supporting the designated school. By hosting one school per evening, your staff can easily track the responses and additional sales generated. Many restaurants find this type of event to draw strong crowds and help schools to boost morale. While families are visiting your restaurant, encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter. To increase the number of subscribers even further, offer to draw one lucky winner from the new subscribers that evening to receive a gift card to your restaurant (more return business).

These school partnerships are well received when held early in the school year when families are excited for the return of the school year as well as in January before the spring activities heat up.

  1. Send timely and seasonal emails that drive foot traffic. Use emails to remind patrons of your seasonal dishes. Whether a promotion of the Schnitzel Sandwich to celebrate Oktoberfest or ice-cold beverages on your patio during warmer months, email your customers with seasonal offerings that are fresh. These present opportunities to stay in front of your customer base.

Similarly, I love receiving a “Happy Birthday” email from one of the restaurants that I frequent. I eagerly open the email to see if I also will get an offer to try a new dish. The sample below is an email I received last month from King’s Bierhaus to celebrate my birthday with a half-off coupon for an appetizer AND a free streudel. Fun!

I think this is a smart offer because I’m likely to buy my own meal once I’m already at this restaurant so King’s Bierhaus has only “given away” half of an appetizer. Additionally, if I’m celebrating my birthday, I am likely to bring my family and friends along, leading to more sales for the restaurant. This offer also benefits the restaurant because there is a clear expiration date near the bottom and explanation that the offer is only valid on its own (not in combination with any other offer). To further protect the restaurant from abuse of the coupon, it also includes a promo code (that I’ve not included in the graphic here). Yes, there are simple ways to protect restaurants from those wanting to abuse good offers.

Ready to start? Ask your newsletter subscribers to share their birthday when they sign up for your emails. This is an easy email promotion to encourage repeat trips to your restaurant.

  1. Determine your frequency of email distribution and stay consistent with regular reminders. Monthly emails sent to your current subscribers is a powerful yet low-cost way to cultivate relationships with repeat buyers. While coupons can often get a customer in the door the first time, it’s ALL your qualities that attract diners to return again and again. Email your patrons to remind them of your top chef’s latest creation, the latest award your restaurant has received and this month’s entrée to try. Include a different testimonial in each email to show subscribers that other locals love your eatery and they should, too.

If you found this post interesting, you might also enjoy reading “Why Is Public Relations Strategic?