February 8, 2021

Tips to Level Up Your Restaurant’s Email Marketing Strategy

By Sam Littlefield

Have you seen the studies claiming humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish? Humans (and goldfish) are rudely underestimated by this research. After all, Schitt’s Creek held our collective attention for a record-breaking number of hours in 2020. So, why do we tolerate endless TV time but delete emails in seconds?

Well, emails are boring! And Schitt’s Creek is hilarious.

Okay, it’s not quite that simple. But the point is, your customers are consumed by personal and work emails (not to mention other content, like social media) 24/7. They don’t have the time or bandwidth for restaurant LTO emails on top of all that.

Unless your email is exceptional, there’s a good chance it’ll be deleted. And if your messages are repeatedly ignored, your restaurant won’t be top of mind come dinnertime.

The good news? You can make your emails as enticing as your entrees with our email marketing strategy best practices.

Broaden Email Copy Beyond LTOs

Broaden Email Copy Beyond LTOs

As a restaurant marketer, you’re checking your sales numbers nonstop. It makes sense that your marketing emails are mostly promotional since LTOs do tend to spike sales quickly. But know this, every restaurant is sending tons of these same types of offers.

Yes, Americans love a good deal. There’s absolutely an important place for your BOGO campaign and your free guac (praise) Tuesdays. LTOs really matter. Still, at a certain point, if that’s all diners are getting from you and from countless other eateries, they’ll just hit delete knowing they’ll see something similar tomorrow.

This doesn’t even take into consideration filtering within email providers. You’re probably well-versed in Gmail tabs: Primary, Social, Promotions, Forums, and Updates. LTOs automatically land in the Promotions category. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but balancing your content strategy so your emails do sometimes end up in your readers’ Primary folders will differentiate you from your competition.

Content-Based Email Ideas Restaurants Can Use Now

You get the picture — email type should vary so you can stand out in the sea of restaurant LTOs. But finding inspiration for non-LTO email copy isn’t easy, and it often requires more work than a straightforward promo.

Here’s a list of non-promotional email ideas to get you thinking about Primary Gmail tab material you can leverage:

  • Gamification: Turn your next email campaign into an interactive game. Readers flip burger patties without letting them drop off the grill, or hunt for the perfect pizza toppings. We’re not game designers, but we do know everyone loves friendly competition. Your last email in the campaign can be an LTO that rewards winners with a free meal.
  • At-home fun: If you want to be relevant at a time when we’re all stuck at home, provide activities for the whole family. How about instructions to build your own signature sundaes with the contents of your refrigerator? Sure, you want customers to buy your ice cream, but upping your brand awareness with a memorable email will ultimately help you.
  • Cultural immersion: A journey around the parts of the world where you source your ingredients is certainly a unique email experience. Take advantage of the rich heritage that informs your foods to entice your readers.
  • Story time: Are you a family-owned business? What’s your restaurant’s founding story? Share any touching narratives in an email. Providing feel-good context will make your customers happy they patronize your restaurant.

Remember, non-LTO emails might not yield instant sales results. Email marketing is a long game. What Primary tab emails will do is increase brand awareness and loyalty, and set you apart from other restaurants. Balance promotional emails with more content-based copy for email marketing success.

Optimize Emails for Every Screen Siz

Optimize Emails for Every Screen Size

Time spent on mobile was up 20% year-over-year in 2020 at 4.2 hours per day. And yet, too many emails aren’t built responsively. No more zooming in to read text on your phone or searching for a misaligned CTA in the margins. You can forget capturing users’ attention with compelling copy. Users won’t even read your email if it doesn’t immediately look correct on their phones.

One way to ensure your emails are rendering well on mobile right now is to check them on as many screen sizes as possible. It’s not enough to use an online email tester that shows you how it thinks your email will look on a phone. It’s also not enough to send a preview of your email to one iPhone and call it a day.

Assessing email design on so many varying, ever-changing devices is a lot of legwork. But we promise the extra effort will go a long way to increase email engagement in our mobile-centric world.

Rethink Conventional Restaurant Email CTAs

The notorious CTA. They’re absolutely central to restaurant email marketing because they drive food orders. But getting people to actually click is a serious challenge.

We see three common roadblocks to your CTAs leading to high email clickthrough rates:

1. They’re too small. CTAs should provide clear next steps for your customers. Emphasis on clear. Don’t make it obnoxiously large, but your CTA should be noticeable and readable on all devices.

2. They’re too generic. Let’s not beat around the bush here: every restaurant uses an “Order Now” CTA. It’s stale, as are its cousins “Book Now” and “Reserve a Table.” When you can, opt for CTA text that’s playful and unique to really stop readers in their tracks.

3. They’re in the wrong spot. Just like CTA text, CTA placement can be too generic. Your CTA doesn’t have to live in one spot at the bottom center of your email copy. Maybe it makes sense as the first thing readers see instead. Be strategic with CTA placement, and change it up with different emails.

When in Doubt, Don’t Press Send

To sum it all up, the theme of this article is intentionality. Be intentional with your emails, from their copy to their CTAs. Too many restaurants send emails for the sake of sending something. Because they know they have to engage their customers via email, but they don’t actually know what to say.

If you don’t have anything to say yet, it’s okay (and advisable) to pause the action for some planning. Your customers won’t miss you if you go a week between emails some of the time. What will your customers notice? Truly unique, engaging messages they look forward to and can’t help but engage with. Emails that keep your restaurant on their radar when it’s time for their next meal.