Restaurant Marketing: 5 List-Building Ideas

Restaurant Email Signup FormIn previous articles on restaurant marketing, we’ve floated a number of content ideas for your emails, like sending birthday emails and giving a behind-the-scenes look at your chef and kitchen.

The thing is, these ideas (and others that we’ll continue to publish here) don’t do much good if you don’t have any potential diners to send to!

Just as with any other business, a restaurant’s email marketing campaign has to start by getting subscribers.

So where/how can restaurant owners build their lists?

On Your Website

As part of the research for this post, I looked at a number of restaurant websites, and was struck by the fact that most of them did not offer any email signup at all.

This is a no-brainer for any business. Get a signup form on your website already!

Restaurants in particular should put a signup form in at least two places:

  • The homepage
  • Their menu page (if you have separate pages for lunch/dinner, all the better – get the form on each of them)

Ideally, you should have a signup form on your other pages as well, but your home page and menu/s are a good start.

In Person At Your Restaurant

Comment cards have been popular for years at restaurants.

Include an email signup on those cards and bring them with the check!

Be sure to bring a pen with the check, too – even before you know if the customer is paying by credit card. That way, they can pass the time (while the server brings them their change or runs their credit card) by signing up to your email list! :)

With Takeout/Delivery Orders

Insert a card promoting your email campaign with your takeout and delivery orders.

Simply put your site URL on it and tell people to go there to subscribe.

Or, for a twist have them fill out a form on the card and bring it in on their next visit (this could work well where you’re offering a signup incentive like a coupon or half-price menu item).

On Menus and Other Promotional Pieces

Do you offer paper menus for customers to take away? Or send direct mail pieces?

If so, mention your emails on them.

As with the takeout cards, you may want to have people fill out something in person and then bring it back to your restaurant – that way, not only do they not have to wait until they’re at their computer to sign up, but they have an extra incentive to come back (to drop off the card and get whatever bonus you’re offering new members)!

When People Make Reservations

You don’t have to wait for customers to finish their meals before offering an email signup. Heck, you don’t even have to wait for them to arrive at your restaurant!

Someone making a reservation is identifying him/herself as a customer, someone especially interested in your restaurant (compared to say, someone who happens to visit your website but is not yet committed to coming in and dining with you).

Sites like OpenTable know this, and offer diners the chance to sign up to restaurants’ email lists when making reservations.

If you take reservations on your site, you should be doing so, too. It helps drive repeat business.

In theory, you should also be doing this when taking reservations by phone, but to be honest I haven’t quite worked out when during the reservation I would ask that, or how I would word it (your suggestions are quite welcome here!).

What Other List-Building Opportunities Do Restaurants Have?

In a future article on restaurant marketing I’ll talk about incentives you can use to make list-building easier.

For now, though, let’s come up with some other ideas that restaurant owners can use to build their email lists.

Share your ideas and suggestions below!

For more information on email marketing for restaurants, view our complete Email Marketing for Restaurants Guide.