Restaurant Marketing Tips: Beyond Coupons

Restaurant TableHow can email help restaurants best capitalize on a dining market while the local fast food joint pump out millions of burgers faster and cheaper?

As the first of a series, in this article I’ll offer advice on how quality oriented restaurants can use email marketing to increase their profits through cultivating a base of regular customers, something that could benefit a business of any type.

Return Customers Make the Difference

During my late teenage years, I started my first job at a restaurant, mostly because I needed steady employment while starting college. I was also interested in cooking on the side, and my parents liked the idea of my learning how to increase my food to mess ratio in their kitchen.

During my tenure, I worked with a few chefs (who were also the owners) and learned how important it is to draw customers back in. Getting a customer in the door can really cost a pretty penny when you consider the price of print advertisement.

Meanwhile, by cultivating a regular customer base, restaurants:

  • lower the cost / visit ratio
  • get free, effective advertisement by word of mouth

This is easier said than done, however. A good restaurant covers the food and the experience, but people are busy and there’s lots of restaurants in most towns. People like to try different things, so you can’t rely entirely on their own initiative to return.

So what is a restaurant to do? Print more coupons in the local paper that cost money and lower profitability?

The Common Approach

I still make messes in my own kitchen, but I’ve left the real food making to the pros. Since then, I’ve worked with AWeber on helping clients optimize their email campaign results.

I’ve seen a lot of customers fixating on price and giving sales pitches that focus on it. In coming up with ideas, it seems natural to start with what hits your subscribers’ pockets. For restaurants, we find coupons and specials in campaigns: weekly specials, birthday specials, valentine’s day specials, and so on, and so on…

Coupons are a great way to provide a particular of incentive for a visit to a restaurant, but remember that if all customers are looking for in a restaurant is value in a calories per dollar sense, they’ll choose the fast food joint every single time.

Beyond Coupons

What really makes a restaurant special? These USPs (unique selling points) are the points that should be highlighted in an email campaign. In helping a restaurant write its messages, I might ask them:

  • Why are your desserts the best thing since Tiramisu?
  • Is your wait staff always standing by, politely waiting to pour that next glass of cellared wine?
  • How experienced is your chef?

The personal touch that’s so important at restaurants is just as important in email campaigns. By writing messages that highlight their unique qualities, restaurants can take the first impression customers have about their restaurant and build something more lasting.

Lasting impressions lead to return visits and reduce the cost of the constant advertisement to draw in new customers. Instead of driving profits into the ground, why not increase the value using an email campaign?

Sounds Good. Care to Elaborate?

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll cover some ideas concerning ways you can effectively use an email service to not only set yourself apart from the giants but also the competition right next door on your block.

We’ll also chime in with some ideas on how to most effectively generate a list of subscribers from a customer base at your restaurant.

Until then, 86 on this post (if you own/work-at a restaurant, you know what I mean).

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

This article is part of a series on restaurant marketing. Read our previous posts for tips and ideas on topics important to restaurant owners that can be related to businesses of all types.

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