Email Marketing Essentials for Restaurants

You’ve got your lists set up. You’re broadcasting menu changes, special events and coupons. Your regulars are responding and new customers are subscribing.

What should you do next?

It might be time to take a look at what items you have set up to appear in every email. Are you missing any important side notes? What can you add to fill your tables with more hungry customers?

Example: Taleo’s Bill of Email Fare

Our friends over at Taleo Mexican Grill in Irvine, California have the recipe for a well-done newsletter with all the trimmings.

What can your restaurant put in its emails to impress patrons?


Link to them! A surprising number of restaurants don’t have their menus listed online. Describing your dishes can convince even frequent diners to come in for that interesting new combination or a mouthwatering old favorite.

If your restaurant doesn’t have a web site, you can create and post your menu here.


A small discount, exclusive to your email subscribers, may keep guests coming back – and keep them reading your new emails.

Here’s an example from one of Taleo’s emails:

Coupon Whole


Provide a link to driving routes, tips on parking, and public transportation information.

Take the guesswork out of getting there, and new customers may become regulars.

Gift Cards

Gift Card wholeIf you offer them, say so.

People are always looking for gift ideas, and are likely too wrapped up in the dining experience when on site to seek them out.


If you accept these, provide a link to a reservation page on your site, like this, or display your phone number.

Even if your number is listed elsewhere, seeing it listed for reservations suggests that subscribers call it for that reason.

Hours of Operation

Hours of OperationWhen customers get your updates about happy hour discounts, lunch specials or live music events, they can glance over to see just when to plan their visit.

Save them the hassle of searching for your hours on your web site or showing up to an empty, dark building.

Calendar of Events

After you announce a Tuesday-night open mic or a Sunday dinner discount, list it on a calendar. Connect to it through a link, display a miniature version that can be clicked to open fully, or provide only the next week’s schedule in each message.


Food WholeIf a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of colorful, tasty food is worth a thousand tummy-grumbles.

Wild cravings for your food might be the best enticement of all.

Additional Ingredients

Taleo’s email didn’t include mix these in, but others have. And they might just be right for your newsletter.


Ask for feedback on your menu items, your seating options, your special events. You’ll collect valuable information, and you’ll show your patrons that their preferences are important.


Customer opinions you collect on comment cards can be powerful testimonials. So can emails of appreciation. Consider publishing a response or two per email, possibly in a sidebar.

This is a lot to add, so keep things organized, subtle and listed neatly to keep from overwhelming your readers. Go for a complete, but not cluttered, design. And remember to track your clicks to see which links customers are taking advantage of.

We appreciate your feedback. Please deposit in comment box below.

Which of these have you included in your newsletters? Which do you think customers look for the most? Do you include anything else that your readers seem to really appreciate?

Want to Learn More?

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


  1. Ken Burgin

    1/4/2010 7:15 pm

    One more thing to add – something that’s not just about me, me, me.

    Most restaurant emails I see are just SELLING stuff, not sharing who they are. A comment or two about a new staff member, cool piece of equipment, a special event or unusual ingredient makes the content much more interesting.

  2. Sean Breslin

    1/5/2010 8:35 am

    Very well run business, one of my favorite restaurants does a quarterly draw of business cards left by clients.

    (offline email capture!)

    And offers one free meal next time they dine with clients friends etc.

  3. Aaron Schulman

    1/5/2010 8:46 am


    Thanks for this. One of the things I love about posts like this is that with a little creative thinking (out of the box) one can repurpose the concept to fit their own business:

    Many of your ideas here can help any brick and mortar business where repeat customers is a part of their necessary revenue.

    A menu or catalog of any kind of products is a great resource which can also be converted to PDF, Slideshow, Video, or other formats to be posted on other social media community sties.

    Coupons are great for getting attention and repeat, as well as first time business. We have found this is one of the greatest ways that the legends and pioneers of Advertising used well to track the effectiveness of their Ad copy (headlines, bullets, calls to action) One thing we are working on with a client right now is developing coupons or ads that lead to identical looking lead capture pages, but are actually different html pages with hidden ?keyed? code in the forms so we know which headlines are out performing others.

    Also, we have implemented directions on our sites, but this part of your post reminds me of how important it is to using our physical address on sales pages to reveal our legitimacy ? adding to credibility

    The Gift Card concept has been used by us and some of our clients in the information, education or coaching products as well. It doesn?t have to be limited to physical products.

    Pictures can also be tagged to bring in traffic from search engines. Using quality, well ?tagged pictures can drive specific traffic to your site.

    Almost everything you list here is loaded with customer service, which is really the key for many businesses, both online and offline.

    We have included many of these ideas, and you ask, ?which of these do you think customers look for the most? and anyone in sales and marketing, especially those who write copy and ads for direct response know that that the answer to this question is:

    Customers look for the elements they desire most. Using the other tools to find out what your client base desires most is the key to continually improving your service and sustaining the longevity of your business.

    Thanks for these ideas. I have some friends who own restaurants and I will forward this post to them.

  4. Serge Rodriguez

    1/5/2010 2:21 pm

    Excellent article.

    I would add to the above points, a short 60 sec video or so to show the ambiance of the restaurant, especially at a peak hour!

    Rememeber that you can upload those videos on youtube and then embed it into your restaurant site.

    Show the patrons eating plus the chef doing his tricks in the kitchen and so forth.

    That could work wonders for traffic!

  5. Ada Roca

    1/13/2010 1:31 pm

    Great ideas!

    I would love to read your suggestions for tourism companies and for wine industries. They are always very helpful.


  6. David Lindsay

    1/17/2010 3:40 pm

    Aaron’s post is another illustration of the value of split testing that is discussed elsewhere on this blog. He also points out the value of the ideas covered in the article to other bricks and mortar businesses who have anything like a menu – any sort of list, that is. Vehicle maintenance companies even use the term "menu" in connection with a servicing price list.

  7. Jo

    2/13/2010 5:49 pm

    Great post Amanda and great comments from Aaron

    The content that you describe can certainly be applied to any type of business and highlights to customers that the business cares about its customers as it depicts great customer service standards.

  8. Robert W.

    5/2/2010 12:55 pm

    Yes. I, too, think that the ideas you posted here can be used for other kinds of businesses. In fact, I’ve recently been considering using an autoresponder for some of my websites, and I think Aweber is on of the best choices in front of me!

  9. Jack

    1/27/2012 3:38 pm

    Also if you are trying to get in touch with your local population or any other industry serving your meals for lunch time would be nice to target your people. Good solution is geting in touch via social networks and emails