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Email marketing can be a powerful tool for restaurants looking to increase reservations and repeat business. Implementing some simple yet effective email strategies can help you better engage with customers, drive more reservations, and grow your subscriber list. 

In this article, we’ll share 15 proven email marketing tips that restaurants can use to triple their reservations. 

Whether you’re just getting started with emails or looking to improve an existing campaign, these best practices will help you connect with more customers and convert them into in-house diners.

Importance of Email Marketing for Restaurants

Did you know that email is the preferred promotion channel for 60% of consumers?


Email marketing is critical for restaurants because it helps fill seats and drive revenue. Studies show that restaurants can increase reservations by over 30% with a strategic email campaign. 

Beyond direct bookings, effective emails allow you to target customers with timely promotions, share updates and menu changes, and cultivate loyalty. Implementing email marketing best practices, like focusing on list growth and segmentation, typically results in a 3-5x ROI over the first year. 

With the flexibility of crafting targeted messages and the high return potential, email simply offers the highest marketing value for independent eateries and small chains. 

Ultimately, restaurants that fail to leverage email will severely limit their customer reach, and they’ll get dwindling numbers of repeat visits. Though it requires some effort to craft captivating campaigns, the results make email marketing indispensable for food-focused businesses.

1. Build a Quality Email List for Restaurant Patrons

The foundation of any successful email marketing campaign is a targeted, engaged email subscriber list. As a restaurant, you need to focus on capturing email addresses during the reservation process directly on your website or by phone. 

Implement an online waitlist and reservation management system that seamlessly connects to your customer relationship management (CRM) database. This allows you to instantly add diners to your subscriber list while they wait for a table.


  • Provide signup incentives, like 10% off their first order or a free appetizer, to encourage visitors to join your list. 
  • Prominently promote email signups with on-site signage and displays. 
  • Train hosts and servers to mention your mailing list and offers at peak reservation times. 

While continually growing your list takes effort, prioritizing subscriber acquisition pays major dividends through higher open and click-through rates over time.

The key is to take every opportunity to gather emails matched to customer names and key details like food preferences, birthday month, zip code, etc. This quality subscriber list serves as the fuel for targeted campaigns that drive repeat visits. 

Segment your customers based on criteria like location, past orders, special occasions, and more to deploy highly relevant emails. Invest the effort into list building now and you’ll reap the rewards for years through more reservations and sales.

2. Create a Welcome Series

Make new email subscribers feel valued right away with a tailored 3-5 email welcome series. Start by sending an email within 24 hours of sign-up thanking them and sharing an exclusive discount or promo code as a gift for joining. Set expectations upfront by explaining your general email frequency and the types of messages subscribers can anticipate.

For example, highlight that you send monthly newsletters with events and specials, holiday and seasonal offers, emails announcing new menu launches or restaurant updates, and reservation reminders or recaps. Provide links to menus, upcoming events, and your social media pages so new contacts can easily explore offerings and engage further.

The goals of your welcome series are to thank subscribers for signing up, share an immediate discount or gift to delight new contacts, set clear expectations for future communications, and start building brand excitement and loyalty.

An effective warm welcome makes subscribers more likely to open and click your subsequent emails. Put effort into welcoming new contacts in a way that sets the stage for ongoing communications matched to their preferences. A welcome series is your chance to make a great first impression!

3. Segment Your Customers

Dividing your email subscriber list into distinct segments is key to deploying relevant, high-converting campaigns. Start by creating broad segments like locals versus tourists. Send locals emails focused on new menu items or events, while tourists would receive more discounts and holiday promotions.

Also, split groups based on dietary preferences (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc), last visit date, birthday month, average spend, number of visits per year, and more. Get even more granular by combining multiple data points to make hyper-targeted segments. 

For example, create a segment for local gluten-free diners that haven’t visited your restaurant in over 6 months. You can then send this niche group a specialized “We miss you!” re-engagement offer.

Segmentation allows you to cater messaging, offers, and content precisely based on subscriber behaviors and preferences. 

Avoid generically blasting one-size-fits-all emails. Instead, rely on your subscriber data to deploy campaigns hyper-relevant to each customer group. When emails feel personalized and written just for them, you’ll earn far more opens, clicks, and reservations. Invest time into granularly dividing your list into clear segments for campaigns that resonate at a one-to-one level.

4. Personalize Content for Foodies

Personalizing every aspect of your email content based on subscriber preferences and behaviors is proven to boost engagement across all metrics.

Always integrate first names into subject lines and message copy whenever possible. Reference past meals, favorite dishes, special occasions, food allergies, or dietary needs to increase relevancy. Customize the actual promotions and special offers based on prior purchases and known food preferences gathered via your CRM.

For example, a seafood-loving guest may receive an email with the subject line “John, your favorite Maryland crab cakes are back this week only!” and a personalized time-sensitive offer related to that item.

Within the body copy, mention related appetizers or wines the subscriber has ordered in the past to showcase familiar, known preferences. Hyper-customized content performs better because it demonstrates you know and value each guest.

Take personalization further by regularly sharing blog posts on the origin stories of subscribers’ preferred cuisines or genres. Integrate chef tips or wine recommendations tailored to frequently purchased meals.

The more detailed personal touches you inject based on historical data and observed behaviors, the higher your open, click-through, and reservation rates will climb over the baseline. Investing in truly tailored email content uniquely crafted for foodies takes more effort but delivers unmatched engagement and sales.

5. Use Mouthwatering Subject Lines for Hungry Audiences

Creative, mouthwatering subject lines can dramatically boost open rates, so take time to craft phrases that spark cravings and urge immediate action. 

Spotlight upcoming local food festivals, holidays, or events by featuring specialty dishes associated with the occasion. Intrigue customers with tempting food descriptors like “smoked”, “handmade”, or “secret family recipe”. 

Highlight your newest menu launches, featured ingredients, and can’t-miss promotions to convey urgency and exclusivity. For example, “Our legendary 10-layer chocolate cake – 30% off until Friday only!” is specific to the scarcity. 

Use subjects specifically designed around juicy savings, alluring offers with short time windows, or reservation reminders and recaps. Align subject line themes to seasonal flavors, holidays, and ingredients to catch the eye of those craving-related dishes.

Take a tip from clickbait headlines by being over-the-top mouthwatering. The goal is to get high open rates, so craft hyper-appealing phrases filled with emojis, capital letters, irresistible offers, and delicious keywords. Create crave-worthy subject lines tailored to your patrons’ appetites for inbox-breaking, high-performing campaigns.

6. Craft Compelling Email Copy Tailored to Dining Preferences


Beyond crave-worthy subject lines, you need to ensure your actual email copy and content resonates with subscribers by aligning closely to their observed dining preferences.

Prominently feature photos and descriptions of signature dishes the contact has ordered during prior restaurant visits. This triggers familiarity and showcases dishes they already love. Similarly, highlight current seasonal fare that aligns with items they tend to order during certain annual months based on purchase data.

Move beyond menu items to provide an enticing preview of the overall dining experience at your restaurant. For holiday emails, descriptively set the scene of your elegant, festive ambiance to tickle all the senses. Spotlight renowned chefs, exceptional service, romantic private dining nooks, or recent rave reviews in top food publications that reinforce your strengths as a premier dining destination.

Essentially, integrate personalized touches, vivid sensory details, and key strengths into your copy based on prior interactions with each honored guest. This tailored content feels custom-crafted just for subscribers, increasing engagement and conversions. 

Lean on CRM intelligence to inform creative copy tailored to exactly what you know each patron already craves from visiting your exceptional establishment. 

7. Make Sure Emails Are Mobile Responsive for On-the-Go Diners

With over 50% of emails now opened on mobile devices, you must optimize every campaign for an on-the-go audience. Start by structuring messages for easy vertical reading tailored to ever-smaller phone screens. 

Use a clean, singular column layout with ample whitespace and spacing between short paragraphs. Visually break up content into clear sections with descriptive headers, bullets, bolding, and images to call out key information at a glance.

Keep background colors and container widths consistent while testing various types of modular content blocks that look stunning when stacked vertically. Mobile optimization is essential so visually critical emails shine whether opened on a wide desktop or a 5-inch phone screen.

Beyond aesthetics, simplify your calls-to-action for patrons on the move. Know many are opening emails while navigating across town to your restaurant or even once seated at their table. 

Streamline clickable reservation links, tap-to-call buttons, and quick-action coupons to drive instant conversions. Eliminate unnecessary scrolling with fixed action bars persistent on-screen. 

Make taking your desired action lightning-fast and frictionless for on-the-go diners hoping to secure last-minute prime-time tables or claim limited-time seasonal specials. Optimize now and you’ll reap the mobile majority rewards through more taps, calls, shares, and reservations from phones.

8. Highlighting Culinary Excellence in Email Design

Make your exceptional dining experience irresistible by crafting email creative that stunningly highlights your ambiance, plating presentation, and overall culinary excellence.

Maintain visual brand consistency between campaigns and your website using aligned colors, fonts, and logo treatments to boost familiarity and recognition. Invest in professional food photography to hero your chef’s artistry. Showcase signature dishes as large, central images – especially iconic menu items or those a subscriber has ordered previously based on CRM data.

Move beyond isolated food shots to integrate lifestyle, and environmental images that set an alluring scene. Feature high-energy bar areas filled with beautiful patrons or spotlight intimate dining spaces with tables set for seasonal occasions. Show visual changes between holiday settings, for example, with festive Christmas decor transforming your familiar interior spaces.

Promote specialty chef’s tables, wine dinners, cocktail classes, or limited-run events through photos directly from your social media streams showing past attendees joyfully engaging. Infuse a sense of flavor, aroma, texture, sound, and liveliness usually only attained on-site.

Let every email act as a vivid branded advertisement communicating your superior quality and exceptional experiences. Pair succulent hero shots with clean, streamlined templates to create irresistible campaigns.

9. Encourage Social Media Sharing for Restaurant Buzz

Strategically expand your email marketing reach by actively encouraging social media sharing, reviews, reservations, and user-generated content (UGC) embedded directly into campaigns.


Insert prominent follow links and sleek clickable icons for all your restaurant’s profiles across major platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and more. Integrate portable reservation widgets, tools, or links to enable seamless booking straight from any social media bio or post.

Visually showcase recent 5-star online reviews in clean content blocks quoting diners’ shining commentary. Highlight mouthwatering food and drink photos captured and shared by patrons through user-generate image galleries pulled straight from your Instagram hashtag or check-ins.

Send a monthly “Social Stars” email digest exclusively compiling and celebrating the abundance of UGC guests who have contributed across platforms over the past weeks. Sprinkle in some of your best images as well to make it highly visual and irresistible share-worthy content.

Actively spotlighting positive organic advocacy accelerates word-of-mouth and credibility with potential first-timers. Email remains your owned media workhorse to effectively showcase social engagement and momentum across channels – so flaunt it! Encourage users to post, tag, and invite friends to grow more buzz which ultimately drives reservations.

10. Conduct Post-Dining Surveys

Actively solicit diner feedback and reviews through follow-up emails containing post-meal surveys. Identify recent reservation holders in your CRM then trigger tailored questionnaires 24-48 hours after their visit to capture top-of-mind commentary.

Ask for ranked ratings on key elements like food quality, menu options, service friendliness, ambiance, overall satisfaction plus likely return rate. Include open-ended response fields for dish or experience suggestions, standout employee compliments, criticisms, or areas needing improvement.

Incentivize thoughtful, quality responses by providing 25% off return visits, merchandise gift cards, or complimentary items through survey completion. Publicly reply to reviews across platforms and take action on constructive guest criticisms.

Most importantly, close the loop by integrating improvements into revisited dishes, front-of-house approaches, new hires, and enhanced spaces based directly on aggregated feedback.

Ultimately, you want diners to know their voices shape future experiences through better menus, operations, and staff education. Prove your commitment to continuous progress through transparency, accountability, and showcasing post-survey customer-driven changes in creative ways across channels.

11. Use Retargeting Ads

Remarket directly to recent restaurant visitors through tailored behavioral retargeting ads placed across channels. Create tailored audiences on Facebook and Instagram comprised of users who’ve clicked specific emails or browsed pages on your website over the past 14-90 days.

Use tempting food imagery in the creatives showcasing signature dishes that specific subscribers demonstrated a clear interest in based on prior tracked behaviors both on- and off-site. Pair mouthwatering visuals with special re-engagement discounts and offers valid exclusively for returning diners. 

For example, target seafood loyalists that have been inactive in recent months with lobster tail ads touting a special sampler trio price.

Dynamic retargeting combines the hyper-precision of digital behavioral tracking with the art of personalization and relevance. Put this tactic to work nudging recently interested parties over the hurdle from casual site visitors to firm reservations.

Additionally, closely track email click-through rates (CTR) to your website using UTM links. Identify subscriber segments with historically high on-site activity post-sends. 

Retarget engaged readers demonstrating clear intent with tailored display and social ads to drive them back to the site. Sequentially complimenting email and retargeting will maximize conversion potential with key audiences primed to take action.

12. Send Reservation Reminders

Build reservation confirmation reminders into an essential automated email series based on booking data within your CRM. Set triggers to deploy reminder messages 48-72 hours before a guest’s upcoming reserved arrival date and time. 

Gently remind patrons of existing tables booked to keep your restaurant top of mind and confirm their party is still exciting to attend.

Reservation reminders should recap specifics like date, time, and party size and include visible cancellation/reschedule links if needed. 

  • Reduce friction by pre-populating guest details like dietary preferences into rebooking flows should they need to reschedule. 
  • Upsell incremental spending by highlighting new menu launches, limited-time specials, or promotions to tack on an order during their confirmation response.
  • Make it personal and VIP by welcoming reminded diners by name and integrating membership details like accrued loyalty points now redeemable during the visit. 

Reservation confirmations demonstrate attention to detail in truly caring for each guest while protecting revenue and inventory through ensured arrivals and reductions in empty tables. Surprise top customers by sending SMS text message alerts as an upgraded exclusive touch.

13. Leverage Last-Minute Reservations

Don’t allow prime-time reservation slots to go unfilled due to last-minute guest cancellations. Proactively nurture a segmented subscriber list of neighborhood locals, flexible business travelers, and repeat patrons open to spontaneity and short notice. 

Notify this flexible on-call group nightly when coveted peak tables open up due to unavoidable 11th-hour cancellations within 30-90 minutes of pre-service.

Convey tangible urgency in subject lines like “2 premium seats just opened at 8 PM tonight!” while incentivizing swift action within a tight booking window. Provide ticking countdown offers like 20% off or a free welcome champagne bottle to the first new reservation secured in the next 30 minutes. 

While some may view last-minute messaging as unwanted noise, others appreciate the VIP treatment of first dibs on hard-to-secure tables.

Cultivate this quick response list over time as a revenue recovery mechanism that gladly rescues coveted inventory which would otherwise spoil.

14. Offer VIP Loyalty Campaigns

Make your most valued, high-tier patrons feel like celebrities through members-only events, early access, and red-carpet VIP treatment. Host an invite-only annual gala specifically to honor elite loyalty members first. 

Debut tantalizing new seasonal dishes and cocktail recipes while celebrating committed VIPs before the public. Allow those in top-spending tiers early access to make reservations for exclusive chef collaboration dinners, winemaker dinners, or craft spirit tastings before wide promotion.

Send loyal members-first ‘Sneak Peek’ email previews showcasing menu changes, fresh ingredients, new interior design, or formats even before public launch or social media teasers. Tip-off your best guests first, then let the anticipation build more widely after they’ve had the VIP chance to engage and share thoughts.

Special status, visibility, and tangible perks help privileged segments like “Elite Experience members” or “Inner Circle” feel truly valued while increasing retention year-over-year. Nurture your VIPs like celebrities and they will reward you with unwavering loyalty, word-of-mouth referrals, and consistent repeat reservations.

15. Measure Performance

Continually refine your email campaigns, segmentation approaches, creative templates, and send-timing over the long term through granular performance tracking matched directly to core business KPIs.

Quantify effectiveness first and foremost by the tangible reservations captured, at-risk customers recovered and reached, and overall incremental revenue driven by sends. Decode campaign response variance by demographic factors like newly acquired subscribers versus loyal repeat engagees.

Implement an agile approach to ongoing optimization between subject line phrasing, day/date/timing, personalized dynamic content, or mobile-optimized design template testing based on observed lift or decline. Essentially introduce regular A/B testing between template variants’ direct response rates across device types to unlock what resonates for your patrons.

Look at factors like email deliverability, soft bounces, and hard bounces to help you keep your list clean. 

The savviest marketers continually tweak and tailor based on real-time data signals until they unlock the precise segmented combinations that work to effectively engage and serve their unique subscriber base at scale. As the saying goes, “What gets measured and tracked gets continually improved and managed.”

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