4 Amazing Examples of Email Marketing for Restaurants (Plus Tips & Tricks)

Melanie Balke
November 14, 2023

Frequent readers know this already, but I still need to say it: Email marketing is one of the most profitable digital marketing channels. It’s an outlandishly accessible and remarkably affordable way to grow your brand’s pool of loyal customers. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a centralized way to reach consumers. Forget social media marketing! You’ll be chasing down social platforms for days. With email marketing, your marketing efforts are neatly contained in one place.

Just consider these numbers:

  • 72% of customers prefer email marketing over other digital marketing channels.
  • Email marketing has a 4,400% potential ROI!
  • Over half the global population has an active email account. That’s 3.9–4 billion email users in 2022.
  • Purchases driven by email marketing are 3× more profitable than direct link traffic.

That’s a lot to love, and it’s time to see how email marketing for restaurants can supercharge your business!

So, keep scrolling to learn more.

Why Does Email Marketing for Restaurants Work?

People in formal attire eating. “The Benefits: The Perks of Restaurant Email Marketing.”

I’ll start with every business professional’s favorite information: numbers.

Yes, email marketing is outrageously beneficial in the long run. But what about now? How can it immediately impact your business?

To answer my own question: There are so many immediate and tangible benefits to having a robust email marketing strategy. Even a few email marketing campaigns can make a massive difference! It’s no secret at this point; restaurant email marketing is one of the most powerful ways to attract customers. But why? What makes this marketing channel so darn effective? Well…

The 80/20 Rule

Blurred cursive letters from an old love letter. The overlaid header reads, “The 80/20 Rule: A good rule to remember is that 80% of your engagement comes from 20% of your existing customers.”

There’s a saying in business: “80% of your engagement comes from 20% of your audience.” This is colloquially known as the 80/20 rule, and it’s one of the first things you’ll want to think of as you build your restaurant’s customer base. It’s doubly important when you consider the average open rate for restaurant email marketing!

It may be surprising, but restaurant email marketing has some of the highest average open rates of any industry. At 20%, restaurants enjoy better open rates than retail outlets and rival the success of nonprofit email marketing.

But — and I cannot stress this enough — it’s not enough to attract new customers! You must also cater to the “old guard,” the loyal customers who made your business what it is today. And to do that you need…

The Ability to Maintain Constant Contact

Let’s face it. The vast majority of Americans do not eat out every night. A January 2022 survey from Statista indicated that 47% of Americans eat out once a month a less. Comparatively, only 18% of respondents reported eating out on a weekly basis.

That’s not meant to scare you, though!

No, I’m just pointing out that you need a way to remind customers of your restaurant. You need something to keep your brand at the forefront of their thoughts. And — lucky for you — email marketing excels at raising awareness. There’s even a term for it: drip marketing!

And what do drip marketing efforts do? Lots of things, namely…

  • Boosting brand awareness and encouraging more customer engagement.
  • Earning more website visitors and promoting digital awareness of your restaurant business.
  • Maximizing other marketing efforts across multiple channels. (This is formally known as “multi-channel marketing.”)
  • Promoting familiarity with your restaurant branding.

Ownership of Your Customer Data

Of course, you can’t do it all alone! You need help. A skilled team of marketing pros You need a reliable email service provider. More importantly, you need customer data. And you can’t fake that!

In fact, this is one of the most remarkable things about email marketing. Unlike other marketing strategies, email marketing is implicitly reciprocal. People must agree to receive your marketing campaigns; they must give you explicit permission to deliver your content to their inbox. That’s not just being courteous, either; it’s the law!

Now, extend that thinking. Allow it to cover the landscape of your marketing strategy.

Do you see the benefits?

Despite their similarities, email marketing and direct mail are nothing alike. Emails are implicitly consensual. An email marketing campaign will rarely be considered a nuisance when done right. More importantly, the customer data behind those campaigns will never be revoked. You won’t lose your email list if you switch providers or seek out another firm. You can pick up that carefully crafted loyalty program and move it wherever you please!

Summarily: You own your email marketing data. It can’t be revoked. It can’t be restricted. It certainly can’t — and shouldn’t — be held hostage. It’s yours to keep — yours to craft into a delightful email marketing strategy wherever you go!

… And the Things You Can Do With That Data!

Think beyond a generic email subject line. “Hello, [Insert Name Here]” is so late decade; you can do much, much more. These days, automated email marketing platforms provide the groundwork for truly innovative email marketing strategies.

Email marketing for restaurants is no longer limited to generic content beamed to customer email addresses. Now, you can integrate content from across the web, weaving narratives with a rich tapestry pulled from any digital marketing channel you’d like! You can showcase new menu items, invite customers to upcoming events, and tantalize potential customers with one-click embedded ordering tools.

But what does that look like?

What sort of magical integrations exist? How can you direct users to your online ordering platform? More importantly, how do you convert those users? What does the restaurant industry stand to gain from email marketing?

First of all: Hold your horse radish! I’m getting there!

It’s finally time for the content promised in the blog title. It’s time… (Drumroll, please!) …to see those amazing restaurant email marketing examples!

1. The Irresistable Welcome Email

Army men in line for food, 1940s. Overlaid text reads, “Example #1: The Power of Welcome Emails.”

I’ll start with a brand known for its modern-minded marketing strategy.

Yes, I’m talking about Wendy’s. Despite existing for over half a century, this restaurant chain remains a marketing powerhouse. Its snarky Twitter branding has made it a mainstay of modern internet culture, while its simple rewards program keeps restaurant customers coming back for more.

So, how does this famed brand welcome new subscribers?

Nailing the Landing With Your Welcome Emails

A Wendy’s welcome email. A Frosty drink with a cute cartoon face raises its arms and throws confetti. The header reads, “Welcome!”

It’s all done with a remarkable, simple marketing campaign! It’s little more than a targeted, triggered welcome email. And it has all the trademark Wendy’s attitude: “You got an account now so buckle up and get ready for ALL the Wendy’s. Confirm your email to get started.”

What could we possibly learn from such a simple marketing email?

Well, the first lesson is that bigger isn’t always better. This double opt-in email campaign keeps things simple, abiding by the classic “Keep It Simple, Stupid” motto. There are exactly zero ways to mess up with these welcome emails! Users need only to click that blue “Confirm Your Email” call-to-action for instant access to Wendy’s goodness.

Branding That Works for Your Restaurant Email Marketing Strategy

Secondly, take a look at that adorable Frosty! (It’s very clearly a Wendy’s Frosty, not some other drink.) It’s as inoffensive and cute as you can get before crossing into the uncanny valley.

More importantly, the Frosty — this campaign’s only eye-catching feature — bears the restaurant’s branding. It has that iconic blue and red livery to match the color scheme and reinforce the sender’s identity.

Think about it.

No! Actually, look at this email:

Now, I cropped out the brand name. However, I’m sure we can all figure out which over-arching brand sent this marketing campaign. (McDonald’s. It was a McDonald’s email.) Even a few color changes can make or break email campaigns. If that Wendy’s Frosty was red and gold, we’d all assume it was a McFlurry. Were it royal blue and vivid red, I’m sure recipients would mistake it for a Dairy Queen Blizzard!

All of that is to say something very, very simple: Branding matters.

It’s no surprise that these massive chain restaurant emails place so much emphasis on color. Emails — unlike social media — don’t always have that handy profile picture to match the content. Thus, restaurants must zero in on everything to perfect their branding.

2. Keep It Relevant With Regular Offers

An Underwood 5 typewriter keyboard. “Example #2: Keep It Relevant With Drip Email Campaigns.”

Of course, one cannot subsist on welcome emails alone.

Restaurant email marketing gives businesses an all-expenses-paid pass to customers’ inboxes. It’s beyond irresponsible to neglect that; it’s downright criminal! So, how can restaurants tailor their email marketing strategies to account for this unprecedented amount of access?

One of the most prevalent forms of restaurant email marketing is the humble drip email. These marketing campaigns focus on timely reminders and prescient updates. While some may be limited to “special events,” most drip emails are little more than casual reminders. Think of them as the marketing equivalent of texting your friends to remind them of upcoming events!

If you still need some guidance, take a peek at this email from Bonchon, a chain restaurant specializing in Korean-style barbecue chicken.

Making the Most of Images in Restaurant Marketing Emails

The first thing you’ll notice is the photography! Those are some delicious-looking nuggies. And what about that shining sauce?

Again, the branding is everywhere, most prominently on the two “Crunch Out Loud” packages. The font and color choices also hint at the origins of this marketing campaign. However, the main focus of this example is its clever use of imagery.

Give Email Subscribers Something to Drool Over

One of the best things about a restaurant newsletter is its ability to showcase gorgeous photography.

There are so many uses for tantalizing photos. Obviously, they’re a great way to remind existing customers of that mouth-watering dish they received from your restaurant. However, they’re also great opportunities to showcase unique offers and implement unique ideas. For example, images have the power to…

  • Direct customers to your restaurant website, particularly after major updates.
  • Emphasize personalized promotions and “favorite” dishes.
  • Highlight entries on your seasonal menu or unique menu items.
  • Promote online ordering and takeout.
  • Tease email subscribers about updated recipes and menu changes.

(And that’s just professional photography! You can do even more with user-generated content. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to cover that in today’s blog post. Keep your eyes peeled for that update, though!)

3. Improve Your Offerings With Feedback

A crosswalk and road sign. The road sign points left and reads, “Hollywood Blvd.” Overlaid text reads, “Example #3: Use Emails to Get Feedback.”

Now, you can personalize email campaigns for days. You can tweak the tiny details until you have engagement rates that blow the competition out of the water. But it’s not worth it if your customers aren’t happy!

Fortunately, restaurant email marketing has a solution for that, too!

Feedback campaigns — such as the Red Robin (Yum!) example I’ll show off in a moment — are some of the most valuable emails a restaurant can send. They’re more than a promotional restaurant email. They’re a reliable, steady form of feedback to help your restaurant thrive.

So, what do they look like?

A Simple Offer With a Big Impact

You don’t have to offer something extravagant, but many feedback-driven restaurant email campaigns include potential rewards. As always — and in line with email marketing best practices — take time to study your target audience. If you can’t afford a big cash prize, then consider your existing menu items. Perhaps there’s a best-selling pick that you can offer for free!

A Red Robin email. “Your Opportunity Still Awaits. Your feedback could win $250 this week.”

Regardless of the specifics of your offer, this Red Robin email is a great template for your future campaigns. It knows its target audience and packs enough punch to make opening the email campaign worth the reader’s time.

I’ll go down our list of desirable traits for email campaigns:

  • It’s got branding. The colors match, and you have that nice, big logo in the upper left corner.
  • It’s got imagery. That burger looks delicious!
  • And now, I want to add a third point. It’s got a visual hierarchy.

A Crash Course on Visual Hierarchy for Your Restaurant Email Marketing

It sounds complex, but “visual hierarchy” is a fancy way of saying that people have a way of looking at things. With few linguistic exceptions, content is read from left to right, then top to bottom.

So, I want to apply that to this email.

Readers are immediately drawn to the bold declaration: “Your Opportunity Still Awaits.” Then, the question of specifics is answered immediately by another eye-grabbing header, “Your feedback could win $250 this week!” Already, you can see how this restaurant marketing email plays with expectations.

This is a streamlined example of savvy design. It’s a small touch, but it’s enough to amplify your email marketing strategy.

4. Timely Reminders to Amplify Your Restaurant Marketing Strategy

Finally, we have the timeless birthday email.

It’s part of any brand’s marketing toolkit, and it should also be part of your restaurant email marketing.

Yes, people are inundated with content on their birthdays. Everyone wants in on that birthday energy. But that doesn’t mean you should give up! Instead, polish your content and push out a winning email to jumpstart your restaurant email marketing strategy.

Take a look at this Subway example to see how you can work timed email marketing into your portfolio.

Boost Customer Loyalty and Improve Conversions

A Subway email. “Your Birthday Cookie Is Waiting!”

Can every restaurant owner offer something for free? No! But even the smallest gesture is appreciated.

At Subway, rewards members get a yummy free cookie on their birthday.

So, for the last time, I want to go through our list:

  • We have the gold-and-orange branding.
  • We’re seeing plenty of delicious imagery.
  • Viewers are naturally drawn through the visual hierarchy.
  • And finally, I want to point out the power of email marketing tools.

Use Automation to Your Advantage

Obviously, nobody is sitting at a desk and waiting to hit send at the right time. Personalized messages may seem unique, but they’re all the same email marketing campaign with a few tweaks. Even something like this loyalty program alert is a fully automated experience.

Use that technology to your advantage in your email marketing strategies! Automated emails are far from new, but they remain a valuable resource. Otherwise, you have to schedule every email manually. And that’s just absurd!

Get the Best Results With a Team of Pros

Needless to say, it took a lot of work to develop these email campaigns. You can’t expect a bare-bones email to get as much traction as a polished work of art. You need a team of pros to support your marketing emails.

Fortunately, I have a solution.

My team of hand-picked marketing experts at The Email Marketers is always ready to tackle a new project. You’ll get more than a customized email marketing strategy; you’ll be given a dedicated team of your own! We’ll work with you to develop relationships with old and new customers. We’ll pump up your customer loyalty and ensure you have the best results.

And all you have to do is make the call. Schedule a free strategy session today and learn how to turn email subject lines into cash!