Mar 22, 2023
 min read

Why Restaurant Email Marketing Drives Revenue [+ Winning Strategies]

This article outlines:

Why restaurant email marketing drives revenue

Tips for building your restaurant email list

Restaurant email marketing strategies and benchmarks

In the age of social media, why should restaurant marketing teams put their energy, time, and budget into email? Because every marketer’s north star is investing in the channels most likely to drive results. 

Studies have shown that email marketing generates an impressive $36 return for every $1 spent, whereas social media marketing generates $2.80 for every $1 spent.

Here are a few reasons that restaurant email marketing is so effective, followed by tips for successfully building and leveraging your email database to drive revenue, guest frequency, and retention.


4 Reasons Why Restaurant Email Marketing Drives Revenue

1. Email is Where Guests Are

There are 4 billion global email users and the average worker checks their email 74 times per day.

2. Guests Prefer Email Marketing

Nearly half of smartphone users worldwide chose email as their preferred communication method from consumer brands.

3. Email Marketing Converts First-Time Guests to Regulars 

Research shows that email is 40x more effective at bringing new guests back than Facebook or Twitter.

4. Email Motivates Guests to Spend More

The rate at which emails prompt purchases is estimated to be at least three times that of social media and the average order value is 17 percent higher.


How to Build a Restaurant Email List

The importance of a restaurant email list cannot be overstated. For one, your brand owns it. You also have a direct line of communication with guests who have expressed interest in your restaurant and want you to market to them.

While there are a variety of ways to build a restaurant email list, here are a couple of valuable sources to start with:

To continue growing your email list, add the following:

  • In-restaurant Wi-Fi prompt
  • Scan-to-join QR code at the register or table
  • Website subscription form
  • Sign-up button on social media pages


Email Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

Before launching a restaurant email marketing campaign, it’s important to set up guest segments, including high lifetime value (LTV), churn risks, etc. Olo’s data shows that personalized marketing can result in a 20% lift in spend by email recipients over 30 days, with a surge in sales the day after it’s sent.

Within your email campaign strategy, consider every stage of the guest lifecycle and every interaction as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with guests. Leverage these six retention strategies to ensure every guest becomes more valuable to your brand over time.

Marketing automation tools can help you do more with less by instantly sending relevant and personalized communications to guests when they meet predetermined criteria, such as placing their first delivery order or not visiting for 30 days.

Here's some campaign inspiration:

Examples of Strategic Email Campaigns

Convert First-Timers into Regulars

Send an automated welcome/thank you email within 24 hours of an online order being placed, featuring an incentive for a return visit or another online order within a given timeframe.

Encourage Return Visits

When an online order does not contain a particular menu item (seasonal special, high-margin item, new offering, etc.), promote that offering in an automated email that triggers a week after the initial order is completed.

Get Important Feedback

Show guests you care about their opinion by soliciting feedback on specific menu items or their overall ordering experience via an automated email sent within 24 hours of an order being completed.

Drive Engagement

When a guest signs up for in-restaurant WiFi or your e-club, send a welcome email within 24 hours. Then, seven days later, send a follow-up with links to your social media accounts and an invitation to share photos using your branded hashtag for a chance to be featured.

Download Olo's Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing

Email Benchmarks for the Restaurant Industry

When evaluating the effectiveness of your email campaigns, there are a few crucial metrics to keep an eye on. According to Campaign Monitor’s 2022 Email Marketing Benchmarks Report, here’s what good email engagement rates look like for the restaurant, food, and beverage industry:

Open Rate: 18.5%

Click-Through-Rate: 2%

Click-To-Open Rate: 10.5%

Unsubscribe Rate: 0.1%

If your emails are underperforming, test and learn. Ask yourself: 

  • Are people mistaking your email for spam?
  • Is your design mobile-friendly? 
  • Are you emailing guests too often?
  • Is the messaging personalized and relevant? 

Just because one email performs well with a particular guest segment, doesn’t mean it’s going to be just as successful with another. Regularly monitor your analytics and pivot accordingly.

Key Takeaways 

When building a lasting relationship with guests, email is a key tool in the restaurant marketing tool belt. Why?

  • It converts: Targeted email outreach puts restaurant brand messaging directly in front of the guest—prime positioning for them to take action. Opted-in guests trust brands with their data, a key indicator of future sales—57% of consumers say trust in a brand drives their purchase decisions.‍

  • It’s personalized: With a restaurant CRM that segments guests by behavior, email marketing can be tailored to individual preferences, driving up engagement and boosting conversion.

  • It’s always on time: With restaurant marketing automation, email campaigns can be triggered right after the first visit or online order to drive repeat sales. Plus, if guests haven’t visited or ordered in a while, an email can automatically remind them of their favorite menu items.

  • It’s the foundation of effective omnichannel restaurant marketing: Restaurant brands can boost guest acquisition and retention by providing parallel experiences across email and social media. You can use your restaurant email list to retarget regulars and acquire new, high-value guests by targeting lookalikes on social media platforms. 

Guests engage with brands everywhere they have a digital presence, and the next new social platform always generates marketing buzz. In comparison, email marketing might seem old school.

To get ahead, though—especially when marketers are tasked with doing more with less—brands need to focus on the kinds of communication guests are asking for and responding to.

In every step of the journey, guests continue to show that restaurant email marketing is an important part of their experience.

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