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Email Marketing For Restaurants

Photo showing a customer looking at an email marketing promotion for a restaurant

10 email marketing tactics that drive bookings 

When we built Now Book It, we did so with the input of dozens of restaurant owners to help ensure we delivered a product that restaurant owners loved. 

In all of the feedback we received there was one common theme that kept coming up: to be able to retain customer data to be used for marketing purposes, typically in the form of a newsletter. Being able to nail this from a tech perspective has greatly benefited our customers, and we love hearing success stories about how restaurants are using this to their advantage.

It’s not news that there is money in mailing lists, but learning how to make the most of your database through automation or scheduled emails can drive significantly more bookings.

For this article, we’ve collaborated with restaurateurs, email marketing software providers and digital marketers to uncover the best strategies to maximise your database.

Things you should know before starting:

  • For most restaurants, the mailing list data is mostly made up of customers who have already booked.
  • The email open rates for restaurants is typically around 20%
  • It is possible to measure certain outcomes such as how many people opened, clicked and actually booked a restaurant as a result of an email campaign.

1. Automate your booking confirmation email

Likely the first email you customer will receive from you, the booking confirmation email is often underutilised. While it should do the obvious, that is, let customers know that their booking is confirmed, it can also be an opportunity for you to help improve their experience by offering parking information, or making it easy for them to contact you with any queries or special requests.

Think of it as your first chance to impress them with your incredible service. Making the most of this first point of contact is important in building a relationship with a customer, and if you’re using Now Book It, it can be fully automated and customised. 


2.
Automatically add your contacts to the database

Did you know you can automate the process of adding your customer data to your mailing list provider? If you’re exporting your customer data manually, and then uploading it to your mailing list provider, then you’re doing more work than you need to and not taking advantage of automation settings.

This integration can be incredibly valuable and it’s worth checking which mailing list providers integrate with your existing booking system. Now Book It integrates directly with Talkbox (Impact Data) and we’re close to finalising the integration with MyGuestlist.

Infographic showing the difference between API connection and the manual process of handling customer data

3. Optimise your ‘Thank You’ email

Savvy marketers know that the best time to contact a customer is when the fantastic experience they had with you is still fresh in their minds. As they say, timing is everything. The ‘Thank You’ email is designed to build loyalty and shorten the time to the customer’s next visit, but it can also win customers back there and then.

One way to do this is to create an offer for customers to use, should they re-book within a specified time frame of receiving their ‘Thank You’ email. You could also include a link to leave a review on Google. Did you know that both the number of reviews, and the quality of each review, can influence the local SEO results?


4. Create an on-boarding sequence

If your table booking platform is integrated with your mailing list provider, then you can create a perfectly timed on-boarding sequence. This automated series of emails will help your customers get to know you, creating loyalty in the long term.

This sequence of emails could touch on the inspiration behind your food, the story of how your restaurant came to be, and you can even include information about your functions packages, gift card offerings, and upcoming events. Once created it can be automated so that each customer receives them according to your chosen timeline.

graphic showing an email on-boarding sequence

Example on-boarding sequence:

5. Trigger a ‘win-back’ campaign

Re-engage with customers that haven’t visited in a while with a win-back campaign. Create an automated email that’s triggered when a customer hasn’t booked at the restaurant for X amount of time, i.e. three months.

Now Book It provides the ‘last booking date’ enabling marketers to send a win-back email to customers when it’s been more than X amount of time since their last booking. This email might include a strong offer designed to win back the customer who appears to have been lost.

6. Create a birthday club

Never underestimate the power of a date of birth. As a restaurateur, you know that birthday dinners are like gold. It’s a big group of people, the drinks are flowing, and the bill is higher on average. Not to mention, customers don’t just have birthdays on Saturday nights. Booking in a 15 pax on a Tuesday thanks to a birthday is extremely attractive to most restaurants.  

If you have your customer’s date of birth, you can send a timed email to them a few weeks before their birthday giving them an incentive to book their birthday dinner with you i.e. free dessert.

graphic showing birthday email marketing

For example, creating a birthday club automation will look like this;

  • Email to customer with request to join the birthday club or create an opt in page on your website
  • Customer is directed to a form to add their details including DOB
  • Voucher / incentive automatically sent before their birthday, i.e. one month before

7. Event or promotional email newsletters

There’s no better way to communicate with your existing customers than by sending them a well crafted email that entices them back. Instead of always repeating the same old messages, create excitement and mix things up with a special offer or event.

Creating events can be a great way to re-engage old customers and provide another reason for loyal customers to come back. Events can be especially useful to bolster mid-week revenues or to create a more compelling offer on certain days of the year, like Mother’s Day or NYE.

Now Book It customers also have the advantage of taking event bookings online, either requesting a deposit or full payment upfront. When the event sells out, we also have a waiting list feature.

Email marketing by Amanda's on the Edge, promoting a mid-week event called Dumplings in the Vines

Amanda’s on the Edge using email marketing to promote an event and sell tickets using Now Book It‘s integrated event features. 

8. Use email marketing to sell gift cards

The ‘thank you’ email is the perfect opportunity to suggest gift cards to customers that have just dined – and presumably had a great experience. Try suggesting that restaurant gift cards make excellent presents and can be purchased easily online, adding in a link for easy purchase.

If a restaurant takes 200 bookings per week, that’s 200 ‘thank you’ emails being triggered and 200 customers that now have the opportunity to buy a gift card. If the uptake was as little as 2% (or 0.02), that’s (200 x 0.02 x 52) 208 gift cards sold per year . 

Graphic showing email marketing

Here’s how valuable that above example can be: If you sell 208 gift cards per year, with the average gift card price was $100, that equals $20,800 in gift card sales from an email automation that’s free to send.

9. Build your audience

It goes without saying that larger databases have greater potential to drive bookings than smaller ones. With this in mind, building your audience should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Whilst we’re certainly not suggesting buying customer data or adopting any underhand tactics (which probably won’t work anyway) we do encourage restaurants to capture as much of their own data as possible. 

Not all booking platforms pass on all of the customer data to you. Most third party platforms only pass on the opt-in customers which is estimated to be as little as 30%. Now Book It is a white labelled platform, where the restaurant retains 100% of the customer data. In short, restaurants using Now Book It can grow their database faster.   

Here are a few ideas to help grow your database:

  • Drive online bookings (as opposed to telephone bookings) to obtain email address
  • Offer free wi-fi to capture data
  • Have an email sign-up form on the website and incentivise customers to sign-up

10. Track website visits

One of the best ways to find out how effective your newsletters are is to see how many people it leads to the website, menu pages and booking pages.

An easy way to do this is to include what is called a UTM string on the end of every link within the newsletter. This will change the URL of the link but it won’t affect what page the customer sees and it will allow you (or your marketing team) to track website visits and other activity as a result of the newsletter.

For example, if you send traffic to the menu page; https://sebastianbeachgrill.com/menu

To create the UTM string on the end,  start with a “?” then “utm_source=” then the source which can be anything but assuming you’re tracking your newsletter then: ?utm_source=newsletter

This will create a new URL which can be added to the newsletter: https://sebastianbeachgrill.com/menu?utm_source=newsletter

Summary

Email marketing works. These are the strategies being deployed by some of the best restaurant marketers and digital agencies in Australia.

Now Book It can assist you to seamlessly deliver email marketing campaigns thanks to these features:

  • Integration: Save time by automatically adding customers to your database. Now Book It integrates directly with Talkbox (Impact Data) and we’re close to finalising the integration with MyGuestlist.
  • Automation: Automatically send and optimise valuable emails such as Booking Confirmation and Thank You emails. These are native features to Now Book It.
  • Data: Now Book It provides 100% of your customer data to help you build your mailing list, as well as giving you valuable insights into your customers i.e. last date booked for win-back campaigns.
  • Gift Cards: Now Book It make selling gift cards simple. Gift cards can be easily purchased from your website. 
  • Events: Now Book It has a native event platform to allow you to sell tickets online. Take money upfront for events to bolster mid-week revenues and use it to create more compelling offers on certain days of the year like Mother’s Day or NYE.

If email marketing is important to you, get in touch to find out how Now Book It can help or request a demo.