Episode 7 – Restaurant Email Marketing Secrets

Restaurant Email Marketing is one of the secret ways that many really successful Restaurants use to drive people to the quiet times of the week and the quiet times of the day.  We cover the tools you need to gather emails automatically, to email out to those emails and to measure the effectiveness of your email campaign.  Best practise email campaigns can add over $100,000 of Revenue to your Restaurant, so why aren’t you sending emails out today?

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Episode 7 – Restaurant Email Marketing Secrets


James Eling: Hey, it’s James from Marketing4Restaurants here and welcome to Secret Sauce, the restaurant marketing podcast episode seven. Restaurant email marketing.

James: So, today what we’re going to cover is email marketing for your restaurant. We’re going to cover why you should be thinking about email marketing, how not to spam people, getting people to open your emails, getting people to click on your emails, and most importantly, getting people to spend money at your restaurant. So, we’re really only going to cover the basics today but at the end of the podcast you should have enough information about some of the tools that you can use, and also the basics that you need to send out your first email marketing campaign. Before we crack onto that, there’s a couple of things I want to cover.

First off, if you haven’t been to the Marketing4Restaurants website lately, it’d be good if you could drop by there and have a look. We’ve launched a really exciting product, which is a 5 minute a day Restaurant Marketing MBA. So, what we do is people are signing up for it and we are sending the, via email, email marketing remember that, we’re sending out an email every day with a tip, a trick, a strategy, a tactic, or maybe just a little bit of inspiration to help you find more customers and turn them into repeat customers. Quick and easy, it’s not going to be rocket science. Just an idea that you can use to hopefully increase the number of people who come into your restaurant, the amount of money that they spend. All of those little one percenters that you can use to really make a big difference to the bottom line when you add them all up. As Al Pacino said in Any Given Sunday, “The inches we need are all around us.” So, we’re hoping to uncover a few of those for you. So, check that out, I’ll have details in the show notes. But marketing4restaurants.com, we’ve got a big button on it right on the front page.

Secondly, I want to talk about something that the Marketing4Restaurants team found, which we say for one of the customers that we’ve been working for. So, we’ve been helping him with his online marketing, we’ve been helping with his Facebook campaign. Now, he’s been doing the right thing. An elderly gentleman, doesn’t really understand Facebook. So, what he’s done is he’s trained up some of the front of house staff to be able to put posts online. And you know what, that’s the best practice we think. That is what you should be doing.

We do outsourced Facebook management for some of our customers, we really don’t like it because we’re waiting to find out what’s happening. If you’ve got our front of house team trained up in that, then they are there, you can be posting on Facebook when the events are actually happening. That’s much better, you get much better engagement out of doing that. So, he had his front of house staff trained up. Now, one of the problems was though, that one of the people left the restaurant. Now, people come and go, that’s fine, but I don’t think they left on particularly good terms because when you look at some of the posts that are up now they’re actually quite derogatory about the restaurant. The problem was they were the ones who set up the Facebook account, they’re the actual owners of the page. So, it was really quite distressing for the restaurant owner because someone was writing something really nasty about the restaurant. Worse still, it looked like it was coming from the restaurant themselves, and you couldn’t do anything about it.

So, we had to help him out with that. There’s a process that you go through, it takes time. Really quite distressing. So, just a little tip for everyone; make sure that you have got control of your Facebook account. If you’ve got other people delegated to post, that’s fine, it’s best practice we think. But make sure that you’ve got control of the account so that when someone leaves you can lock them out.

So, let’s crack on with email marketing. So, first off, why should you be doing email marketing? Purely and simply, we see it as being one of the highest ROI marketing campaigns that you can run. It’s a really, really powerful tool. More importantly, a lot of restaurants out there are doing it. So, if you’re not doing email marketing then your competitors probably are, and they’re the ones who are going to be driving utilization. Email marketing is particularly good at driving people to the quiet times of the night, or the quiet times of the week because you can come up with an offer that you can email out to these people. I think that that’s probably the best use of email marketing. We see so many restaurants being really successful with it.

Now, we’ve talked about the ways that you can build your email list. You should be building your emails list automatically, we’ll go through some tools a bit later on about how you can do that. The thing I love about email marketing is that it is so quick and simple to do. You have a think about what it is that you want to communicate with your customers, you write a little bit of text, you might include a photo, and then you send it out. Really, depending on the size of the database, it can have a huge impact on your bottom line, on the number of people coming into your restaurant. And we see some restaurants, we’re not talking chains here, we don’t really work with too many chains, we’re talking about individual restaurants that have got 10,000, 15,000, maybe 20,000 email addresses in their database. Now, it’s interesting. We were looking at some statistics, Mailchimp have said that they usually see about a 24 percent open rate, and a 1.6 percent click through rate for restaurant emails. We think that that’s got to include chain restaurants who probably have a lower engagement rate than their customers. I’m looking at the stats for an email marketing campaign that we have just done, and we are getting a much, much higher result than that. So, let me just have a look. We’ve got an open rate of 12 percent, and we’ve got a click through rate of 3.4 percent. Now, this is a campaign that’s only just gone out.

So, not everyone will have seen this email and we would expect that probably over time to grow to around 30 percent. The important thing is though, that we are literally getting a quarter of the people who have opened that are actually clicking through. Mail Chimp is saying that only six percent of people are clicking through of those who open it for their statistics. So, literally, you can be getting… so, we would expect to see more than 10 percent click through on that. You’ve got to remember, we only look at campaigns that are sent out by small restaurants, and these are the people who have really built a community, their customers are looking forward to the emails that they get from the restaurants because they’ve been sending out good content. So, when you think about it, if you’ve got 20,000 emails in your email database, and let’s just say 20 percent are opening it and let’s just say 10 percent of those are clicking through. 20 percent of 20,000 is 4,000 people. 10 percent of those clicking through, that’s 400 people who are seeing some sort of offer on your website. You might get a quarter of those people getting that offer, that’s 100 people coming into your restaurant. Average table size two and a half people, that’s 250 people. Average check size $50. You’re looking at $12,000. You do one of those every month, you’re looking at an extra $150,000 worth of revenue. $150,000 worth of revenue. I hope my maths is right on that.

But, literally, can you see the whole point of that email marketing campaign? It can make a massive difference to your bottom line. There’s a couple of things that you really need to think about so that you don’t get caught with any of the spam legislation. Being aware of the spam implications is important too, because you don’t want spam filters to be catching your emails. People aren’t going to click on it if it’s gone into their junk folder or if it’s been discarded by some sort of firewall or by the email provider. So, the first thing you’ve got to be really careful of is you’ve got to understand the legislation that is applicable in your country. So, it’s the Can Spam Act in the United States. Australia’s got the Spam Act. Really, you’ve got to make sure that – we’ll include links to those in the show notes – but you’ve got to make sure that you are sending through emails to people who’ve opted in to get those emails. You’ve got to make sure that there’s an unsubscribe function.

You’ve got to clearly state who the email is coming from: your name, your address, all of those sort of details. Don’t buy lists. We’ve seen people who buy lists and they email out, and they get a huge bounce rate. That gets them listed as a spammer. That creates all sorts of problems. It means that sometimes they can’t send emails out to their customers, it creates all sorts of issues. Don’t send emails who’ve opted in, you really want to make sure that people want to receive your offers. You’re trying to build a community, you’re trying to get people to come back. It’s a lot easier with people who’ve already been into your restaurant. So, we think build your list organically.

Look it takes time, there’s no two ways about it. It does take time, but we’ve seen customers who have been plugging away with this for 12, 24 months, and they literally have tens of thousands of people in their email databases. They’re doing marketing campaigns that really do move the needle on this. So, if you haven’t started building your email database, start now. It’s never too late. The sooner you do it, the sooner you’re going to have those big numbers to be able to send out the emails to. So, the next thing you want to be thinking about is making sure that your email doesn’t get caught up in someone’s spam filters. So, what I’ll do is I’ll include a list of words that you want to try and avoid in your email, just so that the spam filters don’t think that it’s a spam offer. There’s a whole heap of words out there, we’ll go through it.

And there are also some tools that you can use, as well, so we’ll include links with those. It’s interesting, you see someone and they’ll send out an email to 5,000 people and say, “We got very little response from it,” then you have a look at it and they’ve included a whole heap of words in there and it looks very spammy. They’ve got, “Hurry, order now!!” These are the sort of things that tip off the spam filters that it’s probably a spam email, so it’s just ended up in everyone’s junk folder and no one’s actually read it which means that your response rate is really poor.

So, next thing, getting people to open your emails. So, this is a good fun one. This is all about the subject line. Too many times we see people sending out emails that have ‘Newsletter’ as the subject line. I will delete that or just completely ignore it, because I get a lot of emails, everyone gets a lot of emails these days. Your inbox is full of emails, every day there’s an avalanche of them. ‘Newsletter’ is not going to attract my attention. It’s very boring. So, what you want to be doing is you want to be thinking about the old days of Yellow Pages when we all tried to come up with great headings. What was the great heading that was going to drag people in? I think that this is where a little bit of the art comes in. We’ve actually seen people who commit to a monthly email cycle actually thinking, “I need to send an email out. We’re not doing anything interesting to write about. We better come up with something interesting so that we can send an email out.” We find that their email marketing campaign drives their overall marketing because they’re now doing things that are interesting to send emails out about. That’s a really interesting thing when you start to do that.

So, the subject line, you want to say what you’re going to talk about in the email. So, simple is better. I’ve seen a lot of people come up with really interesting, quirky, and funny headlines. Generally, they do worse than people who are just pretty matter of fact. “Lobster bisque, one of seven of our new winter menu items this month. If you like lobster bisque…” Don’t forget, people are going to see who it’s from. So, they’re going to know the restaurant. “You know what, I would like to eat a lobster bisque at your restaurant. That would be good, let’s find out about that.” Also, it’s good. “There’s seven new winter items,” it creates a little bit of curiosity in there. “What are the other ones out there? I better open that one up.” “Duck shanks. New happy hour menu starts today.” “Duck shanks, yes that sounds interesting. And there’s a happy hour. This is a good subject line, I want to hear more about this.” “Monday night wine tasting seminar with local sommelier.” “That’ sounds good.” This is a great one, someone has gone to the effort of setting up a wine tasting seminar. And so, probably the local vineyard where they get their wine from, they’re supplying a sommelier. This is sort of like a joint marketing campaign and a lot of people don’t do it because, “What if we run one of these events and no one turns up, it’s going to be embarrassing.”

Having a bit email list make it easy for you to do this. We see people who run events like this, knowing full well that they will sell them out. Isn’t that a great situation to be in? Where you know you can run an event and there’ll be 100 people wanting to come along and you’ve only got 80 seats. That’s where you want to be because it makes it easier to sell the next one and the next one and the next one. So, having an email database really makes it easy for you to come up with those interesting event type marketing scenarios. The good one about this? Monday night. They were probably going to be quarter full, maybe struggling to get anyone in. They will fill the restaurant on a Monday night. That sets them up for an awesome week.

So, subject line. Make sure that you put a little bit of thought into it, a little bit of – tell people what’s going on in the email but create curiosity. Give them a reason to want to click on it  . Make sure that the idea about the offer that’s going to be in there is compelling. So, getting people to click through. There’s the two components you want to do in a great email marketing campaign. First off, you want people to open then you want them to click through. Because that’s where your e-commerce transaction is probably going to take place, once they’ve come through to your website. That is all about the offer. One of the things that I think works really well is to include an image. If you have put duck shanks onto the menu, what’s that going to look like? Give me a picture of that. You’ve got to remember, food is a very emotional subject. This is why food goes so well on Instagram and Pinterest, and Facebook for that matter. Everyone has to eat. What would that be like, the typical picture where the steams coming off? It’s like, “Wow, look at those duck shanks. Look at that rich sauce. I’m starting to get hungry now. I’m thinking of going there. This would be great.” So, a great image can definitely help. Use links. I know it sounds obvious but a lot of people will send an email out about, “We’ve got a new menu,” and there’s no link in the email.

So, you don’t actually know whether people are coming in because of the email or not. This is one of the things that you can do to find out whether your email marketing is effective. So, just talk about this a little bit. If you’ve got 1,000 people or 100, or 10,000 people in your email marketing database, what do they want to hear about? If you send out six email marketing campaigns, you’ll see what the open rate is, because your email marketing program will tell you that. So, you’ll have six subject lines and six open rates. The one with the highest open rate probably has the most compelling subject line, the one that is most tightly aligned with the interests of your database. That’s what they most want to hear about. There’s a couple of other things. If it was overly spammy then you’re going to get a low open rate. If you sent it at a bad time, that can also make a difference. That’s one of the things that’s worthwhile testing, that’s the best time to send your emails out. But the subject line, checking your open rate is going to give you an idea about how interested people are in that subject. The click through rate is how compelling is that offer. So, if you’ve got a nice big call to action, “Make a booking today. Order online tonight.” They are the kind of things that will drive people to click through onto your website. I think that there’s a really big opportunity there to link it with your e-commerce platform. So, we’ve got a couple of tools to help you with this. We’ve got a free online restaurant booking system.

So, you can say, “Monday nights we’ve got a special menu,” or, “Make a booking for our happy hour. Book before 6 pm, Monday to Friday, and receive a free entrée cocktail,” whatever it is that you want to do, whatever the offer is that you’ve come up with. You can link that, you’ll be able to see the number of people who are clicking from your email onto the website and then making a booking. You get a really good idea of what you’re true ROI is on that marketing when you do that. The other one that we’re really exciting about, we’re just about to release, is a Free Restaurant OnLine Ordering system (FROLO). So, that’s going to allow people to take orders online for takeout. The good thing about it? It’s going to be completely free. Really easy to build your email database with this. The interesting thing about this, too, though, is for both people who are taking bookings, and if you’re using something like Open Table or, in Australia, Dimmi, if you’re taking bookings online then you’re actually sharing your contact details with somebody else and they’re probably going to be emailing your customers.

Well, they will be emailing your customers with offers, with specials, for other restaurants. So, it’s really important, you want to cut down the number of emails that those people get. The last thing you want to be doing is sharing the customer contact details with them. So, always try and – all of the tools that you use, they should be just your tools, they should be building your database, not somebody else’s. So, I’ll include links to FROLO and Free Online Restaurant Booking System (FORBS), they’re our two products on the website. So, you can sign up for those if you want to. I think it’s really important that you keep your email database secure, rather than sharing customer contact details with others. So, we’ve covered the kind of things that you should put into the email, and the way that you’re going to sort of structure it.

Probably the best tool for using that, particularly if you’ve got less than 2,000 emails, is Mailchimp. Mailchimp is free for people with less than 2,000 emails. It gives you a working unsubscribe feature, which is really, really important for you. It tells you what your open rates are, what your click through rates are. It’s quick and simple to use, and it’s got some templates in there. The really big thing I think though, is whatever email marketing system you’re using, the important thing is to start sending emails as quickly as you can. Some people have said, “I’ve only got 100 emails, should I do email marketing?” Absolutely. Is it going to be super effective? Not really. But if you send out 10 emails, if you send out 1 a month and it takes you 10 months to build up to 1,000 contacts, you’ll then be 10 emails better at sending out emails. You’ll have a much bigger impact than if you wait until you’ve got a big database. That’s the big problem. You don’t want to build up a massive database and then start annoying people with content that just isn’t relevant to them, sending out emails that have got a high unsubscribe rate. It really is a great idea to start with a small database.

Of course, if you’ve got a huge database that you haven’t email marketed to, that’s not a reason not to. Crack on. Get started now and Mail Chimp is a way to do it. So, that’s pretty much it for today. We’ve really just scratched the basics of email marketing. We’ve talked about why you should do it, and I can’t stress this enough, this is the best tool for getting people – we see it a lot with restaurants that are really busy on Friday, Saturday night and are turning people away. That is the perfect opportunity to start getting some of those people, get them to come in on a Monday or Tuesday night. Get them to come in early in the evening. Remember the art of the walk in. The happy hour is there to make the place look busy at 6, 7, o’ clock. Could you use an email marketing campaign to get 15, 20 people in so that as the people are walking by, “This place is pretty busy, I’ll go in there. It must be pretty good.” Then that sets the basis for a really strong mid-week night. Make sure your subject line is compelling and try and think of interesting things that you can talk about. This is where you get to express your individuality.

What is exciting on the menu? If there’s nothing exciting on the menu, then why isn’t there something exciting on the menu? Your menu’s one of your main sales people. You should be emailing out about that. Make sure you’ve got links. Drive the campaign to your website and then link it up so that you can actually see, “Wow, we got 15 orders tonight from an email that was sent out.” Or, “Over the last month, we’ve had 100 bookings because of the email that we sent out.” These are the kinds of things that you can do. So, hopefully that’s given you some ideas. It’s not really that hard, there’s a lot of restaurants out there who are doing email marketing. And for many of them, it’s a significant part of their online marketing that they are driving big revenues from.

So, if you’ve got any questions hit us up at [email protected], or on our Facebook page. Happy to answer any of those questions that you’ve got there. Check out the show notes. I’ll include some information about Mailchimp, I’ll also have links to the spam legislation in the United States and Australia so that you can make sure that you’re not doing anything illegal, because that’s going to be untidy for your email marketing. If you haven’t already, if you could leave a review on iTunes that would be great. Leave some comments there. Really keen for just open and honest feedback. We want to make this the best restaurant marketing podcast that there is, so any ideas or suggestions, or what is it that you’re struggling with with marketing in your restaurant? What would you like a hand with? That’s it. The next podcast will be restaurant marketing lessons that we learnt from our trip to Charleston, South Carolina. That’s it for us, have a busy week. Bye.



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