Creating a Perfect Restaurant Newsletter

Your restaurant’s newsletter connects your business and your audience on a more regular basis than usual. That’s why it’s important for you to encourage customers to sign up for it at every possible touchpoint: When they’re making reservations, when they’re standing in line, on your social media and website. You can incentivize referrals from existing customers by offering bonuses for every friend they get to sign up.

Make sure you’re getting permission, since legally you can’t add anyone to your email list without their express consent. Once they’ve signed up, you should have an onboarding system in place to handle your new guests. Many businesses don’t send welcome emails, even though nearly three-fourths of consumers expect one. Welcome emails lead to 33% higher engagement in the long run so it’s critical to include that in your onboarding process. With modern technology, it’s easier than ever because you can set them up to go out automatically. They should include a primer on what the customer can expect from your newsletter, like how often you’re sending them out and what type of content they might see. For added fun, include something special like a behind-the-scenes video of the cooks at work or your personal favorite recipe, as this adds an air of exclusivity and makes customers really feel like they’re joining the family.

How to Create a Great Newsletter

Email newsletters spread your brand name and develop stronger connections with the right people. Loyal customers want to know about special offers and sales, and newsletters are a great way to send that information directly to them. Newsletters build brand engagement with the section of your audience that wants to know the most up-to-date information about your business, so you’re not wasting time advertising to people who won’t redeem the offer, and they get motivation to visit their favorite place to eat. Keeping your brand fresh in their minds is critical.

Newsletters are most effective when you get the timing and incentives just right. Someone reading an email at eleven in the morning might redeem that coupon to have a discounted meal sent to them by lunch. Of course, newsletters and marketing emails aren’t the same thing; your goal isn’t to sell (because that will have people quickly unsubscribing) but rather to form bonds and cultivate meaningful relationships with each and every one of your loyal guests.

Here are the important questions to ask when crafting your newsletter:

How often should you send it out?

Make a regular schedule—but not so regular that it’s annoying. People’s inboxes are overflowing with spam emails that, most of the time, they don’t even remember signing up for. If your newsletter is too often part of the common rabble, people will skip right past it. The ideal frequency really depends on how much you have to say and what the content is, but you can generally send it out weekly, biweekly or monthly as a good place to start. Writing special edition newsletters during holidays or special events at the restaurant is also a great way to draw attention to your business—every now and then, breaking pattern is the best attention grabber.

What should go in the newsletter?

The planning process is one of the most important aspects because if done right, you’ll create a template that you can use repeatedly. Before you start, figure out some set goals.

  • What’s the purpose of your newsletter? Is it meant to be informative or entertaining?
  • Who’s your audience? You can’t engage everyone equally, nor should you try. Stick to the loyal customers who have expressed interest in staying caught up with your business and then find out what their hobbies are: Do they like health? Value trends? Care about sports? Whatever their niche is that aligns with your brand—for example if you’re a vegan restaurant that promotes healthier living—zero in on it and master the field.
  • What do you want to talk about in the newsletter? Remember, quality over quantity. Your newsletter can be short as long as it has the right things to say—and nobody wants to read a novel in their inbox, anyway.
  • How should you set up the newsletter? How can you make sure it’s consistent but not repetitive, always aligns with your brand goals and voice (especially if multiple people are in charge of writing it), and uses the same formula that’s been proven to work once you find a good rhythm?

Fortunately, the last question has easier answers than the rest because it’s not as subjective. What you need to do is build a template.

How do you build a good template?

Templates make it easy to build a newsletter that’s brand-specific with a matching theme, every time you send it out. Its logo, colors and general layout should stay the same so that you’re easily identifiable and all you need to do is fill in the blanks.

There are a lot of ready-to-use template builders online. Any one worth your while should include five main elements: Branding, layout, optimization for mobile and desktop, an ideal number of content blocks, and a strong but straightforward feel to it. Content blocks are how many segments of content you include per section—three is ideal for a newsletter—while giving off the right vibe means not using too many images, colors or fonts.

Your newsletter should be easy to read and include only the most relevant information. For anything else you want to say, you can always include links that customers can click through to outside sources like your website.

Curating Good Content

Even though your content shouldn’t be identical from newsletter to newsletter, it should stay thematically similar every time.

  • Subject line: This should be big, bold and catch the eye. This is what makes readers want to open the email in the first place. Keep it short, between four and seven words, and be direct although you can inject some playfulness into the title if that fits your brand voice.
  • Preheader: This is the part that gives readers a bit of a teaser about what to expect. It can be slightly longer than the subject line, about five to eight words, but it’s still just a short opener about what’s inside to entice readers to open the email.
  • Images and visuals: These catch people’s eye and draw them further into the newsletter after initially clicking. Use relevant pictures, videos and gifs that are inclusive, diverse and, if possible, real. Take photos of your food, employees and happy customers to give an accurate insider view of your establishment.
  • Title: Make it interesting, short but informative. You don’t need to put content in here since it’s just a welcomer to the rest of the newsletter.
  • Message body: Here’s where you put the meat. Content blocks of images and copy go here. Keep it concise and make sure your tone fits the brand as well as your audience; if your customer base is comprised of younger generations, you can pepper in some slang and even a few emojis when it’s appropriate, however if you primarily cater to professionals then the text should sound more formal. Stay on brand and on message.

With this basic template in place, all you need to do is fill in the blanks where texts and images go. Save your template on the software you used to create it or on your computer so you can access and edit it every time you make a newsletter.

Content ideas

Your planning is done. Now you’re asking: What should you write about?

The content can really be anything that strengthens your customers’ connection to the restaurant. While you should include the occasional discount or special offer as a thank-you for their loyal patronage, that’s not all your newsletter is about. Creating a personal relationship is a two-way street, so let them know about you: Include staff or customer stories right from the source’s mouth when you want to change up the tone, thank rave reviews or testimonials, include recipes for readers to make with just what they have in their pantry, embed guides or tutorial videos, post blog updates, suggest food and wine pairings, and include anything else you think your customers would be interested in which will also give a feel for the behind-the-scenes culture that makes your restaurant unique. Tell them exactly why your business is a worthwhile place to spend their hard-earned time and money.

Regardless of what you put in your newsletter, since that will vary from restaurant to restaurant, there are a couple of things that everyone should include at the end of their emails, every time and no matter what.

Always add a call to action at the very end. This is critical because it takes your customers’ interest—which has built and built over the course of the email—and turns it into web traffic and, ideally, into a sale. Include a button for them to click on: Read More, Visit Our Website, Reserve A Table, Order Online or even just a coupon for a discount.

Also leave your contact information. Add your website, location, phone number and everything else in a signature so that people can access your social media, connect with you further and maybe even share your brand with some of their friends.

Now go forth and make some newsletters to remember.

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