You know you need to market your restaurant.
After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, your restaurant likely struggling to stay in business.
Sometimes a bit of humor helps in times like these.
Across the country, businesses closed temporarily. Now, as the country re-opens, you probably want to leverage every available marketing technology and strategy to herd as many customers as the law will allow you to into your doors.
To get more people into your restaurant and keep them coming back, you need to market your restaurant. One unique method of doing that is email marketing.
This method is unique for restaurants because it is a challenge to obtain an email address while the customer sits in your café. They have their mobile phone with them and in the relaxed environment of a meal out, rarely will they want to stop their meal to load your website on a browser. You might get their cell phone number pretty easily, but emails present a challenge.
How can you capture your restaurant customers’ email addresses?
A few options exist for collecting email addresses. When we say “automatically,” we do not mean illicitly. Collecting email addresses always requires an ask. You can ask online or offline. Here are a few ideas for getting the important information surrounding the “@”.
Place an empty fishbowl next to the cash register.
Label the bowl as a collector spot for business cards. If you want to encourage many business cards, offer to draw for a free lunch once per week. You will only be out the cost of one meal, but you will encourage many business cards to get dumped into the bowl. At the end of each week, draw the card that wins and contact that person with their gift certificate. Then, empty the bowl and enter all of the names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers into a database or Excel spreadsheet. Post the name of the week’s winner on the front of the bowl, so people can see why they would want to drop their business card into the bowl. When your winner comes in, take a picture of them dining and post it, too. This could be your first email newsletter.
Ask your customers to text their email addresses.
Customers more freely share their email addresses when sitting at their computer, but pretty rarely have a computer with them when dining out. Some restaurants have had luck asking customers to text their email addresses to the establishment. For example, Elephant Bar set up a short code of 73757 to make it quicker to dial them. Customers can text their shortcode with the word “rewards” followed by their email address to join their rewards program. This method gets the restaurant two important pieces of data — the email address and the cell phone number.
Ask on your website via a reservations form.
You might doubt that restaurant patrons visit websites, but they do. You can encourage them to visit yours more often by offering specials or coupons that you only post there or by setting up an automated reservation system. The latter frees up your personnel from needing to answer the phones to make reservations. Patrons can visit the website to make reservations. You solve the problems of overbooking and bad handwriting, too. The reservation system only offers as many tables as you have, and you can set the reservation times. Your form prompts the patron for their email address to send a confirmation email. You can also offer to send a reminder of the reservation on the day of the meal.
Collect emails from your Facebook page.
Set up a Facebook page and advertise it using the quite reasonably priced Facebook ads. Offer an app for ordering through the Facebook page and prompt your visitors to share their email. You can send a confirmation of the order immediately and use the email in perpetuity, or until they opt out. Once you build your email list, you can improve your ad reach by using custom audiences.
Use a website email collector form.
Regardless of all the fancy stuff, you do with apps and reservation systems, you also need the straightforward method of a simple form. Using a company like JotForm lets you easily set up a responsive design form that collects just the customers’ names and email addresses. You can handily serve this up when customers visit you by offering free Wi-Fi.
Use ZenReach to serve an ad featuring the email collector form.
Programs like ZenReach let you market via WiFi. When a customer enters your Wi-Fi zone and signs on, you get the opportunity to serve them a sign-on page. Request their email address as part of the sign-on or ask for it as “payment” for using the free Wi-Fi. You can also use ZenReach to serve ads and capture leads using an email prompt. This program uses your Wi-Fi and the consumer’s device ID similar to the way a website uses a cookie. When the customer returns to your restaurant and signs on again, ZenReach recognizes them.
Using Your New Email List
Building your list just gets you started. Once you have it put together, you also need to use it. Put it to good use by sending a once per week newsletter that offers helpful content. You might include a recipe or contest news. Featuring biographies on your staff lets customers get to know the chef, bartender, servers, etc. You can personalize your ads and promotions via email, too. While radio, TV, and even direct mail cost money, you can put together an email list for free and use it for the same zero cost.
Remember to segment your email marketing on top of personalizing the emails. Business diners have different needs than date night diners. Those who order online should get different offers than those who come in to dine.
Offer a coupon for something free on their birthday. Now that you have their emails, you can build a real professional relationship with your customers and that gets you valuable word of mouth advertising.