Email Marketing: Keeping in Touch Regularly With Your Restaurant Clients

Many of you will shake your heads when reading the title of this blog. After all, you are in the restaurant business, not in the email marketing business, right?

However, let me tell you something that may shock you: you are in the sales business. If you don’t sell your food and beverages, nothing else counts so you need to apply the same marketing and sales techniques than the rest of the business use.

Email marketing is one of the most effective communication and promotion vehicles in the Internet. 90% of Internet users and 56% of all Americans use email on a regular basis (source: e-marketeer Aug. 2006). Restaurants can benefit from email marketing because it’s fast, direct, cost-effective, and builds loyal relationships with your clients. Restaurant email marketing is, perhaps, one of the lowest cost marketing vehicles available to the restaurant industry to book tables and build customer relationships. High quality email campaigns can deliver effective messages that drive action and clients to your restaurant.

Email marketing can be a tricky proposition. People hate email spam and often they delete any email that they don’t think is useful or interesting to them. For your email campaigns to be truly effective, they must be managed properly and conducted in a professional manner. This article provides restaurateurs with some practical tips for conducting effective email marketing campaigns that maximize their return on investment.

If you want your restaurant email marketing to be effective, it’s important for you to develop a targeted, permission-based database. Email addresses can be collected either on your restaurant’s website or at your place when your clients are eating. Let’s look at both:

1.- Create an opt-in form on your website so that visitors to your site can sign up for specials and promotional offers. (If you don’t know how to do this, ask your web site designer to do it for you.)

You may want to offer an additional incentive to sign up, such as coupons, etc. I propose to give discounts or gift certificates as an incentive to capture email information.

Once your visitors hit “Send” on the opt-in form, they receive a confirmation email verifying that they have been added to your mailing list. If they are not interested in getting your emails, they can simply “unsubscribe.” You need to always give your clients the ability to easily unsubscribe from your emailing list in case they think that your emails don’t give them enough value.

To automate this process, you will use what it’s called Autoresponders. (Please read my previous blog for more information about autoresponders)

Basically, an autoresponder is a computer program that automatically answers e-mail sent to it.

Studies show that it takes, on average, at least five or more contacts with most of your potential customers before they finally decide to buy, or in this case, to go to your restaurant.

They get busy and forget. Or they haven’t really absorbed what your offer can do for them…

Using an autoresponder system, you can send emails to the people who subscribe to your site on the schedule you set. Usually, you will send the first email with the coupon the same day they subscribe to your list. Then, three days later you can send them a reminder to visit you place (if they haven’t already done so). You can track whether or not they visit you and delete these customers from your autoresponder, although you may still want to keep them in your list. If they still didn’t come to your place, you can follow up with another autoresponder a week after that.

Meanwhile, you’re off running your restaurant as all these processes happens in the backend. You don’t have to make sales calls or remember to email your potential customers. You don’t even have to enter each new prospect into your database; even that is automatic. All you have to do is keep track of the new customers coming to your restaurant and delete them from your initial autoresponders so that they don’t get annoyed by your automatic emails reminding them to visit your place, since they already did.

This is what a “sequential autoresponder” can do for your business. That’s a fancy name for a system that automatically sends a series of emails that you set up once, and then walk away to let it work all by itself. You load your messages, designed to build one upon the other… the prospect opts in to get your discount coupon… and without any other work on your part, that prospect receives a series of personally addressed mailings on the schedule you’ve set, until the series is complete or until that prospect unsubscribes from your list.

With an autoresponder program, you can also monitor how many emails are opened, how any readers click through, what geographic regions bring the best responses, and more.

You can use this system all sorts of creative and profitable ways. A few examples:

• Deliver a series of staggered reminders to use the coupon that they’ve received when they subscribed.
• Send your regular daily, weekly, or monthly newsletter.
• Start a reminder service to keep you and your staff aware of your customers’ important birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
• Communicate your specials, events, etc.

2.- Collect email addresses at your restaurant.

In addition to collecting addresses on your website, you can also collect email addresses at your restaurant. Approach your happy clients at the end of their meals and ask them for permission (on an opt-in card) to get their emails so that you can send them information, discounts, coupons, etc. via email.

Or better yet, you can use a nifty gadget called Sterizon wiZit. The Sterizon wiZit is a small wireless, portable, handheld WiFi device for collecting customer information and feedback at your restaurant. You just hand out the device to your clients, and they will enter the information themselves. No spelling mistakes, no errors with emails, they do the job for you.

If you have done your homework and have provided your clients with a memorable eating experience, they will most likely willing to share their emails with you.

Now, this is very important: Enter the information of that client directly on your website form (or ask somebody from your staff to do it for you). By following this process, you assure that all the information is collected in the central database, and that they are legitimate email addresses following the opt-in process.

Now what do you supposed to do with all these emails?

When you send emails, please try not to make them an obvious sales pitch. People hate to be told what to buy or where to go for a dinner. Instead, use email to communicate with your clients as follows:

Some examples could be a special event or gala hosted to raise money for charity, a special wine dinner, etc. You can also announce festivity specials such as Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Holidays, Christmas, etc.

Not only they will appreciate your thoughtfulness, but they will also probably honor the coupon and bring along lots of family and/or friends to celebrate at your place!

Please notice that if you have the mailing address of your clients, it is better (and classier) to send them a printed coupon with a personal Happy B-day letter or card. You can have these cards pre-printed, and just be sure to add a personalized note with the name of your client. Use email only when this is the only contact information that you have about your clients.

As you can see, Restaurant Email Marketing can be used very effectively to bring clients back to your restaurant and keep your place fresh in their minds, so that they will book your place instead of somebody else’s when they think about their next meal out, specially if you give them the motivation via discounts or gift certificates.

With your email campaigns, you will also build stronger relationships with your clients and they will have an opportunity to give you feedback that you can act on and improve upon.

It’s a win/win situation for both of you!

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco

How Microsoft’s New Search Engine Impact Your Restaurant

In case that you don’t know yet, Microsoft is releasing a new search engine called Bing next week. So why should you care?

Because it will have direct implications about how people look for information, or should I say, how they receive the information.

This applies specially to restaurant information. Bing is specially good at packaging and presenting information in a more meaningful way.

Take a look at this Bling’s screenshot below (Notice that it says Kumo instead of Bling because Kumo was the internal Microsoft beta name for Bling)


You can see that when a user looks for a restaurant, it receives all the information, including the kind of cuisine, average price, reviews and a scorecard.

This should be great news for your restaurant if your customers are happy with your food and service and they write great reviews. It won’t be so great if you are missing any of the essential ingredients (and I am not talking about food here) to make your restaurant stand out from your competitors.

So what can you do? Actually nothing related to influencing the search. The only think that you can do is to make sure that your restaurant is top notch in all its aspects: great food, impeccable service, nice and clean facilities and some great ambience won’t hurt either.

If you provide your customers a memorable dinning experience, they will rave about your place and write great things about your restaurant. If not, your place will be penalized and no matter how much you spend in advertising, trying to improve your image, people will read what other people write about your restaurant.

In these days where social networking and social opinions are more important than ever, focusing on the basics and exceeding your customers expectations are the best strategies that you can have.

You can check a preview of Bing here:

Happy meals,
Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.

Ignoring the Obvious

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the one that we don’t see, even if it’s in front of us.

Last Friday I made a complete renovation of my website. I changed the look and I decided to move my blog to the main page. Yes my home page is now my blog page.

In the past, I had a subscription form in my home page, but I thought that it will give much more value to my readers if I had great free information in the main page, and just moved the subscription form to the right column.

So I did.

Now, just by entering your name and email (and hopefully some comments about your main challenge as owner/manager) you will receive 20 free videos with the top questions and answers about restaurant marketing, my 36 Restaurant Marketing Strategies E-Book summary and a subscription to my exclusive monthly newsletter, full of useful marketing information.

Pretty good deal uh?

Well it was, and that’s why I was getting very nice subscription numbers every day… until I moved the subscription form to the right side. Then… nothing happened. Not a single subscriber for a week.

First I thought, it may be the colors (I used a pale grey background in the form). Perhaps people don’t notice the form. So I changed the background color to a nice pale yellow. Still nothing.

This is weird, I though, so I went ahead and added a nice burgundy frame around. Now they will see it for sure!

Still nothing. No one single subscriber.

Sometimes the simplest explanations are the most obvious ones, but our minds are set in our own ways and we don’t see them. It took a comment from my wife (the smartest of the two) when she asked: “Have you tested again the form? Perhaps when you were formatting the subscription form, you messed up the code and people can’t subscribe”.

“I don’t think so.” I answered confident… However, it totally made sense what she was saying so this morning, before leaving the house, I did a test. I tried to subscribe myself, and sure enough the form wasn’t working. You could enter the information, but when you clicked the button “Submit”… nothing happened. 😦

Of course, I felt like an idiot. Rule number one when you are messing up with your site and HTML code is to TEST and make sure that everything is working, and yet, I didn’t do it!

So I went ahead and fixed it (a stupid missing end command was the responsible). Now it is working but I am wondering how many of you tried to subscribe and got frustrated with an irresponsive Submit button.

I sincerely apologize. I’ve you had tried and didn’t work for you, please try again. Now it’s working (Yes, I’ve tested it 🙂

I guess that the learning from this experience is, if you have a problem try first the most logical solution before wasting time trying to come up with something else.

Thanks for reading, I feel much better now,
Jose L Riesco

©Riesco Consulting Inc.


What Can You Learn from the Disgusting Domino’s Video Posted in YouTube

Just to get an idea of the importance of the Social Media to promote or damage the reputation of a business, we only need to look at this example.

In case that you are not familiar with this news, I will summarize them for you:

Two former employees of Domino’s Pizza (they’ve been fired and now Domino’s Pizza is pressing legal charges against them) posted a nasty video in YouTube showing how one of them, a man, thought to be an employee putting cheese up his nose and then passing wind on a sandwich. A woman’s voice, thought to be the other employee then says off camera:

In about five minutes it’ll be sent out on delivery where somebody will be eating these, yes, eating them, and little did they know that cheese was in his nose and that there was some lethal gas that ended up on their salami.

It looked like the video showed food that was being delivered and consumed by paying customers of Domino’s.

Of course, this video become viral (meaning that they spread very rapidly, just like a virus) very fast, and before Domino’s could react and ask YouTube to remove it (don’t bother to look for this video in YouTube anymore, it is not there), more than a million people had a chance to watch it.

Patrick Doyle, the president of Domino’s USA had the presence of creating an apology video that he distributed in the same way (via YouTube) to restore the image of the Pizza chain. You can watch his apology video here:

So what can you learn from this unfortunately incident? Two things:

1.- How powerful is the power is Social Media to spread news (good and bad) about a place or event.
2.- How important is that you hire the best people you can afford and train them appropriately.

In these days of instantaneous communication is more important than ever to trust and rely in your people to do the right thing.

Disgruntled employees blog against their employers and tarnish the company’s image. Unhappy customers post negative reviews of the restaurants or small business where they had a bad experience…

So what can you do to avoid negative comments against your restaurant? The only possible course of action is to always try to put your clients and employees as your number one priority. Having happy employees transforms into happy customers and great reviews in these sites.

You can’t control what people post in the social networks but you can control how to treat your clients and your employees. Focus your energies on them and you’ll get great reviews.

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc.

Promoting Your Restaurant in Twitter

Andy Lynes in his latest blog in Big-hospitality: talks about the success of some restaurants using Twitter to promote their businesses.

You can read his blog here:

Twitter, with more than 6 million unique visitors (UV) a month is the fastest growing Social Network Site. In the attached table you can see how it grew from number 22 to number 3 in a year (and this data is 3 moths old!):
Twitter stats

Although Twitter can’t compete (yet) with Face-book or MySpace in the sheer number of users, it has an advantage that the other two social media sites don’t have:

When you send a Tweet (a Tweet is a short Twitter message, up to 140 characters), your followers immediately receive it. This gives you a great opportunity to broadcast pertinent information to them.

For example, are you having a slow lunch day?

You can tweet your followers a message announcing that if they go to your restaurant within the next hour, and tell your servers that they saw this offer in Twitter, you will give them a free dessert, (or a 10% discount, or whatever attractive offer you want to make to attract people).

In this way, not only you can capture new customers in slow days/hours but you can also track Twitter’s results. You will know how many of your new customers are coming because of Twitter, (they will tell you!).

And the best of all, it’s that you will do all of this in a very inexpensive (Twitter is free to use so you’ll only absorb the cost of the discount) and interactive way. It surely beats mailing coupons (with the high cost of printing and mailing) and gives you the freedom to totally adapt it to your hourly needs.

But Twitter is not just a US phenomena. Its popularity Worldwide is spreading very fast. In this chart you can see the breakdown of the top 10 countries. So if you restaurant is in any of these countries

you better start Twittering to them.
Twitter penetration
Some other useful information is to know who is using Twitter. This site: shows very interesting Twitter statistics broke down by sex, age, ethnicity, kids/no kids households, and average income and education. Very interesting information if you use Twitter (or are planning to use it) to target your audience.

So my question to you is: Are you using Twitter to reach your clients (or followers) to promote your restaurant?

If not, you are missing a great a free tool. It totally makes sense that you use this tool to reach to your customers; after all, they are already using Twitter!

Since I know that technology can be sometimes intimidating, and there are so many ways to use Twitter (including many to waste an incredible amount of time with this tool), I am creating a report called: “How to Use Twitter to Promote Your Restaurant”. In this report I explain step by step how to setup a Twitter account, how to use free tools to create a targeted list of followers, how to communicate with them and how to maximize the power of Twitter to promote your restaurant. I included lots of screen captures to help you with the whole process. I think you’ll love it, and the best of all, it will be very inexpensive.

I will announce here when it’s ready.

Have a great day,

Jose L Riesco
© Riesco Consulting Inc.