The internet has changed many things for business, among them the way you promote and market your restaurant. Now, you can talk directly to your potential and existing customers in a way that was previously unavailable. That’s great news! One of the simple ways to ensure your most loyal customers get information is through restaurant newsletters.
While the process of creating a newsletter is technologically simple, and a variety of online services exist to help you out, a successful newsletter takes more than tossing some self-promotion into a template and hitting “send.”
Here are some tips, suggestions, and answers to common questions about restaurant newsletters.
How do I get started?
If you’re starting from the beginning, I recommend trying MailChimp as a service. Templates are useful for everything from selling goods to sharing information. Standard designs are useful, and the templates are easily customizable if you’re working with a designer. MailChimp also offers a set of widgets to embed on your website and other pages allowing customers to sign up to receive your newsletter. As your list grows, explore more features like analytics and customer tracking.
If you haven't already, gathering a list of customer emails is a great place to start (though any customer who’s supplied an email address must consent to receiving communications from your restaurant; it’s the law). If you haven’t started an email list yet, insert the option into touch points: as guests make a reservation; a line on the check or a comment card presented after the meal; via your restaurant’s social channels; on your restaurant’s website.
There’s no minimum number of subscribers required to start a newsletter. In fact, I recommend starting with what you have — even if that’s only 20 subscribers. Encourage them to forward the email to friends and family who may also be interested in receiving the newsletter, and always include a link to sign up — even at the bottom of the content.
How often should I send a newsletter?
How often do you have something truly interesting to say? Plan your newsletter’s schedule at a cadence that feels sustainable. If weekly is too often; bi-weekly or once a month may be ideal. Special events, holidays, promotions, new menu items, or other big changes at the restaurant (or, small changes you want to make a big deal about!) are other great reasons to send a newsletter.
What should my newsletter contain?
The best newsletters are an engaging mix of marketing and other content. Self-promotion is OK; blatant advertising can be annoying to the reader. Collect news items, ideas, and relevant links as you see them. I recommend using a simple Google Doc or the Notes app on your phone. This way, compiling and writing your newsletter will take less time.
Structurally, you have a ton of options for compiling great newsletter content. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with one main story. This one should be about you - your restaurant, your chef, an awesome staff member, etc..Then move on to two or three supplemental items — perhaps some goings-on in your city, good news from another local restaurant, something you’re excited about and think you’re clientele will also get excited about.
"The best newsletters are an engaging mix of marketing and other content."
- Kristen Hawley
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Good spelling and grammar goes without saying here; you don’t need to be a trained journalist to compose a thoughtful newsletter, but you should take the time to read and edit your work more than once. Better yet, have a second set of eyes double-check everything you send — they might catch something you overlooked.
A note on compliance with the law:
In the US, the CAN-SPAM Act regulates advertising and marketing emails. The casual newsletter-sender who is using a program to send emails shouldn’t run into trouble; services like MailChimp are built to ensure you comply with regulations. But the act (and what it means in plain English) is important to read and understand for anyone considering email. Privacy laws apply here, too.
Your Restaurant Newsletter
The most important thing to remember when creating a successful newsletter is to make sure it reflects your restaurant’s personality! Inject your voice, your thoughts, and your opinions into everything you write. Your customers signed up to hear from you — entertain them while giving them what they want, and reward them for their commitment to your restaurant!