10 Tips for Creating an Effective Restaurant Newsletter

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1)   Keep it Relevant
Above all, your newsletter should be relevant to your customers. It should include information they want to know, for example, if you are changing your hours or days of operation, if you have a new executive chef or wine director, or if you are supporting a major charity to fight hunger or obesity.

2)   Communicate Regularly
Determine the frequency of your newsletter. If your restaurant regularly offers special dinners, events or fundraisers, then a monthly newsletter may be appropriate. If your menu changes every season, consider a quarterly e-newsletter. If your menu is fairly fixed, then a spring/summer and winter/fall newsletter may be most appropriate. Don't go overboard and send out a newsletter every week. Your customers will get bored and tune out quickly. What's more, their Internet service providers may think that you are sending spam to their email accounts.

3)     Keep it Scannable
People don't read email carefully; they scan quickly to get the gist of your messages, then they move on. If you write a long essay, your email will get ignored or deleted. Use short sentences. Like this. It works. You're still reading.

4)     Break it Up
Keep your messages clean and readers will respond. Avoid heavy designs or long blocks of text. Headlines, color blocks, and images help draw the eye through the message. Use dividers to separate sections. Include white space between stories. In addition, try to avoid large image files that clog people's mailboxes and prevent them from receiving your message.

5)     Light Up the Links
Label all links with underlines or use buttons. Add action verbs near each link, like "learn more" or "visit our site". Don't assume that people will know that images are links -- put buttons and text on top of photos.

6)    How Do I Get On the List?
It's amazing how many emails don't include instructions on how to subscribe to the list. This is a fundamental mistake. Your emails are your #1 viral promoter. Don't expect anyone to go to your site looking for the sign-up page. Every email, every time, should have clear and simple instructions on how to subscribe. Readers instinctively look at the footer for subscribe instructions. You lose them if it's missing.

7)     Who Are You?
Regardless of what's in the main body of your e-newsletter, you should use the footer to tell your background story. Every message should include an "About our Restaurant" section, along with "About this Newsletter" and links to the main sections of your website. It won't get read every time, but the message will sink in.

8)     Offer an Offline Incentive
Tired of getting false data in response to forms? Too many 123 Main Streets in your database? Try offering an incentive that has to be sent in the postal mail, such as a coupon offer for a free dessert or glass of wine. People will cough up the most protected private data for the simplest reason. And it'll be accurate if they want to receive the coupon in the mail.

9)     Tell Them To
If you want people to forward your email -- just ask. Add text and buttons that say "forward to a friend" in multiple places. Readers respond to these reminders. A little encouragement goes a long way.

10)     Make It Easy
Your tell-a-friend form should be as painless as possible. Every step you remove increases the chances that forwards will happen. Fill in the forwarder's email address automatically. Provide suggested text that the forwarder can edit. Use separate boxes for 5-10 friends' names (a single big box gets fewer forwards). And be absolutely sure to include a big mention of your privacy policy.

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