If your hotel features a modern fine dining restaurant or you consider yourself serving the premium end of the market - you are probably not going to offer your fine dining or bistro customers a 25% voucher off their meal.
Those are the marketing tactics that restaurants that don't actually have anything else to offer in terms of food and service need to stoop to. This is seen all over sites like Zomato where the race to bottom is on show for everyone to see.
Surely margins are slim enough without having to discount your food just to attract a few more bargain hunters diners who probably won't be around next week.
And nor are you going to slam them with marketing emails every week with special offers. As a premium restaurant, you know that's akin to spamming.
You know that would cheapen your brand, and it's smacks of desperation. You would rather focus on your food and your service and let the brand equity build itself over time while maintaining margins.
But wait! That doesn't mean you should ignore email marketing - because even the top fine dining restaurants absolutely can benefit from strategic forms of email marketing.
Opt In Only
Let's start right from the beginning though. Your email list should definitely be opt in only (which is best practice anyway) and it should be accessible easily from your marketing website.
Resist the temptation to add guests who provide their email addresses when making a reservation without consent.
But you may want to ask your regular customers if they would like to be added to your mailing list in person. Especially if they are regularly asking questions about the availability of seasonal produce or express interest in special events related to your restaurant.
After all, they are practically begging to be kept up to date with what's going on! They are your raving fans and your best ambassadors.
But those emails certainly shouldn't be about discounting and they certainly should be periodic rather than spasmodic. They should follow an editorial calendar, in other words - the mailings should ideally follow a cycle that coincides with the seasons.
These type of emails can serve several purposes. Firstly, they gently remind your audience that you are still around and they get your Restaurant brand back in the minds of your Raving fans, who may well make that booking on the spot.
The flow on effects for the hotel are that it may also result in more room reservations as couples plan another getaway weekend.
They are foodies, and they appreciate that you aren't ramming a marketing message down their throats. Instead, you are appealing to their love of food and dining.
Email Editorial Calendar
For a premium restaurant in Australian or New Zealand, I would recommend sending out an email on the following editorial calendar:
- The launch of a new seasonal menu and why you are so excited about it. Obviously this would normally mean four emails a year, but it could also mean an 'early summer' menu, or 'mid winter' menu.
- A special occasion that may require booking ahead of time for the usual culprits such as Valentines Day, Christmas etc. Yes this is a classic marketing 'sense of urgency' ploy, but it does work and it's probably true that you are going to be fully booked on these days.
How often is too often? Well it depends of course, but for premium restaurants I would recommend no more than ten emails per year, but absolutely not a 'monthly newsletter'.
The days of sending out the monthly newsletter on the first day of the month are firmly over! Nothing falls flatter on the face these days than a collection of short articles about your 'restaurant news'.
Trust me, no one cares about a monthly newsletter. They just care about how you can inject some excitement and joy into their lives.
So when thinking about content for your emails, think about what excites, what stimulates, what stirs the emotions. And in an industry where you are encouraging the use of all your senses, using visual photography and engaging video (whether taken on your phone or professionally) is absolutely going to enhance your message.
Next time you are out on site with a supplier who is doing great things this is the perfect time to snap some photos and build up your media database. These can be used for all sorts of marketing, not just email marketing - and should be routinely taken as part of every visit.
Fancy restaurants are not exempt from needing email marketing if they want to connect with their raving fans, they just have to go about it in a smart way which preserves the brand equity.
Chris Jack is the editor of Locus Focus and a professional hotel photographer based in Brisbane with over 20 years experience in digital marketing. He also hosts the weekly "Sharper Hotel Marketing" podcast.