Email Marketing

Getting Started with Email Marketing: Selecting a Vendor

Email marketing for restaurants still beats social for driving guests in. Here are 7 criteria and 7 companies to consider.

Beginners Guide Email Marketing

This is the second post in our series comprising The Beginner’s Guide to Restaurant Email Marketing. View our first post on getting started here and our third post here.

You can social it up for the next 12 months, restaurants, but there’s a reality you need to come to grips with:

Email still beats social. McKinsey’s analysis suggests if you want REAL action from your messaging, you need to keep going long with email marketing.

There are an increasing number of case studies of restaurants and chains doing really well with social media, with mobile marketing, with their own apps, and so on. In fact, I continue to believe, for example, in Twitter as an eventual mainstream channel for communication, just like the TV networks, just like email. And yes, we all know Facebook has well over a billion users.

But that’s the keyword there: mainstream. Twitter isn’t really mainstream — it has a long ways to go in that department. And Millennials are leaving Facebook…already.

So there’s email, still sitting here, patiently waiting to be better-used by restaurant marketers. We’re here to help you reset things, to help you re-evaluate your email marketing strategy with this series.

There are really 7 main criteria you’ll want to consider with your email marketing provider:

  1. Will your email make it through spam filters to get delivered? Find out your email marketing provider’s deliverability rates and put them to the test. Signup for the newsletters of some of their clients and see if they make it through.
  2. How easy is it to design and send one email? Let’s face it, your time is limited. While you should invest time in making sure your emails stand out (read our other advice on email marketing outside of this series), you’ve also got to make this efficient for you. Can you easily send an email to one location, or your entire chain, relatively quickly? Talk to a representative with your email marketing provider to get a trial run.
  3. Will your emails be mobile-friendly? Oh boy, is this important. Make sure your provider has templates for ensuring your emails look great on smartphones. More and more emails are opened via mobile versus the desktop.
  4. Can you repurpose an email offer? In other words, can you push your emails out to your Facebook page or as a 140-character tweet on Twitter?
  5. To what extent can you segment your lists? By favorite location? Through what means they signed up (SMS, sign-up slip in-venue, Facebook page, website)?
  6. What analytics will you get? You need to at the very least receive open rates, clickthrough rates, bounce rates, and unsubscribe rates. At the very least.
  7. What kind of support will you get? The difference between 18% of your emails getting opened and 31% of your emails getting opened is significant. So, whether it’s the form of support in using the system, or support in crafting emails that WORK, what can you count on. Ask!

If you want to go even deeper with your evaluation criteria, take a look at Fathom’s comprehensive list of criteria.

A final note: any reputable company offering email marketing services to restaurants will help you import your existing list — but make sure to ask just how hands-on they’ll be in helping you.

A List of Vendors to Consider

We’ve also done a quick roundup here, with 7 companies that can help you reinvigorate your email marketing.

While we’ve left out Constant Contact, Aweber, iContact, and Mailchimp (the latter of which we use), on purpose, we have a very complete lineup for you, below.

1. Fishbowl

The indisputed heavyweight in independent and chain restaurant email marketing is Fishbowl. They serve over 50,000 restaurants, offering either DIY services or full-blown email marketing software that blends with social media management.

What I like about Fishbowl is that, while they do represent the Big Kid on the Block in restaurant email marketing, their service is extremely robust and full of potential waiting to be tapped into: templates galore, no coding skills necessary, location-specific messaging for chains, all the typical date-specific marketing messages (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) you’d count on, and paper slips to sign up guests manually in-store.

Read:  The Restaurant Marketing Weapon to Double Down On

They’ve been around for 14 years, so you know you’ve got a well-staffed company with a tested solution. All the standard email marketing statistics are available: opens, clickthroughs, bounce rates, unsubscribes, and more.

With Fishbowl, however, you can also run Facebook sweepstakes, you can post emails to Facebook and Twitter — you can even offload the entire process to an online marketing strategist dedicated to your restaurant.

Here’s something many people don’t know: if you’ve already got an account with OpenTable, you’ve already got access to limited features of Fishbowl.

Otherwise, costs range dramatically, from around $100 to several hundred per month for Fishbowl, depending on a variety of factors: number of locations, features, DIY versus managed services, and so on. The key differentiator with Fishbowl is their dedication to the restaurant industry. Note: Fishbowl defines a chain as a restaurant group with at least 20 locations.

2. Benchmark Email

Benchmark is one of those companies that seems to be off-the-radar, but has a pretty solid framework for email marketing for smaller chains. 

The Benchmark service provides over 300 templates, a really useful drag-and-drop editor for designing your emails, A/B testing, online surveys, Facebook page signup integration, social media integration, and you can even download their iPhone app to send emails while on the go — taking advantage of hot news with last-minute offers to your list, and a lot more. Worth taking a look at.

Benchmark is a bit more hands-off than a company like Fishbowl, who provides account managers and national account managers, but still a good system for the DIY restaurant marketer.

Others to Consider

3. ShoutAmp (formerly mUrgent)

ShoutAmp has been around quite awhile as well. You wouldn’t know that if you looked them up in our directory or LinkedIn, however, as they were known for years as mUrgent.

ShoutAmp’s system is geared towards the same market as Fishbowl, with many similar features — both local-store focus and chain-wide messages (chains in ShoutAmp’s world have 11 locations or more), in-store paper slips to help with signup, hundreds of templates to work with, a dedicated design team and account managers, and complete analytics and email tracking.

4. Campaign Snap

Campaign Snap offers a DIY service specifically catered to restaurants, with plans starting at $59/month for small lists.

5. Eateria

We’ve previously mentioned Eateria. They’re a new, up-and-coming email marketing and social media marketing provider dedicated to the restaurant industry. Eateria’s service features, among other things, a very unique validation and tracking system, to ensure you’re offers are only redeemed the right way, by the right email recipients.

6. Eintouch

Eintouch provides email marketing services for one of our favorite brands (yeah, we’re just going to say it out loud), Wild Wing Cafe. They’ve been around since 1999, and now offer email marketing, social media marketing, and mobile marketing for restaurants.

They provide in-venue sign-up slips and signage, everything. They are the anti-DIY provider, focused on helping you manage your email marketing as a partner, rather than simply a software provider.

7. Gourmet Marketing

Gourmet Marketing is an all-purpose digital marketing provider, offering email marketing services among other digital marketing services for restaurants. The company has been around for 5 years (as of this writing), and offers a free service for restaurants with less than 500 subscribers to their email list.

Their reporting is clean and easy to review compared to some other solutions, and they offer the ability to test-run campaigns before sending to your entire list.

About the author

Brandon Hull

Brandon is the original founder of He has helped thousands of restaurants implement innovative marketing strategies, campaigns, and tactics by incorporating new technology, in order to attract loyal guests.