Email Marketing Guide For Restaurants & Hotels

The complete guide on email marketing for hotels & restaurants - drive clicks, profits and learn about your customers.


Sam Trainor-Buckingham

Whilst some are still dragging their feet, most in the hospitality sector are starting to see the benefits of engaging with customers online. Just like in the physical world, there are a multitude of channels, which tend to work better when working in tandem. For example, Cost Per Click (CPC) marketing is particularly effective and provides a great return on investment when your website allows you to close the sale.

Not convinced? Here are 2 quick examples of email marketing campaigns Ignite Hospitality have carried out in the past month:

YumYum Thai Restaurant, North London

Restaurant Email Newsletter - YumYum


Weekend bookings lower than expected, solution required.


Increase bookings for the weekend.


THE YUMYUM SALE: 25% discount on food for YumYum members this weekend only.


90 bookings at restaurant, resulting in a 600% return on investment.

Alexander Hotels Hotel Group in South England

Alexander Hotels Summer Getaway Email Newsletter


Quick getaways for the summer season.


Increase bookings over summer months.


Email Newsletter to member base.


2300% Return on Investment.

The ROI in these two examples may seem high, but they’re not unusual for email newsletters.

So how do you ensure your email marketing is effective?

Beyond it looking good, there are a multitude of factors that contribute. Below are a handful of hints, tips and insights on how to get the most from e-communications.

First things first – build your database and then build it some more.

A good database is the heart of email marketing, here are a few guiding principles:

  1. Your database should grow organically. Never stop collecting email addresses from your customers. Not only will this offset the churn (customers who unsubscribe) but it will provide you with a bigger base to send promotions and news to.
  2. Most promotions, offers and events are an opportunity to increase your database. Never forget this when planning campaigns.
  3. Big databases aren’t always the most effective. Clean data from your actual customers will give you a stronger ROI.

Data Collection Methods – the basics.

Outside of your die-hard customers, who will generally sign up willingly, customers tend to be reluctant to give away their personal details. For this reason, it’s important to provide an incentive for signing up. There are many ways to capture data, below are the basics, which all businesses should do as a matter of course!


Hotel customers are already providing their personal details, so simply include an opt in box to the database.

For Cafes, Restaurants & Bars, it’s a good idea to run competitions that provide something of value to customers. For example, a restaurant could run a competition to win a crate of wine. To enter customers must provide their contact details.


Your website homepage is a fantastic opportunity to capture new members. Include a sign up form that communicates the offers and value that customers will receive from being a member.

Email content – what to include?

Ask yourself the question – “why am I engaging in email newsletters?” Is it about driving sales? Connecting with customers? Enhancing your brand? It may be some or all of these, but if you determine a theme to your newsletters at the beginning, then customers will be more likely to connect.

Here’s a working example:

Aim for email newsletters is to:

  1. Provide real value to members
  2. Support the fact locally sourced food is served in the restaurant

Theme to newsletter:

More specific tips on email content for Hotels & Restaurants:

Leading message

It’s tempting to include multiple messages, we’ve all got a lot to say, but hold back and ask yourself: If I could have my members do one thing with this newsletter, what would it be? Now form your leading message to drive them to do it.

Users tend to glance over newsletters, so by keeping the core message simple and to the point, higher results will be achieved.

Include clear “calls to action”

What do you want your members to do? Call? Book online? Purchase a voucher? Whatever the action, make sure it’s clear. A recent survey carried out found that 12 of the 42 retailers studied failed to have effective calls to action

Include information your members will find interesting

Messages that include valuable or interesting information are often as powerful as running a discount for members. Whilst this type of content will normally appear in your supporting promotions, it adds value to your members and increases their connection with your brand.

Some examples include:

Clear unsubscribe link

Firstly, this is a legal requirement. Secondly, smart marketers will ensure the unsubscribe button is clearly visible. There is little point keeping people on the database who aren’t interested in your service.


Email newsletters are a personal communication between you and your customers. Emails arrive in recipient’s inboxes, who as a result are more likely to feel intruded upon2. Including personalisation, “Dear Michael”, rather than “Dear customer” helps combat this and build a stronger connection with members.

Forward to a friend

Why not make it easy for your customers to market you? Members who forward it to interested friends are performing targeted marketing on behalf of you.

If you include a “forward to a friend” function, it’s important to also include a sign up button for non-members in the newsletter. Then, recipients who’ve received it from friends can easily become members too.


Include a link to a web version of your newsletter; this will help combat rendering problems in different email clients.

Ensure the email comes from your business

If the recipient doesn’t recognise who it’s from they are less likely to open it.

The subject line is essential to open rate

Studies carried out by Jupiter Research showed that 35% of recipients will open an email specifically because of the content of the subject line.

Design, usability & brand representation

How does it look?

There’s a problem with e-communications: beautifully designed emails, full of images and fancy designs will not render properly in all email clients. Simple text emails will always render properly, but are not eye grabbing.

There’s little point in sending a well designed newsletter if it doesn’t work in half the email clients. Neither should you lose the visual impact of design. It’s essential to strike a careful balance between the two, and always test to ensure every recipient will be able to view your email.

Below is a breakdown of email client types:

Top 10 email clients used by business recipients


Top 10 email clients used by consumer recipients

If an email newsletter renders properly in Outlook and Yahoo, but not in Hotmail, you’ve instantly lost a quarter in impact. It’s a no brainer, but a large number of emails sent don’t take this into account.

Here’s an example from one of our clients:

Example 1Example 2Example 3 

Email newsletter rendering issues

Example 1 demonstrates an email made entirely from images, as viewed in Hotmail when images are turned off. Example 2 is an email with a healthy balance of text and images as viewed in Hotmail – when images are turned off. Example 3 shows the same newsletter in Hotmail when images are turned on.

You can’t control whether recipients have images turned on or off, but you can ensure the balance between text and image is healthy. In this case, sending example 1 would have resulted in a potential 25% loss in the number of viewers able to view the newsletter when first opening.

Maintain the same standards online as you do offline

Whilst you’re not face-to-face with customers online, your design, language and marketing messages all contribute to your brand image. So make sure it looks, sounds and works the way you want it to. It’s not just about driving direct sales.

Your brand isn’t just the design

The language you use is an essential element. Email communications are a personal communication, so try telling, not selling.

Avoid Dead-Ends

It is absolutely essential that the pages your newsletter link to have relevant information. Simple really, but it’s often overlooked. Work out the path you want the user to take, there may be more than one. Here’s an example:

Table of email pathways

Ensure at each stage the user can easily click through to the next stage. The path must be clear.


There is much debate on the impact structure has on an email newsletters effectiveness. We believe we’ve found the correct formula, but in truth it is as much about design and content as it is about a newsletters structure. This said, we’ve come up with a few home truths:

Users don’t read content online, they scan it

It is therefore essential that key elements are picked out, either through colour, size or positioning. Work out where you want users to look and ensure there is a clear path to follow through the newsletter.

Don’t assume recipients will read your newsletter in detail

More than likely they’ll glance across it – so there is a small window to catch their attention.

Keep your structure the same when sending out newsletters

Familiarity is always good, and it will allow customers to scan across picking out the information they require.

Ensure the key information is “above the fold”

This is the area recipients can see before they scroll down the page.

If you have any comments or would like to find out more about how you can benefit from email newsletters, get in touch.

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