Collecting Email Addresses to Start a Restaurant or Hospitality Email Club

The number 1 question we get asked by restaurant and hospitality businesses is "How can we start collecting emails to start an email club for our business?"  It can seem like a daunting task but it really doesn't have to be.  A few simple methods will allow you to effectively communicate with your guests through email, to keep them informed and drive them into your establishment. 

The biggest factor preventing owners from getting started is FEAR.  A lot of owners worry that that using this platform will become a nuisance to a guest receiving an email and it will be categorized as junk.  Our experience yields the exact opposite reaction from your guests.  A good email club only consists of members that specifically ask to be part of the club.  By signing up, they're telling you that they want to be emailed news and promotions about your restaurant.  As a matter of fact, your raving fans are looking forward to receiving that email from you.

Here's some tips to get started collecting emails for your email club:

1) ASK! - The single most effective manner for gathering email addresses it to simply ask your guests.  It's so simple, but too many businesses neglect to openly ask for a guest's email.  This can be integrated into a variety of processes, but everyone should be trained.  Wait staff, cashiers, and all people handling the front end of your business should all be actively asking for a person's email address before or at the point of sale.  This is best done by verbally mentioning it to them and giving them a sign up slip that they can use to fill out their information.

2) IN-STORE SIGNAGE - Promote your email club through signage in your establishment.  Direct the user to a sign up basket or fishbowl where they can sign up right there while they're in the store.  Other ideas are to provide a website address where they can sign up or a QR code on the sign to allow them to sign up immediately on their smart phone.

3) PACKAGING - Affix a web URL to any packaging you may have to allow them to sign up for your email club.  If you have carry-out menus, they should be there.  Leftover bags?  There too.  Carry out packaging?  Yup.  Disposable cups?  You guessed it.

4) YOUR WEBSITE - When a user comes to your website, you should have a clear action that you want that user to take when you get there.  For us, it's to start a free trial of our tools.  What is it for your website?  One of them should be to collect their email address for your email club.  You should have a way for them to sign up and you should be encouraging them to do so visibly on your website.

5) YOUR CURRENT INTERNET MARKETING - If you already are doing any sort of email or Internet marketing, you should be asking users to join your email club there too.  This includes your Facebook page, Twitter page, and allowing a user to refer any emails they receive to a friend so they can sign up as well.  You are asking those people to refer your business, right?  (That's a subject for another blog!)

Once you do have a substantial set of email address (50 is a good start), you are able to start marketing to your email club as another channel to drive revenue, build trust, and excite your guests!

One last thing that we need to mention when discussing this topic: All emails in your email club should be gathered via an opt-in process established by your business and they should never be shared outside of your business.  Emailing people who have not explicitly asked to be on your club is an excellent way to lose your guest's trust.  Oh yeah, it's illegal too.  So, however you collect email addresses, make sure a customer requested for you to email them.

What things work best for your business to collect email addresses?  Or, what challenges have you been faced with?