Email marketing for restaurants might seem complicated at first. Beyond just figuring out how to send newsletters to your customers, you also want to be able to send coupons, advertise events, or even follow up with customers who’ve placed online orders.
Luckily, using the right email marketing service, or EMS, will make email marketing a breeze.
Not just any EMS will do, though. You’ll need one that helps you target different types of diners with powerful segmentation tools, and gives you the ability to build automated workflows to keep your email marketing running when your restaurant is packed.
Choosing the wrong EMS won’t just be a waste of your time, but your hard-earned revenue, too. That’s why I’ve tested the biggest EMS services on the market so you can work on what matters most.
Grab a seat and settle in as I dive into how these EMS providers can help turn new diners into regular customers, and your regular customers into your brand’s biggest cheerleaders.
Short on Time? These are the Best Email Marketing Services for Restaurants in 2022
- ActiveCampaign – Hundreds of automation templates to target new and regular customers alike, no matter what kind of dining your restaurant offers
- GetResponse – Fantastic e-commerce features and integrations, perfect for restaurants that offer takeout options and other online services
- Benchmark – Highly specific segmentation options to help you target diners based on their dietary preferences, which coupons they’ve used in the past, and more
What We Look For in the Best Email Marketing Services for Restaurants
Restaurants have specific needs when it comes to email marketing services. After searching through dozens of EMS providers, I narrowed my list down to those that provide these vital features:
- Complex automation: Multi-step automation workflows are a great way to engage diners after their first visit and keep regular customers interested with newsletters and exclusive offers.
- Highly specific segmentation: This feature will help you to craft email campaigns that target specific groups of customers, like diners who have used coupons, people with specific dietary requirements, or even people who are only interested in certain events.
- Modern landing page builders: Well-crafted landing pages can help you to capture new contacts, and the best will automatically segment new contacts.
- Email personalization options: By using the data you’ve already collected about your customers, you can craft thoughtful emails and compelling offers to turn occasional customers into loyal diners.
- High-quality customer service: If your emails stop working in the middle of your dinner rush, you’ll want to know someone’s available to help you fix things quickly. The EMS providers I’ve reviewed all offer either 24/7 support channels or prompt responses.
ActiveCampaign is one of my favorite EMS providers. I tend to refer to it as a “pick up and play” EMS because it’s super easy for beginners to understand. In fact, it scored near perfect marks in our ActiveCampaign review for its ease of use. The interface is slick, its drag-and-drop editor is a pleasure to use, and it offers (almost) all the features you’ll ever need for your restaurant.
I say “almost” because support for right-to-left (RTL) languages, like Arabic and Hebrew, is only available in the HTML editor. This can be a pretty big downside if you focus on those cuisines, or if you serve customers who speak these languages. If this is a deal-breaker for you, then check out Benchmark – it offers RTL language support in its drag-and-drop editor.
My favorite feature by far is ActiveCampaign’s complex automation workflow builder. Automation is a fantastic tool that automatically sends emails to contacts whenever they do something like sign up for your email list, make a booking, or buy a ticket to an event.
ActiveCampaign’s drag-and-drop system makes it easy to build any workflow you need, whether that’s a request for feedback from takeout diners or a welcome email series for customers who signed up to your email list after using a coupon from Facebook.
There are also over 500 automation templates that you can easily download and use. This is great for inspiration if you’re not sure what emails you’ll need, and it’s a fantastic way to save time getting your email marketing set up.
- 500+ automation templates: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when you need a welcome series, VIP coupons, or exclusive event invitations – just pick a template and customize it for your restaurant.
- Conditional content display: Determine what content your contacts see based on attributes like dietary restrictions, whether they dine in or take out, how frequently they visit your restaurant, and more.
- List cleanup tool: Remove contacts who haven’t opened your emails in a while to save clogging up your lists with people who only signed up to see offers while they were visiting your town.
- Automated segmentation: When contacts click links in your email, ActiveCampaign can automatically apply tags to their information, add/remove them from segmented lists, or begin an automated workflow.
If you offer takeout at your restaurant but don’t want to pay the high fees charged by Deliveroo and other apps, then GetResponse is a great choice. I know, it sounds weird to say that an EMS will help you reduce your reliance on Deliveroo or Uber Eats, but hear me out.
GetResponse has a fantastic suite of e-commerce tools that help you run the takeout arm of your restaurant independently. It integrates seamlessly with Shopify, Magento, Prestashop, and PayPal, making it easy to build automated workflows around what and when your diners order food.
In addition, GetCommerce offers transactional emails, so you can easily automate order confirmations, receipts, and even order updates. Plus, if potential customers start ordering food but then don’t check out, you can send them reminders and coupons.
You can also build your restaurant’s website and any landing pages you’ll need through GetResponse, making this EMS an (almost) one-stop-shop for running your takeout business.
However, it is worth noting that transactional emails are a paid add-on for the MAX plan, for which you’ll need to contact GetResponse to get a quote. It’s disappointing this feature is a paid add-on, as other EMS providers, like Sendinblue, don’t charge more for this.
With that being said, if your takeout business is generating a good volume of orders and you want to keep a bigger chunk of the profits, I’d recommend GetResponse.
- Transactional emails: Send order confirmations and updates, and move diners to abandoned cart workflows to keep them engaged.
- Landing page and website builder: Build modern, mobile-responsive web pages that work seamlessly with the rest of your email marketing – take a closer look at these in our GetResponse review.
- E-commerce integrations: GetResponse offers hundreds of integrations, allowing you to connect your email marketing to Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, PayPal, and more.
- 24/7 live chat support: If your email marketing stops working during the dinner rush or you need help creating a segmented list for your regular diners, 24/7 support means there’s always someone to help.
|Free trial or plan?||30-day free trial of the Basic, Plus, or Professional plan, or a Free Forever Plan|
|Customer support channels||24/7 live chat, email, knowledge base|
||Transactional emails for order confirmations and updates and abandoned order automated workflows|
Unless you’re running a hyper-specific restaurant that only caters to people on a raw paleo vegan diet, then you’re going to need email segmentation. Actually, scratch that – every restaurant needs email segmentation.
You know why? Because no two diners are the same.
Contact list segmentation is, in essence, a fancy way of saying you’re breaking down your contact list into highly specific groups of people. For example, you might want to send a campaign only to your regular diners, vegans, or even something super-specific like people who have visited your restaurant at least twice during April. Segmentation lets you do this.
Benchmark is a great EMS that understands the power of segmentation (just check out our Benchmark review for the full low down). Not only can you create segmented lists yourself, but Benchmark’s software can create lists for you. The software will go through a set of campaigns and pick out a list of people based on how they’ve engaged with your emails. Pretty neat stuff.
If you want to build segmented lists yourself, that’s easy to do, too. You can segment lists based on names, locations, dates, contact ratings, and notes you’ve added to your contacts.
There are also two custom date and five custom text fields on each contact in your list, so you can easily use these to note down birthdays, dietary preferences, whether they’re dine-in or takeout customers, or whatever else you fancy. This gives you a ton of options with segmenting your contact list, regardless of the type of restaurant you run.
You can also access segmentation on the free plan, which is extremely helpful if you’re a small restaurant without a marketing budget.
But note that the free plan limits you to 250 emails a month, which can be restrictive once you have a higher number of regular diners. It’s a little disappointing, honestly – Sendinblue’s free plan offers 300 emails a day, and Mailchimp an astounding 10,000 emails per month without needing to spend a single cent.
However, Benchmark’s free plan is fantastic if segmentation is important to you. It also offers polls and surveys, which you can use to ask diners for feedback following their visit or takeout order. It’s worth using the free plan for these features alone, even if you plan to use it as an extended free trial before upgrading.
- Near-limitless segmentation options: Benchmark can create segmented lists based on behavioral criteria from previous campaigns, or you can easily make highly specific lists with as many different criteria as you wish.
- Polls and surveys: Collect feedback from recent diners, ask for suggestions for upcoming events, or just run fun polls to keep your contact list engaged.
- List cleanup tool: Visitors might sign up for your emails for money off while they’re in town for just a few days – this tool helps you to get rid of them, and others, once they stop engaging with your emails.
- Decent free plan: Great for super-small restaurants, takeout eateries, and even as an extended free trial to play around with your email marketing before you spend any of your marketing budget.
When you’re just getting started, every dollar counts. While Mailchimp is (in)famous for its free plan (more on that later!), Sendinblue is less well-known – but offers one of the best free email marketing plans for small restaurants.
First of all, you can send up to 300 emails a day on Sendinblue’s free plan, which is a huge step up from Benchmark’s 250 a month limit. There’s no contact limit, either, so you can easily have thousands of contacts if you’re willing to segment them into highly targeted lists.
If you’ve got the time to split your contacts based on their dietary preferences, whether they’ve attended events before, or even if they visited for the first time in March because they had a coupon from a local newspaper, then you can easily game the system.
Most importantly, you’ll get almost all of the features you need to start growing your restaurant’s mailing list. Sendinblue’s free plan offers transactional emails, live chat for your website, and dozens of mobile-friendly email templates. All of these can help you to capture new diners and keep your customer base engaged with your food and events.
The only annoying thing about this free plan is that you can’t build landing pages (more on that in our Sendinblue review). You’ll need to upgrade to the Premium plan to access the landing page builder – which starts at $65.00/month. Ouch. Since both Mailchimp and Benchmark include a landing page builder in their free plans, it’s a shame it’s not included here.
If a landing page builder is an absolute must for you, check out GetResponse – the landing page builder is included on their Basic plan, and they have tons of modern, mobile-friendly templates to get you started.
With all of that being said, Sendinblue’s free plan is fantastic for small restaurants that want an email marketing platform with no frills. Sure, you won’t get landing pages, but you’ll have your emails covered.
- Generous free forever plan: With 300 email sends a day and an unlimited number of contacts, the free plan is fantastic for small restaurants that don’t have a marketing budget.
- Transactional emails: Keep takeout diners engaged with abandoned order emails and order updates, helping you to turn one-off orders into repeat business
- Easy segmentation and personalization: Set contact attributes like dietary preferences, whether they’re dine-in or takeout customers, and even their most commonly ordered dish, and use this to craft highly specific campaigns.
- Website live chat: Add a live chat feature to your website so customers can quickly make a booking, check whether you cater to their dietary requirements, or just gather feedback.
AWeber doesn’t have a great reputation for email templates, I know. Most of the templates are…okay. They’re not ugly, but they’re not drop-dead-stunning either. And, let’s be honest, some of the templates are so dated that you’d associate them more with a mom-and-pop diner from the 90s than your hip, modern restaurant.
Still, there are over 600 email templates, so it’s par for the course that there will be some templates that just don’t fit what you want.
And the drag-and-drop email editor is an unsung hero. Plus, AWeber will automatically create an email template based on your website. From there, you can tweak all of the content blocks to make an email that fits your brand style. It’s pretty easy to change them up so they fit your brand.
My favorite feature by far, though, has to be the ability to use Canva directly in AWeber’s email editor.
Canva is a brilliant free tool that helps you design any promotional material you might need and has its own catalog of templates, graphics, stock images, and other assets to help you brand your emails. So, having it included in AWeber’s editor is super convenient.
All of these email design features are available with AWeber’s free plan, too. As long as you don’t need more than 500 subscribers, or 3,000 email sends each month, this plan will serve your restaurant well.
While you’ll need the Pro plan for more advanced features like split testing, behavioral automation, and transactional emails (all covered in our AWeber review), the basic plan has all of the features you’ll need to get started with keeping your customers engaged.
- Simple drag-and-drop editor: Regardless of how much graphic design experience you have, this feature is beginner-friendly and easy to navigate.
- Automated template builder: If none of the 600+ pre-built templates work for your restaurant, simply input your website address and AWeber will build a template for you.
- Seamless Canva integration: Design stunning banners, logos, promotional images, and more in Canva without having to leave AWeber or flick around multiple open tabs.
- RTL language support: As long as your keyboard supports the language, you can write in Hebrew, Arabic, or any other RTL language – perfect for restaurants that specialize in cuisines from those countries.
If you’re new to email marketing and want something super easy to get to grips with, you can’t go wrong with Constant Contact. The interface is honestly one of the best on the market, and it’s not hard to find your way around all of the features. There’s also a jam-packed knowledge base, so even if you’re starting from scratch, you’re not left on your own.
Unfortunately, I can’t say it’s suitable for all kinds of restaurants. While the basic features cover, well, the basics, the advanced features leave a lot to be desired. You can’t use conditional content display to personalize your emails, and automation is limited to three options only.
However, what Constant Contact is good at is fitting in with your existing workflow. It offers over 300 different native integrations, and thousands more through Zapier, to help you reach your marketing goals. By integrating with Facebook, Instagram, Shopify, Eventbrite, and even URESERV, Constant Contact becomes more powerful as you connect all of your accounts.
If you need help getting these integrations set up, you can talk to customer support via live chat, email, and phone. Support isn’t available 24/7, but it is there during key US business hours and, in my experience, it’s prompt and helpful (my colleague had a pretty good experience with customer support too which he’s written about in our Constant Contact review).
In short, it’s worth trying out if you don’t have super complex email marketing needs, and you already use a few other software tools to market or run your restaurant. And with a 60-day free trial if you’re in the US, and 30 days free elsewhere, it’s risk-free to see what you think.
- 300+ email templates. Time is precious when you’re running a busy restaurant, so this wide range of free templates helps you to save time with your email marketing.
- Marketing support. If you’re struggling to find the time to figure out the best strategy for your restaurant, marketing advisors are available as a paid add-on to your Constant Contact plan.
- 30-60 day free trial. Constant Contact offers the longest trial of any EMS, with US customers able to try it out for free for nearly two months. This gives you a ton of time to figure out if Constant Contact works for your restaurant.
- Daily free webinars. No matter what plan you pay for, you can participate in daily webinars to help you take your marketing to the next level. Each webinar also has a live Q&A, so you can get your questions answered by the pros.
If you search for how to manage your restaurant’s email marketing on the cheap, you’ll undoubtedly hear people singing Mailchimp’s praises. But while Mailchimp’s free plan is great if you’re only worried about covering the basics, any more than that and you’ll want to consider another EMS.
Mailchimp’s free plan is extremely generous with its limits – you get 10,000 email sends a month and up to 2,000 contacts. It’s undoubtedly the biggest email send limit currently in any free EMS plan.
The interface also looks and feels professional without being off putting. It’s beginner friendly and easy to read. And, honestly, it has a way of instilling you with confidence that you can do email marketing, even if you picked it up five minutes ago because a friend of a friend had a referral code and you’ve got no idea what you’re doing.
All of the features are easy to use. Even though the analytics are extremely basic, there’s plenty of information to get you started. You also get a pretty nifty email preview tool that shows you how your email will look on different devices.
The problem with Mailchimp is that while it has a huge email send limit, it lacks the advanced features that other free EMS plans offer. Mailchimp’s automation can’t hold a candle to the automation AWeber offers on its free plan, and it’s just a distant speck compared to all Active Campaign offers.
You can get more advanced features, like more complex automation and conditional content display, with Mailchimp’s paid plans – but at that point, you’re better off with a different EMS. ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, and Benchmark all offer plans with the same suite of features as Mailchimp’s Premium plan for far less.
Does this mean that Mailchimp isn’t worth the pixels it’s made of? Not at all – it’s great if you just want to get to grips with the basics of email marketing. So if your restaurant is pretty new, or you don’t have much marketing budget to play with, it’s worth trying out Mailchimp – even if it’s just to figure out what features you want to use.
- High email send limit: With up to 10,000 email sends a month and a limit of 2,000 contacts, you’ve got plenty of room to grow.
- Intuitive interface: Finding your way around Mailchimp is pretty easy. You’ll find you can get to grips with the interface in the amount of time it takes you to down a cup of coffee.
- Email preview tool: Check that your emails look just as good on your customer’s smartphones as they do on their desktops.
- Simple analytics dashboard: Quickly and easily see how your emails are doing without needing to spend ages figuring out what all of the numbers mean, check out our expert Mailchimp review for more details.
|Free trial or plan?||Free Plan|
|Customer support channels||Knowledge base, Email (30 days on free plans, then Essentials plan and up), live chat (Essentials plan and up), Phone (Premium only)|
|Standout feature||Beginner-friendly, basic, and free email marketing with a high email send limit|
If you’re looking for an EMS that’ll save you a ton of time, then Active Campaign is best for you. Sure, you’ll need to put in some initial effort setting up workflows in the automation workflow builder, but it’ll save you time in the long run. And it’s well worth the effort to ensure you can market to every type of diner that walks through your doors (or places an order online).
For takeout restaurants, you can’t go wrong with GetResponse. It has a fantastic suite of e-commerce tools like transactional emails and integrations with payment gateways and platforms like Shopify. Not only that, but its 24/7 customer support channels mean that if something goes wrong in the middle of the dinner rush, there’s always help available.
However, if you need something more basic and you don’t have the marketing budget for a paid EMS, then I definitely recommend Sendinblue. With a limit of 300 emails a day and no contact limit, it’s fantastic for small restaurants that need a no-frills email service.
|Free plan?||Starting price||24/7 support?||Standout feature|
|Active Campaign||✘||$9.00/month||Yes (live chat and email)||Complex automation builder with hundreds of pre-built templates|
|GetResponse||✔||$0/month||Yes (live chat)||Transactional emails for order confirmations and updates and abandoned order automated workflows|
|Benchmark||✔||$13.00/month||Yes (live chat and email)||Complex and custom segmentation with unlimited criteria|
|Sendinblue||✔||$25.00/month||Yes (email)||Comprehensive free forever plan with up to 300 email sends a day|
|AWeber||✔||$19.99/month||Yes (live chat, email, and phone)||Beginner-friendly drag-and-drop editor with in-built Canva integration and a stock image library|
|Constant Contact||✘||$9.99/month||No, but live chat, email, and phone support is available during core business hours||Thousands of integrations, including restaurant-specific applications|
|Mailchimp||✔||$11.00/month||Yes (email, live chat, and phone). Free plans can only use email support for 30 days.
Phone support only available on Premium plans.
|Beginner-friendly, basic, and free email marketing with a high email send limit|
Which email marketing service is best for restaurants?The best EMS for your restaurant will depend on what you want to get out of your email marketing. If you need advanced automation to help you target all of your diners, then I recommend ActiveCampaign. However, if you need something basic and can’t afford a more expensive EMS, then I recommend either Benchmark’s free plan or Sendinblue’s free plan. Don’t forget to look at our email marketing coupons too, to save yourself some money.Is it worth using an email marketing service for a restaurant business?Email marketing is completely worth doing for restaurants. It can help you turn one-time customers into regular diners, generate interest from out-of-town visitors, and sell more tickets to your events. But be careful to pick the right EMS for your needs, and make sure you understand how to use its features to their fullest extent. I’d start by looking at my recommendations in this and our list of the best email marketing services overall in 2022.How should restaurants use email marketing?A key strategy with restaurant email marketing is segmentation, because every diner is different. Unless you specialize in a very specific cuisine, you’ll attract customers with different dietary preferences, reasons for visiting, and spending habits. Utilizing segmentation tools will help you to craft email campaigns that target each of these customers with specific offers that keep them coming back.What should I look for in an EMS for a restaurant?I recommend looking for an EMS that offers highly specific segmentation so you can target different types of diner who order from your restaurant. Complex automation workflow builders are also a great way to save time on your emails while ensuring that each type of diner is kept engaged. With that in mind, ActiveCampaign is your best option. Finally, I recommend looking for an EMS that offers 24/7 support, particularly if you offer online ordering, so you’ve always got help available if anything goes wrong and for that, I’d recommend GetResponse.