MRM Case Study: How Email Marketing Can Help a Restaurant Stand Out and Thrive – Modern Restaurant Management

In the world of restaurants, the competition is fierce, the choices are abundant, and the inbox is an increasingly important vehicle which restaurateurs can use to engagetheir customers, ultimately gaining insights about their clientele. The U.S. alone boasts a robust mix of more than 650k restaurants and dining experiences. Amongst all this competition, how can email marketing help a restaurant stand out and thrive?

At Patina Restaurant Group, we recognize that by creating a personalized experience, our clients feel more connected to our brand. By leveraging a healthy mix of classic and innovative marketing tactics, we know that we’ll get new diners in the door and once they’re here, offer the best possible experience. For our frequent customers, we lean on digital purchase histories to serve them relevant content in their inboxes, and for new opted-in diners we collect personal details, like birthdays, so we never miss an important opportunity to connect. 

Creating Lasting Relationships Through Email 

We’ve learned that while many of our diners are local residents, we also welcome many tourists. This presents both a unique challenge and an opportunity to be creative with how we engage our customers. For example, customers may only visit and dine at our Orlando restaurants annually, but we will continue to engage with them via email throughout the year.  In this way, we can be top of mind when they are planning their next visit to the area. We also take this a step further by encouraging these customers to visit us again by highlighting upcoming special events like Morimoto Asia’s annual Sakura Festival, a culinary celebration of the beloved cherry blossom season. 


At Patina Restaurant Group, we think it’s critical that our email automation strategy is as “human” as possible. Our lapsed guest automation is one such example:  if a guest has dined with us frequently in the past but has not visited us in several months they’ll receive a friendly, personalized email from the general manager of that location, sharing what’s new.

We’re careful not to reach out to guests who have only dined with us once or twice, because our message would not resonate with that audience. This tactic has led to return visits but also, increased customer loyalty and engagement with our brands. In fact, the general manager of The Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center once received a handwritten response from a guest thanking them for the thoughtful email and noting they would be coming back to dine. 

Making the Most of Sends

The historical spending habits of our customers are another essential part of our email marketing strategy. We leverage Emma’s integration with Venga and our point-of-sale systems to target customers based on items they have previously purchased. This technology allows us to suggest additional events and menu items that our guests are likely to find interesting.

Recently, one of our NYC restaurants held a rosé wine tasting, and in addition to emailing that restaurant’s mailing list, we were able to identify and invite guests who had purchased rose at our other local restaurants. By sending only the messages that our guests want to receive, we can consistently maintain above-industry-standard open and click rates while allowing us to cross-promote our portfolio.

With Emma connected to our POS and reservation systems, we’re able to be much more strategic about the content we are putting in front of our guests, which leads to higher engagement and lower opt-outs. We are also able to demonstrate clear ROI from our marketing efforts, as this integration allows us to associate actual reservations and spend with individual email campaigns.

We also use Emma’s robust click activity information to maximize the impact of each email that we send. The click map has helped us to identify the optimal locations for our CTAs, so our subscribers can quickly and easily get to the information they want. We also use this data to inform our eblast layouts when sending communications about multi-restaurant events. After an initial eblast, we’ll typically adjust the layout in response to business needs and increase visibility of locations that we want to highlight. We  value the insights Emma’s reporting provides because it allows us to easily measure the impact of our email marketing across our restaurant and catering business.