How Restaurants Can Use Hyper-Local Email Marketing to Gain Loyal Customers

At Sozoe Creative, we had the opportunity to work with The Dapper Doughnut from the beginning, helping to build its brand identity from the ground up. Now, the franchise has grown to more than 30 locations, and a large part of the company’s growth can be attributed to a strong following at the local level.

From grand openings to increasing store traffic on normal business days, targeted email marketing campaigns can be any franchise restaurant’s most effective tool in generating top-of-mind awareness among consumers.

Build a Locally-Focused List

Regardless of the design and content in the email itself, the effectiveness of an email campaign depends on the list of recipients. Acquisition strategies for brands, especially restaurants, should center around a lead magnet to draw in the local crowd and convert customers into leads. 

Targeted email marketing campaigns can be any franchise restaurant’s most effective tool in generating top-of-mind awareness among consumers.

Dine Rewards is a great example of this. When customers visit Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill or Fleming’s, they receive 50 percent off every fourth qualifying visit. Customers get rewarded for increased visitation, and restaurants benefit from the ability to communicate with their target audience once a week with the specials or local promotions. 

Another tactic to help build a strong list is to set up email automation, or an automatic workflow of emails that trigger a send whenever a user subscribes. Setting up email automation will result in automatic touch points and is an efficient way for brands to reach their target market.

For The Dapper Doughnut, this process begins when a user clicks on a digital ad and is directed to the website to subscribe to the email newsletter. Once the information is entered into the system, an automatic thank-you email is sent with a free doughnut code. At this point, the cadence of automated emails can be set according to the brand’s strategy for engaging with its audience.

Hyper-Local to Hyper-Personal

Localizing a message makes it more personal, but email campaigns allow brands to take it one step further and get “hyper-personal.” Personal events and attributes like birthdays, wedding dates and demographics, combined with radius targeting, or serving ads to consumers who are a certain distance from the business, helps the message resonate better with the audience. 

Regardless of the style of service – casual dining, fast casual, fast food and fine dining – or type of food, restaurants exist in a crowded marketplace. Communicating frequently with customers via email, whether weekly or monthly, is an easy way for a restaurant to stay top of mind with consumers.

To produce the best results, emails should contain a strong visual and a targeted message. Additionally, layering in a sense of urgency by using promotions that expire within a day or week can help drive immediate traffic to the restaurant.

Drive Grand Opening Attendance and Consistent Traffic 

Brands should begin capturing email subscribers long before the restaurant’s grand opening. The Dapper Doughnut often runs contests and giveaways ahead of the event to reach its target number of subscribers, which is usually 1,000. In addition to email reminders of the event, restaurants can use retargeting efforts to reach their audience across all channels, resulting in a greater turnout for the event.


When there is no grand opening or event to drive traffic, variety in messaging and promotions is the key to bringing customers back. Even the initial acquisition strategy email should be updated frequently. One-off emails or messages that are not part of a broader campaign, are a great way to promote products, new flavors or offer a special discount to customers. When customers receive messages that are always new and fresh, this gives them a reason to make a return visit to the restaurant.

Email campaigns provide restaurants with the ability to build a local following from the very beginning. When utilized correctly, email marketing helps brands build a personal connection with their target audiences and drive customer traffic long after the grand opening.