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Avoiding the Spam Folder: Email Deliverability Tips for Restaurateurs

Last Update: Dec 5, 2023 @ 6:59 am

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”

– Peter Drucker, father of modern business management


Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of email marketing. What use is a meticulously crafted email if it never makes it to your customer’s inbox?

As a restaurateur, you must deliver an unforgettable dining experience, not just delicious food. In the digital age, this experience extends beyond the confines of your restaurant and into their inbox. Unfortunately, many emails never reach their intended recipients due to spam filters. Where do you go wrong? This post will discuss that.

Email deliverability is a critical aspect of any successful email marketing campaign. Email deliverability is defined as the percentage of messages that are successfully delivered to the inbox of the intended receiver. High deliverability rates mean more of your emails are reaching your customers, leading to better open rates, more click-throughs, and ultimately, higher conversion rates.

What is Email Deliverability
Email Deliverability Graphics From the Web

What is Email Deliverability?

Email deliverability, often confused with email delivery, is a measure of the success an email has in reaching its intended recipient’s inbox. While email delivery refers to whether an email was delivered without bouncing or being rejected, email deliverability goes one step further to assess if that email reached the recipient’s inbox, and not their spam or junk folder.

Imagine you’re sending a postcard via snail mail. Email delivery would be the equivalent of the postcard not getting lost or returned. Email deliverability, on the other hand, would be the postcard being delivered to the recipient’s home mailbox instead of being misplaced or ending up in the trash.

Key Elements of Email Deliverability

Several factors contribute to email deliverability. Let’s delve into the key elements:

  • Sender Reputation: This is determined by your sending practices, such as the volume of emails you send, the frequency, the quality of your email list (are they legitimate addresses, are they engaged with your emails), the number of complaints you receive, and your spam complaint rates. This information is used by ISPs to sort your email messages into the inbox or the spam bin.
  • Email Content: The content of your email can significantly impact its deliverability. Emails filled with spam trigger words or phrases, excessive use of caps or exclamation marks, or poorly formatted HTML can be flagged as spam by ISPs.
  • Subscriber Engagement: The way your subscribers interact with your emails affects your sender reputation and, by extension, your deliverability. If your emails are regularly opened, read, replied to, or forwarded, these positive engagements can boost your deliverability.
  • Authentication: Email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC verify that an email claiming to come from a particular domain was indeed authorized by the owner of that domain. This helps protect your brand from phishing and spoofing attacks, and improves your deliverability.

Role of Email Deliverability in Restaurant Marketing

In the context of restaurant marketing, email deliverability plays a pivotal role. An effective email marketing campaign may be used to draw in new consumers, keep old ones interested, publicize sales and events, and boost foot and internet traffic.

  • Customer Acquisition: By ensuring high email deliverability, your promotional or welcome emails are more likely to land in potential customers’ inboxes, increasing the chances of them visiting your restaurant.
  • Customer Retention: Regularly reaching out to your customers with personalized offers or updates can foster loyalty. However, these emails will not be effective until they really reach the inboxes of the intended recipients. High email deliverability ensures this communication line stays open.
  • Brand Awareness: Each email that lands in the inbox (and not the spam folder) contributes to maintaining and enhancing your restaurant’s brand awareness.
  • Revenue Generation: Campaign Monitor found that for every dollar invested in email marketing, a company can anticipate a $42 return. High email deliverability ensures your investment in email marketing yields maximum returns by reaching as many customers as possible.

Focusing on email deliverability is not just an added bonus but an essential aspect of your restaurant’s email marketing strategy. By understanding and implementing best practices, you can ensure your restaurant’s messages consistently reach your customers’ inboxes, driving engagement, loyalty, and ultimately, growth.

Why Do Restaurants Need To Assess Their Email Deliverability to Customers?

Assessing email deliverability is crucial for restaurants for several reasons. Essentially, it comes down to communication, customer engagement, brand reputation, and revenue. Let’s elaborate on these:

1. Communication

Email is a critical channel for restaurants to communicate with their customers. Whether it’s a promotional offer, a new menu launch, a special event, or a simple holiday greeting, these communications help keep your restaurant fresh in the minds of your customers. If your emails aren’t reaching their intended inboxes, this line of communication breaks down, leading to missed opportunities.

For instance, imagine launching a new seasonal menu and sending out a beautifully crafted email to your customers about it. If your email deliverability is poor, only a fraction of your customers might receive it, leaving the rest unaware of your new offerings.

2. Customer Engagement

When your emails consistently land in the inbox, it allows for better customer engagement. You can share personalized offers, ask for feedback, or provide valuable content like recipes or behind-the-scenes looks. This can help deepen your relationship with your customers, leading to increased loyalty and repeat visits.

On a customer’s birthday, for instance, you may send them an email giving a complimentary dessert. This personalized touch not only makes the customer feel special but also encourages them to visit your restaurant, fostering stronger customer engagement.

3. Brand Reputation

Poor email deliverability can harm your restaurant’s reputation. If your emails are frequently landing in the spam folder, it could signal to customers that your restaurant might not be reputable. Furthermore, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) might flag your emails as spam if they frequently bounce or are marked as spam, affecting your future email deliverability.

4. Revenue

Ultimately, each email that reaches a customer’s inbox is a potential revenue opportunity. From enticing promotional offers to event invitations, your emails can directly drive revenue by encouraging customers to dine at your restaurant. If your email deliverability is low, you’re missing out on these opportunities.

To clarify, imagine you send out an email to your clientele advertising a 20% off coupon for their next dining experience. If your email deliverability is high, a large portion of your customers will receive this offer, likely resulting in increased bookings. However, if your deliverability is low, fewer customers receive the offer, resulting in fewer bookings and lost revenue.

In conclusion, assessing and optimizing email deliverability should be a key component of any restaurant’s marketing strategy. Doing so can significantly enhance communication, customer engagement, brand reputation, and revenue generation.

Case Study_ Olive Garden
Olive Garden Restaurant From the Web

Case Study: Olive Garden

Let’s use Olive Garden, a well-known casual dining franchise in the United States, as an example. Olive Garden’s newsletter is an integral part of their email marketing strategy and is sent directly to customers’ inboxes. You may join their newsletter mailing list right on their website.

In an effort to improve their deliverability rates, Olive Garden has implemented several strategies:

  • Verification of Email Addresses: Olive Garden uses a double opt-in process. This ensures that the customer’s email address is active and that they desire marketing communications.
  • Personalization: Olive Garden personalizes their email content based on customer preferences and past behavior. This increases the relevance of their emails, thereby reducing the chances of them being marked as spam.
  • Consistent Sending Schedule: By maintaining a regular email schedule, Olive Garden helps their customers anticipate their emails, reducing the chances of them being marked as spam.
  • Clean Email List: Olive Garden periodically cleans their email list, removing inactive subscribers. This helps maintain a high engagement rate and reduces the likelihood of their emails being flagged as spam.
  • Compliance with CAN-SPAM Act: Olive Garden strictly adheres to the guidelines laid out in the CAN-SPAM Act, which governs commercial emails. This includes clearly identifying themselves as the sender and providing a clear mechanism for subscribers to opt-out.

Benefits of high email deliverability are manifold. According to a report by Statista, the average open rate for emails in the restaurant sector was 17.75% in 2020. However, this rate can only be achieved if your emails are reaching the inbox in the first place. High deliverability rates lead to better visibility, more opportunities for engagement, and ultimately, more conversions.

Benefits of Focusing on Email Deliverability for Restaurants

  • Higher Visibility and Open Rates: According to a report by Campaign Monitor, the average open rate for emails in the food and beverage industry was 15.68% in 2020. However, you can only achieve these rates if your emails are reaching the inbox in the first place. Improved deliverability ensures that your emails aren’t lost in spam folders, resulting in higher visibility and open rates.
  • Improved Sender Reputation: Sender reputation plays a crucial role in whether your emails make it to the inbox or the spam folder. By following best practices for email deliverability, you can maintain a strong sender reputation, which in turn can improve your overall deliverability rates.
  • Increased Customer Engagement: Emails that reach your customers’ inboxes have a better chance of being opened and clicked on. As per a study by GetResponse, the click-through rate in the restaurant industry is 1.25%. High deliverability rates can boost these engagement metrics, leading to more interactions with your brand.
  • Better Return on Investment (ROI): Email marketing has a higher ROI, often 42 cents for every dollar invested. By ensuring high deliverability rates, you can maximize this ROI as more of your emails will reach their intended recipients.
  • Greater Customer Retention: Emails are a great tool for increasing customer retention rates because they help keep your company’s name fresh in the thoughts of your clients. By ensuring your emails reach your customers’ inboxes, you can foster stronger relationships, leading to increased customer loyalty and retention.
15 Best Email Deliverability Tips for Restaurateurs
Olive Garden Email Deliverability Strategy From the Web

15 Best Email Deliverability Tips for Restaurateurs

1. Build a Quality Email List

The foundation of successful email marketing is a robust and quality email list. High-quality email addresses are more significant than many of them. Collect email addresses from customers who have willingly opted in to receive your emails. 

This might be done via a website sign-up form, a brochure at the register, or a social media contest. High-quality email lists tend to have higher engagement rates and lower bounce rates, contributing to better deliverability.

2. Authenticate Your Emails

Email authentication is a technical solution to proving that an email is not forged. It verifies that the email comes from who it claims to be from. Implementing SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) in your emails can authenticate your emails. This increases the likelihood that ISPs will treat your emails as intended rather than as spam.

3. Avoid Spammy Content

Spam filters are sophisticated and can be triggered by certain words, phrases, and formatting. Avoid using all caps, excessive use of exclamation marks, or words typically associated with spam, like “free,” “guarantee,” or “no risk” in your subject lines and email content. Instead, craft clear, concise, and engaging content that provides value to your reader.

4. Regularly Clean Your Email List

Email list hygiene is essential for maintaining a high-quality list and protecting your sender reputation. Regularly remove inactive subscribers, bounced email addresses, and anyone who hasn’t engaged with your emails in a significant period. This tells ISPs that you commit to engaging only with people who want to hear from your restaurant.

5. Send Emails Consistently

ISPs prefer consistent senders. If you send emails sporadically or flood inboxes all at once, it can raise red flags. Maintain a regular, predictable email sending schedule. For instance, you could send a weekly newsletter or a monthly promotional offer.

6. Provide Value in Every Email

Each email you send should provide value to your subscribers. Whether it’s exclusive discounts, updates about new menu items, or useful content like recipes or cooking tips, providing value keeps subscribers engaged and less likely to mark your emails as spam.

7. Use a Reputable Email Service Provider (ESP)

ESPs can have a significant impact on your email deliverability. Those with strong reputations will have solid relationships with ISPs and high deliverability rates. Research and choose an ESP known for its excellent deliverability.

8. Personalize Your Emails

Personalization can greatly improve engagement rates. Use data about your customers’ preferences, past purchases, or behavior to personalize your email content. This could be as simple as including the customer’s name in the greeting or as sophisticated as tailoring the entire email content to their preferences.

9. Ask Subscribers to Add You to Their Contacts

An email from a recognized contact is less likely to end up in the spam folder. In your welcome email and periodically in your regular communications, remind your subscribers to add your email address to their contact list.

10. Test Your Emails Before Sending

Different email clients and devices display emails differently. Before sending out an email to your entire list, send test emails to different email clients and open them on different devices to ensure everything displays correctly and there are no broken links or images.

11. Monitor Your Email Metrics

Keep an eye on your key email metrics. Regularly review your open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, and spam complaints. These indicators can tell you a lot about your email list’s health, email efficacy, and deliverability.

12. Offer a Clear Unsubscribe Option

Making it simple for recipients to unsubscribe can increase your email deliverability, which may sound paradoxical. If a subscriber no longer wishes to receive your emails, it’s better they unsubscribe than mark your emails as spam. Ensure your unsubscribe link is clearly visible in every email.

13. Segment Your List

Not all your customers have the same interests. Segment your list based on criteria like dining frequency, menu preferences, or past engagement with your emails. Email open rates and the likelihood of having your messages flagged as spam can both be increased by careful attention to client preferences.

14. Use Double Opt-in

Double opt-in involves sending a confirmation email when someone signs up to your email list. While this extra step might lower your sign-up rates slightly, it ensures that the email address is valid and that the subscriber genuinely wants to receive your emails, which in turn can improve your deliverability.

15. Avoid Purchasing Email Lists

Buying an email list to rapidly expand your audience is risky, but it may seem like the best option at the time. These lists often contain old or fake email addresses, which can harm your sender reputation and deliverability. Always build your own list organically. Instead, focus on strategies like offering a free appetizer or dessert in exchange for an email sign-up to grow your list.

By following these best practices, restaurateurs can significantly improve their email deliverability. This increases the likelihood that customers will read their emails, strengthens their relationships with clients, and ultimately boosts sales. It’s worth investing the time and effort to optimize your email deliverability – your bottom line will thank you.

How to Ensure Email Deliverability Success for Restaurants

Ensuring email deliverability success requires a combination of several practices that work together to help your emails reach the inbox. Here are some steps restaurants can take to optimize their email deliverability:

1. Build a Quality Email List

Start by building a high-quality email list. You can collect email addresses from customers who visit your restaurant by offering them to join your mailing list for updates, special offers, or loyalty rewards. 

Make sure to use a double opt-in process, which requires new subscribers to confirm their email address. This practice ensures that you have valid email addresses and helps protect your sender reputation.

If you join up for the restaurant’s email list, you can receive a discount or complimentary appetizer. This not only incentivizes customers to provide their email address but also promotes a positive association with your emails from the beginning.

2. Segment Your Email List

Not all your customers are the same. Some might be regulars, while others might have dined with you just once. Some might love your desserts, while others might be more interested in your wine list. 

By segmenting your email list based on criteria like frequency of visits, menu preferences, or even demographic factors, you can send more targeted and personalized emails. This can lead to higher engagement rates and fewer spam complaints, both of which can boost your deliverability.

You manage a pizzeria and find that a large number of your customers are vegetarian. You can create a segment for these customers and send them updates about your new vegetarian pizza options. This level of personalization can lead to higher engagement rates.

3. Maintain a Consistent Sending Schedule

The number of emails sent in a short time determines their spam status. On the other side, sending emails infrequently can lead to clients forgetting about you and even marking your messages as spam. Maintaining a consistent sending schedule helps keep your restaurant top of mind without overwhelming your subscribers.

For instance, you might send a weekly newsletter every Monday with updates about your restaurant, a monthly email with special offers, and occasional emails for special occasions like holidays or your restaurant’s anniversary.

4. Monitor Your Metrics

Always keep a watch on your email’s open, click, bounce, and spam complaint rates. A drop in open rates or an uptick in spam complaints could mean that your emails are losing their appeal or that you’re sending them too frequently. Use these metrics to adjust your email strategy as needed.

5. Authenticate Your Emails

Implement email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. These protocols help ISPs verify that your emails are legitimately from you, which can improve your deliverability.

6. Test Your Emails

Before you hit send, test your emails to ensure they display correctly across different devices and email clients. This can help prevent deliverability issues caused by poorly formatted emails.

By implementing these practices, restaurants can significantly improve their email deliverability, ensuring their messages reach their customers’ inboxes and not their spam folders. This can lead to higher engagement, more return visits, and ultimately, increased revenue.

Things To Avoid To Ensure Email Deliverability for Customers
Restaurant Email Customer Recipient From the Web

Things to Avoid to Ensure Email Deliverability to Customers

  • Don’t Neglect Your Email List: Do not allow your email list to become dormant for an extended period of time. Infrequent email communication can lead to subscribers forgetting about your restaurant, leading to lower engagement or, worse, considering you as a spam.
  • Don’t Send to Unverified Emails: Sending to unverified or unconfirmed emails can lead to high bounce rates, damaging your sender reputation. Always verify emails during the signup process, preferably using a double opt-in method.
  • Don’t Overwhelm Your Subscribers: While regular communication is important, inundating your subscribers with emails can be off-putting and lead to unsubscribes or spam reports. Strive to strike a balance in your email frequency.
  • Don’t Use Deceptive Subject Lines: “Clickbait” subject lines may get you an initial opening, but they erode trust with your subscribers. Always ensure your subject line accurately reflects the content of your email.
  • Don’t Ignore Engagement Metrics: Neglecting to monitor your email engagement metrics – open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, etc. – can lead to missed opportunities for improving your deliverability. Regularly review and act on these metrics.
  • Don’t Send ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Emails: Sending the same email to all your subscribers ignores their unique preferences and can lead to decreased engagement. Use segmentation and personalization to tailor your emails to each subscriber.
  • Don’t Forget to Include a Plain Text Version: Emails that include only HTML may be flagged by spam filters. Including a plain text version alongside your HTML email can improve deliverability.
  • Don’t Disregard Unsubscribes: Not promptly removing unsubscribes from your list can lead to spam complaints. Always honor unsubscribe requests promptly.
  • Don’t Buy Email Lists: This practice can severely damage your sender reputation and lead to poor deliverability. Always build your email list organically.

Summary Checklist of Action Plans

A study by the Radicati Group found that in 2021, over 319.6 billion emails were sent and received each day. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) rely on complex filters to distinguish between legitimate emails and spam due to the overwhelming volume of emails they receive. Ensuring your emails meet these ever-evolving criteria is vital for your restaurant’s email marketing success.

Here’s a quick checklist of action plans to improve email deliverability for your restaurant:

  • Verify Email Addresses: Implement a double opt-in process to ensure the validity of email addresses.
  • Keep Your Email List Clean: Regularly remove inactive subscribers from your list to maintain high engagement rates.
  • Comply with CAN-SPAM Act: Follow the guidelines set by this act strictly.
  • Personalize Your Emails: Tailor your content to meet your customer’s preferences and past behavior.
  • Maintain a Consistent Sending Schedule: This helps subscribers anticipate your emails, reducing the chances of them being spam.
  • Optimize for Mobile: A significant portion of emails are opened on mobile devices. Ensure your emails are mobile-friendly.
  • Avoid Spam Trigger Words: Certain words or phrases can trigger spam filters. Be careful to avoid these in your email content.
  • Monitor Your Sender Reputation: Your sender reputation, determined by factors like your sending volume, complaint rates, and bounce rates, significantly impacts your deliverability rates.
  • Test Your Emails: Regularly test your emails to ensure they display correctly on different devices and email clients.


In conclusion, email deliverability is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of email marketing for restaurants. If you ignore best standards and focus on clients, your emails are more likely to land up in the spam bin than in their inboxes.

Don’t forget that opening rates are what really matter when it comes to email marketing for your business. As Chris Marriott, a popular digital marketing consultant, once said, “A bad email reputation is like a hangover: hard to get rid of and it makes everything else hurt.” By focusing on email deliverability, you can maintain a good email reputation, foster stronger relationships with your customers, and ultimately drive your restaurant’s growth.

Don’t let your hard work go to waste by landing in the spam folder. Start implementing these deliverability best practices today, and see the difference it makes to your bottom line.

READ ALSO: 5 Email Marketing Strategies To Drive More Sales

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