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Email Marketing Regulations Every Restaurant Should Know

Last Update: Dec 5, 2023 @ 7:32 am

“Sending marketing emails without consent isn’t just bad marketing; it’s against the law.” 

– Chad White, author of “Email Marketing Rules” 


In an era where digital communication reigns supreme, email marketing serves as a powerful instrument for restaurants to engage with customers, promote their offerings, and ultimately, drive sales. Yet, this tool doesn’t just involve creating compelling content and attractive offers. To establish your audience’s trust and credibility, you must follow email marketing rules.

This guide will cover all you need to know about email marketing laws and regulations as a restaurant owner, manager, or marketer. We’ll dive into real-world examples, tangible benefits, and practical strategies to navigate these regulations effectively.

What is an Email Marketing Regulation?
Email Marketing Regulations From the Web

What is an Email Marketing Regulation?

Email Marketing Regulation refers to the set of laws and guidelines that govern the use of email as a medium for commercial communication. These regulations protect clients from spam and other unwanted electronic messages, safeguard their privacy, and preserve their digital rights. Some notable examples include the CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S., GDPR in Europe, and CASL in Canada.

For instance, the CAN-SPAM Act stipulates that businesses must not use deceptive headers, subject lines, or false return addresses. They must also provide a way for recipients to opt-out of future emails and honor these requests promptly. Large fines of up to $43,280 per infarction may result from failure to comply.

Key Elements of An Email Marketing Regulation

Several key elements form the basis of email marketing regulations across the globe:

  • Consent: This is the permission given by a recipient to receive marketing emails from a business. Consent must be explicit, meaning the recipient has actively agreed, usually via a checkbox or subscription form. Implicit consent, such as pre-ticked boxes, is no longer acceptable under many regulations, including the GDPR.
  • Identification: The sender must clearly identify themselves in the email. This includes using their real name in the ‘from’ field, providing a valid physical postal address, and not misleading the recipient about the source or content of the email.
  • Unsubscribe Mechanism: Every marketing email must include a clear and easy way for recipients to opt-out or unsubscribe from future communications. Once a recipient chooses to unsubscribe, the sender must honor this request within a specific timeframe.
  • Data Protection: Email marketers must protect the data they collect from subscribers. This includes using secure methods to store data and not sharing email lists without explicit consent from the recipients. 

For example, as a restaurant, when you collect emails for your newsletter, you should use a secured system to store these addresses and ensure you have a robust privacy policy in place.

Case Study_ Nando’s
Nando’s Restaurant From the Web

Case Study: Nando’s

Nando’s, an international casual dining restaurant chain originating from South Africa, has made significant strides in implementing email marketing regulations in their campaigns. Their campaign, Nando’s Extra Hot Mail, stands out as a prime example of adhering to regulations while maintaining customer engagement.

Here are five strategies that Nando’s employed in their campaign:

  • Clear Consent: Nando’s didn’t just ask customers if they wanted to receive emails. They took it one step further by introducing a double-opt-in policy. This means after a customer initially signed up for emails, they were sent a confirmation email to verify their subscription. This method eliminates any ambiguity about consent and ensures that Nando’s only sends emails to those who genuinely want to receive them.
  • Unambiguous Opt-Out: Each marketing email Nando’s sent out contained an easily visible and straightforward ‘unsubscribe’ link. By clicking this link, customers could instantly stop receiving marketing emails. This transparent approach shows respect for customers’ wishes and aligns with best practices for email marketing.
  • Accurate Representation: Nando’s made sure every email they sent out clearly identified them as the sender and accurately represented their brand. This involved using their official email address and including their logo and brand colors in each email. Additionally, they ensured the subject lines accurately represented the content of the emails, avoiding any deceptive or misleading tactics.
  • Respect for Recipient’s Time: Nando’s was mindful not to inundate their subscribers with emails. They maintained a balanced email frequency, ensuring their communications were consistent enough to keep customers engaged, but not so frequent as to become a nuisance. This respect for their customers’ time helped maintain a positive relationship and minimized the risk of customers unsubscribing due to feeling overwhelmed.
  • Honoring Opt-Out Requests: As soon as a customer chose to opt-out of Nando’s emails, their request was immediately honored. This swift action not only complies with regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act, but it also demonstrates to customers that Nando’s is a respectful and trustworthy brand that values their preferences.

The Benefits of Understanding and Implementing Email Marketing Regulations

Complying with email marketing regulations might seem like a daunting task, but it brings a multitude of benefits:

  • Trust Building: Adhering to email marketing regulations shows your audience that you value and respect their privacy, which can foster trust. In fact, 73% of customers said they are more likely to trust a firm that values their privacy after participating in a HubSpot poll.
  • Avoiding Penalties: Failure to comply might have severe financial consequences. For instance, violations of the CAN-SPAM Act can result in fines of up to $43,280 per email that violates the law.
  • Improved Deliverability: Emails from senders who follow regulations are more likely to reach the recipient’s inbox. MailChimp reports that compliant emails have an average deliverability rate of 96.5%, significantly higher than non-compliant emails.
  • Better Engagement: According to SendinBlue, compliant emails often lead to higher engagement, with open rates averaging 21.33% compared to just 2.13% for non-compliant emails.
  • Positive Brand Image: Compliance contributes to a positive brand image. A MarketingProfs survey found that 75% of consumers view brands that comply with email regulations more favorably.
  • Customer Retention: A study by GetResponse found that compliant email practices lead to a 45% increase in customer retention.
  • Increased ROI: Email marketing yields an average ROI of 4,200%, according to Campaign Monitor. Ensuring compliance protects this high-earning channel from penalties and disruptions.
  • Competitive Edge: OptinMonster reports that 51% of consumers are more likely to choose companies that demonstrate strong data privacy practices, giving compliant businesses a competitive edge.
  • Data Protection: Compliance with email marketing regulations helps protect customer data, reducing the risk of data breaches, which averaged $3.86 million in costs per breach in 2020 according to a report by IBM.
  • Long-Term Success: The benefits of compliance compound over time, contributing to sustainable, long-term email marketing success. DMA reports that companies adhering to email marketing regulations have a 30% higher customer engagement rate over a three-year period.
15 Best Strategies on Embracing Restaurant Email Marketing Regulations
Nando’s Email Marketing Strategy From the Web

15 Best Strategies on Embracing Restaurant Email Marketing Regulations

1. Clear and Concise Consent

Ensure that every customer who signs up for your email list actively consents to receive communications from you. Use a double opt-in system where customers confirm their subscription via a follow-up email. This assures that only genuinely interested individuals are on your list.

2. Prominent Unsubscribe Option

Include an easily visible and accessible ‘unsubscribe’ link in every email you send. If a customer wishes to stop receiving your emails, make the process quick and simple. This respects their preferences and keeps you in line with the CAN-SPAM Act.

3. Transparent Sender Information

Make sure that your restaurant’s name is clearly displayed in the ‘from’ section of your emails. Avoid using deceptive or misleading information as this can result in violations of regulations and can harm your credibility.

4. Accurate Subject Lines

Craft your email subject lines to accurately reflect the content of the email. Misleading subject lines not only violate regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act but can also damage your relationship with customers.

5. Respect Frequency Preferences

When signing up, ask subscribers how often they want to receive emails. Respecting their preferences can improve customer satisfaction and engagement rates.

6. Immediate Action on Unsubscribes

As soon as a customer opts to unsubscribe, ensure their email is promptly removed from your mailing list. This practice complies with the CAN-SPAM Act, which requires opt-out requests to be honored within 10 business days.

7. Data Protection Measures

Safeguard your email list and customer data with robust security measures. This could include encrypting data, regularly updating software, and training staff on data protection practices.

8. Privacy Policy Accessibility

Include a link to your privacy policy in all outgoing emails and make it readily available on your website. This provides transparency about how you handle customer data and can help build trust with your audience.

9. Segmentation and Personalization

Tailor your emails to specific customer segments based on their preferences and behaviors. This can increase engagement and shows customers that you respect their individual interests.

10. Regular Compliance Audits

Regularly review your email marketing practices to ensure they remain compliant with evolving regulations. This proactive approach can help avoid potential penalties and maintain a positive brand image.

11. Track and Measure Engagement

Use email marketing tools to track open rates, click-through rates, and other engagement metrics. You may use this data to improve your plan and ensure your emails get read.

12. Educate Your Team

Ensure that everyone involved in your email marketing efforts understands the relevant regulations and the importance of compliance. Regular training sessions can keep everyone on the same page.

13. Maintain an Updated Email List

Regularly update your email list to remove inactive subscribers or those who have not engaged with your emails for an extended period. This respects the inbox space of those not interested and improves engagement metrics.

14. Test Different Strategies

Conduct A/B tests to see what types of emails, content, and frequency your customers prefer. Use this feedback to optimize your email marketing campaign.

15. Leverage Automation

Use automated email marketing tools to manage your campaigns efficiently. Automation can help ensure timely removal of unsubscribed users, maintain consistency in email delivery, and improve overall compliance.

The end purpose of executing these tactics is to develop a connection with your target audience, so keep that in mind at all times. Email marketing regulations are designed to protect consumers, and adhering to them shows your audience that you value their privacy and preferences.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Complying with Email Marketing Regulations for Restaurants

1. Ignoring Consent

The biggest mistake one can make is to ignore the necessity for clear consent. Never add customers to your email list without their explicit permission. Adding customers to your list without their consent is not only against regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR, but it also damages your brand’s reputation and trust with your customers. To avoid this, always use a double opt-in system, so customers have to confirm their subscription before they start receiving emails.

2. Inconspicuous Unsubscribe Link

An ‘unsubscribe’ link that’s hidden or difficult to find can frustrate customers and goes against email marketing regulations. It’s essential to respect the customer’s decision if they no longer wish to receive emails. Make sure to provide a clear, easily visible, and simple to use ‘unsubscribe’ option in all your emails. Quick and effortless unsubscribe processes lead to better customer experiences, even if they choose to opt out of your communications.

3. Misleading Subject Lines

Subject lines that don’t accurately represent the email content are not just disingenuous; they’re also against the law. The CAN-SPAM Act specifically requires that subject lines must not mislead recipients about the contents or subject matter of the message. Avoid using “clickbait” or deceptive subject lines to entice opens. Instead, write compelling yet accurate subject lines that reflect the content of your email.

4. Neglecting Privacy

Not prioritizing data privacy can lead to serious repercussions, including penalties and loss of customer trust. Always have strong data security measures in place to protect customer information. Regularly update your software systems, train your staff about data privacy, and reassure customers about how their data is being protected.

5. Overloading with Emails

If you send too many emails, customers will unsubscribe. 86% of respondents to a survey by MarketingSherpa indicated they would be interested in receiving promotional emails from the companies with which they do business at least once per month, whereas only 15% said the same thing about daily emails. Be mindful of your email frequency and consider allowing your subscribers to choose how often they hear from you.

6. Not Regularly Updating Your Email List

Keeping your email list clean and updated is crucial for maintaining high engagement rates and deliverability. If you continue to send emails to unengaged or inactive users, it could harm your sender reputation and decrease your overall email deliverability. Check your email list on a regular basis to eliminate inactive users, invalid email addresses, and people who haven’t opened your emails in a long time.

7. Not Staying Updated on Regulations

Email marketing regulations aren’t static; they evolve and change over time. Being uninformed about regulations can lead to fines. It’s essential to regularly educate yourself and your team about any changes or updates in email marketing regulations.

By avoiding these mistakes, restaurants can more effectively implement email marketing regulations and compliance, resulting in a more successful and engaging email marketing strategy.

Step-By-Step Guide on Implementing Email Marketing Regulations in Your Restaurant’s Strategy
Email Campaign Rules Compliance From the Web

Step-By-Step Guide on Implementing Email Marketing Regulations in Your Restaurant’s Strategy

Step 1: Understand the Regulations

First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the existing email marketing regulations. This includes international laws like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for European customers and local laws like the CAN-SPAM Act for U.S. customers. Understand what these regulations entail, including consent, unsubscribe options, data privacy, and more.

For example, the GDPR requires explicit consent from customers before you can send marketing emails, while the CAN-SPAM Act mandates a clear and conspicuous unsubscribe mechanism in every marketing email.

Step 2: Create a Consent Mechanism

Create a double opt-in system for your email marketing. Customers will receive a confirmation email after subscribing to your emails. This ensures you’re only sending emails to customers who genuinely want to receive them.

Send a confirmation email with a link that the consumer must click to validate their subscription when they sign up for your emails on your website.

Step 3: Craft Your Emails Carefully

Ensure your emails clearly identify your restaurant as the sender and that the subject lines accurately reflect the content of the emails. Also, an “unsubscribe” option should be prominently shown in every email.

For instance, in the ‘from’ section of your emails, use your restaurant’s official name. Craft subject lines that accurately represent the content of the email and include a visible ‘unsubscribe’ link at the end of the email.

Step 4: Respect Customer Preferences

Customers should choose how often they receive your emails. This can range from daily specials to weekly roundups or monthly newsletters. Also, respect their decision if they wish to unsubscribe and promptly remove their email from your list.

For example, you could have a dropdown menu at the sign-up page where customers choose their preferred email frequency.

Step 5: Safeguard Customer Data

Implement robust security measures to protect your customer data. This could include regularly updating your software, encrypting customer data, and training your staff on data protection practices. Inform customers about these measures to build their trust in your brand.

For instance, use encryption methods to protect customer data and conduct regular staff training on the importance of data privacy and the steps they need to take to safeguard it.

Step 6: Regularly Audit Your Practices

Conduct regular audits of your email marketing practices to ensure they comply with the relevant regulations. This includes checking whether your emails clearly identify your restaurant as the sender, whether the subject lines accurately reflect the content, and whether every email has an ‘unsubscribe’ link.

For instance, every quarter, review a sample of your sent emails to ensure compliance with regulations.

Step 7: Stay Updated on Regulations

Finally, stay updated on the latest email marketing regulations. Laws and regulations evolve, and new ones may be introduced. Regularly educate yourself and your team on any changes to ensure ongoing compliance.

For example, subscribe to email marketing blogs or newsletters that provide updates on regulations. Conduct regular training sessions with your team to keep them informed about any changes.

Follow these steps to guarantee your restaurant’s email marketing plan is effective and up to date.

Summary Checklist of Action Plans

  • Educate Yourself and Your Team: Understand the email marketing regulations that apply to your business, including CAN-SPAM, GDPR, or CASL.
  • Get Consent: Implement a double opt-in system to ensure you’re getting clear consent from your subscribers.
  • Craft Compliant Emails: Ensure your emails have clear identification, accurate subject lines, and a visible and functioning unsubscribe link.
  • Respect Preferences and Privacy: Allow subscribers to choose email frequency, promptly honor unsubscribe requests, and safeguard their data.
  • Maintain Your Email List: Regularly update your email list to remove inactive users, incorrect email addresses, and people who have not engaged with your emails for a long period.
  • Regular Compliance Audits: Conduct regular audits to ensure your email marketing practices are compliant with regulations.
  • Stay Updated: Keep yourself and your team updated with any changes or updates in email marketing regulations.


To conclude, navigating email marketing regulations may seem like a daunting task for restaurateurs, restaurant managers, and marketing professionals. Compliance is vital and should not be disregarded. Avoiding legal issues is critical, but so is building client trust and openness, which are vital to your business’s success.

Compliance to regulations reflects your brand’s commitment to ethical practices and customer respect, which in turn can strengthen customer relationships and enhance brand reputation. In the digital age where data privacy and security are paramount, adherence to email marketing regulations can truly set your restaurant apart, demonstrating your integrity and customer-centric approach.

While the process may seem complex, following the action plan laid out in this article can guide you through implementing these regulations in your restaurant’s email marketing strategy. Remember, successful email marketing isn’t just about creative content or enticing offers; it’s also about respecting your customers’ rights and choices. With careful planning and diligent practice, your restaurant can enjoy the benefits of email marketing while maintaining full compliance with the law.

READ ALSO: Setting the Stage for Success: Defining Your Unique Restaurant Concept and Target Market

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