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An autoresponder collects the email addresses for you automatically or you can add them manually if you collect them direct in your restaurant and can be configured to send out email to whoever you wish when you wish promoting what you wish.
You only have to setup your autoresponder once and then it just takes over all the time consuming tasks for you.
There is a lot of choice when it comes to selecting an autoresponder company. Prices vary, but as with most things cheapest may no be best.
You need a company that has a good track record of delivering emails and allows you flexibility to create great looking newsletters and are readily integrated into your website.
As a local business, your mailing list is unlikely to be more than a few hundred and you may be able to work with one of the free offers that are around
In order to collect email addresses you need to offer customers some sort of incentive. This can take many forms and can be done inexpensively. For example you could offer a free dessert or a 10% discount or a complimentary glass of wine upon arrival. There are many options.
This incentive can be placed on your website for customers to see when they are visiting. It may give that extra push to book if they are unsure. It is easy to collect the address and direct them to a special page where they can collect a voucher or a code to secure whatever incentive you offer.
For existing customers who have visited you, ask them for their email when they pay and give them a free gift of something. Though most people, if they have enjoyed their meal will gladly give their email without an incentive anyway.