Fishbowl University

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Subject Lines

Subject lines have a direct impact on open rates because it is the main decision-driver to open an email. People are bombarded with emails on a daily basis and the subject line is what they use to determine if they want to read more.

Subject Line Tips:

  • Keep them short and relevant
  • Provide value or reason why this email should be opened
  • Don't reuse subject lines. If you are sending a reminder, rewrite the subject line.

Avoid Over-Messaging

Sending emails are a great way to communicate with your guests and to get them to come back sooner and more often. However, we have seen the negative effects of sending emails as well, specifically when too many emails are sent. Sending to your guests too often can result in higher unsubscribe rates, lower open rates and lower click-through rates.

Fishbowl recommends sending 2-4 emails a month in addition to triggered mailings (Welcome, Birthday, etc.). This frequency allows you to communicate with your guests effectively, without over-messaging.

Sign Up Slips

The most common form of list building in restaurants is signup slips. It's an easy an clear way for your customers to opt-in to your list (See Opt-In/Permission). There are many variations of a signup slip, but they all capture email addresses and other customer information. Here are a few examples:

  • Create signup slips that are specifically designed to collect email address and other customer information.
  • Comment Cards: Add a field to your comment card that asks for an email address and state that they are signing up for your email list.
  • Business Cards: Use a fishbowl and a sign that asks customers to signup for your email list.
  • IMPORTANT - Make sure customers know that they will be receiving emails when they leave their business card.

Signup Slips: Make list-building an operational goal of your restaurant(s)

We have seen great success from restaurants who have implemented some of the strategies in our In-Store Training Guide and Server Contest tips below. It will help guide your managers and staff in the right direction to begin, continue, or improve list-building.

Server Contests

Provide an incentive to your staff for helping build your email list. Give a prize to the server who collects the most signup slips in one month. Keep track of the slips by counting them on a daily or weekly basis. Here's how to hold the contest:

  1. Identify the prize and the criteria for winning. Many restaurants use freebies from beverage companies as the prize. Other prize ideas include gift cards or cash. Give a prize to the top performer, the top two, or what you think will work best. Set a timeframe. One month allows enough time for competition to build between servers and for the number of signup slips to be significant enough to boost the size of your list.
  2. Track the progress. Post the total number of slips collected per server in the back of the house, so that everyone can see who is winning. When the entire staff knows how many signup slips are being collected throughout the contest period, to encourage competition.
  3. Tell your staff that only complete signup slips count. You can review the slips for accuracy and duplicates. If you notice that one server turned in slips that all have the same handwriting, then disqualify that server from the contest. Also, remember that only valid email addresses can be added as a member. If the email address is missing, illegible, or incomplete, the sign-up slip doesn't count. If you don't have time to review all of the slips, then try to do a random spot check when possible.

In-Store Training Guide for Guest Enrollment

What’s an email loyalty program?

  • It's the proven way to keep your guests excited about you once they’ve left the restaurant - at their home or office, wherever they read their email.
  • It is simply "permission based" email that your guests ask for - not spam. Your guests will not (and may not) be added to your membership database unless they fill out a signup slip in the restaurant or join via your website.

How does it work?

  • Guests sign up in the restaurant and you mail the completed signup slips to Fishbowl once a week in the envelopes provided.
  • Members receive a Welcome email with a gift, giving them a great reason to return.
  • A Birthday email is sent to members a week before the big day….their plans will include your restaurant.
  • On the anniversary of a guest’s membership, another offer is sent….again they’re impressed.
  • About once or twice a month, your members will receive an email with news of new menu items, events, specials, etc., so you’re never far from their minds.

What’s in it for the staff?

  • Increased sales lead to increased tips! It's as simple as that.
  • Ability to communicate restaurant news – new menu items, promotions, etc.
  • Ability to determine how many guests get news that will bring you more business. Do you want to see a message reach 200 of your guests or 3,000? It’s up to you!
  • Keep in touch with your most frequent customers.
  • Drive traffic in slower months and during times that you need it most.
  • See higher check averages than for "non-offer" tables; these are your loyal customers and if they take advantage of an offer/gift, they’re probably spending more on other parts of the meal
  • Improve top-of-mind brand awareness (even if they don’t come to the restaurant that night because of an offer, you’ve made an impression on them, and they might return sooner than they had been planning on).
  • It’s a great way to reward your loyal customers!

How easy is it to build my list?

  • Have a short script available: "Would you like to join our mailing list? You get a gift for joining, a gift for your birthday, great news all year long, and we promise to never rent or sell your information."
  • Give signup slips to your guests at the beginning of the meal (by the host / hostess) or at the end by the server. For best results, place the signup slip on top of the check presenter, or loose inside of it, on top of the check itself.
  • Set attainable goals. Example: Build 1,000 names in 60 days, or get two email addresses per server per shift. It adds up quickly!
  • Just two email addresses collected by each staff member per shift can meet a base goal of 2,000 names in no time.
  • Assign a point in the Steps of Service where somebody will approach the guest about the program. If this is not done, everybody may assume that somebody else will be doing it – or just as bad, everybody will be doing it and causing redundant requests.
  • Post the examples of the emails in the BOH for the staff to see and recognize.
  • Mail your data entry envelopes in weekly, no matter how few or how many slips you have completed. Your guests don’t want to wait to get started in the e-club.

How do I answer my guests’ questions?

Q: "I don’t want to join if you’re going to sell my address and I start getting all kinds of spam."

A: We will never rent or sell your information.

Q: "I don’t want to join if you’re going to drive me crazy with emails every day."

A: You’ll receive no more than two or three emails a month containing updates and special news.

Q: "What if I want to stop getting your emails?"

A: With just one click, you can unsubscribe from the club.

Always ask your customers for their permission - whether you have a signup slip, event, or a promotion at your store, always ask for their permission.  Make sure to use specific opt in language on any marketing materials used to gather email addresses.  For example, your signup slip should have a statement similar to this, "By providing your email address you are opting-in to receive offers, coupons, newsletters from our company approximately X times per month." If customers can join through your website, you should use a similar statement on that webpage as well.


Read the "<img _fck_mw_valid="false" _fck_mw_filename="File:///P:/Enterprise Email/Help docs/Help&Manual backup files/HelpFiles/FUHelp/Webhelp/listcollectionfaqs.htm" alt="List Collection FAQs" class="fck_mw_notfound" />" for more information.


In addition, the growth of a member list cannot be the only focus of email marketing.  Considerations must be made on quality, expectations, and spam laws.  Here are a few points to consider when building your list.



Set Expectations of Benefits & Frequency When Collecting Email Addresses
o Let customers know what they will be receiving to show the benefits of your club and why they should join.  If they will get a gift in the welcome email, then let them know that they will receive a gift for joining.
o If you plan on sending monthly newsletters and a special offer, then let them know what the expected mailing frequency is.  This will set the expectations on how often they will be communicated with.


Focus on List Quality Over List Size
o List size matters, but the quality of the list matters more.  Expensing quality for size can be damaging.  The best defense is a good offense -  don’t let bad names in to the database, analyze house lists carefully.
o Once quality is compromised, it doesn't matter how big your list size is.  Your reputation with ISPs is something you must always keep as a priority.  A few bad names and an ISP can label you as a “bad mailer” and this can take months to repair.


Clean and Analyze Mailing Lists
o A dirty list with too many unsolicited, incorrect, out-of-date or duplicated addresses  can hurt a campaign’s performance, the inbox delivery and reputation. Good list hygiene involves actively cleaning out unengaged, unresponsive and old addresses, which reduces invalid/non-active emails and improves inbox delivery.


Acceptable email addresses must be:
o Current
o Opt-in, explicit consent to join list.





Can I use this?


I have a page on my website that collects email addresses to sign up for our newsletter or offers


This is a great way to organically grow your email list. Collecting email addresses and setting expectations at the point of collection will provide quality members for you to join the list.

I bought a list of email addresses. I bought a list of “leads,” “targeted email addresses,” “potential new customers,” "third-party opt-ins" etc. The place I bought it from said these names were good to use.


Buying email addresses is behaving as a spammer.  This is a sure way to get your emails blacklisted, blocked and ruin your reputation. Purchased lists do not have express opt-in permission no matter how expensive the list is. In addition, it is a violation of Fishbowl’s Terms of Service – we do not allow for any purchased lists to be mailed to from our system.

I have a fishbowl in my restaurant for people to drop their business cards in it to enter to win a free lunch.

It depends

If you do not request permission when requesting email address you cannot add these people to your eclub. They want a free lunch, not to be in your eclub.

If you have signage on the fishbowl setting the expectations and permission to be added to an email list and receive future email from you, go ahead and add these members to your  list.

I have a fishbowl in my restaurant for people to subscribe to your newsletter. You state that each month one new subscriber will win a free lunch.


This is a great way to add members from your restaurant to your eclub. Setting expectations at the point of collection will get your program off to a great start. When someone provides their business card to you here they know exactly what they will receive in his/her inbox.

I have a list of permission-based email addresses that I have been collecting for two years and have never emailed to them.

It Depends

The age of an email address collected matters. People who have given you permission last week are not equal to those who have given you permission two years ago. Only names that have been collected within the past 6 months should be included in your list upload. If it has been past 6 months since you requested permission, the list is stale and you should not include these names.

I was a vendor at a tradeshow, bridal show, etc. and were provided with a list of all attendees.


When people attend a tradeshow, bridal show, etc. they are NOT opting in to every single mailing list from every single vendor. The tradeshow, etc. can send a message for you on their behalf asking to opt-in to your eclub online join form.

On our comment card/surveys, we collect email address for our restaurant customers.  We want to add these people to our eclub.

It Depends

If someone provided his/her email address for a comment, this does not mean they wish to hear from your eclub. On your comment card, ask with a check box if they want to be included in your eclub. This will gain the permission you need to include people in your list. In addition, only include email addresses with permission that have been given to you less than 6 months ago. Over 6 months email addresses will be stale.

I have a list of contacts from Outlook or my Yahoo!/AOL/Hotmail address book that I think would like to hear from my restaurant.


If you do not request permission from someone to join your eclub you cannot add these people to your eclub. Feel free to send them a note from your personal email inviting them to join your eclub email list.

I am a member of my local Chamber of Commerce/Business Bureau and would like to add other members to our email list.


These people have not provided express permission for their email address to join your eclub. In addition, it is a violation of Fishbowl’s Terms of Service – we do not allow for any email lists to be added to our system without express permission.

I have email addresses from business cards that I collected at a trade show and would like to add these to my eclub.

It Depends

Some people may want to hear from you after the trade show and others may not so throwing everyone into the list is not the way to go. At the trade show, set the expectations and ask if you can add someone to your eclub. If they say yes, add them to the list.

My restaurant is on a college or university or near a school. Can I add the directory to my eclub?


Being listed in a university directory does not give you permission to add these names to your list. Try setting some promotions on campus, at school fairs andask if you can add someone to your eclub. If they say yes, add them to the list.

I ran a contest/sweepstakes in my restaurant.

It Depends

Running a sweepstakes/contest can be a great way to add members from your restaurant to your eclub. Setting expectations at the point of email address collection will allow for your members to know exactly what they will receive in his/her inbox. Use Caution with rewards based on providing an email address and encourage only valid email addresses to keep fake email addresses to a minimum. If a reward/offer is given in the Inbox you are much more likely to get quality email addresses then if a reward is provided at the time of entry.

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