Restaurants Serve Sizzling E-Mails

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Ever fantasize about dinner while sitting in front of a computer? Imagine getting an e-mail with photos of spicy fajitas or New England clam chowder.

Jack Tar American Tavern and Fajita Grill are two restaurants that use e-mail to make customers salivate. Both tapped e-mail services provider Constant Contact, Waltham, MA, to market to the taste buds with rich media messages.

"We started e-mail marketing for an inexpensive way to reach our customers," said Abby Weaver, director of marketing at Fajita Grill, Oswego, NY. "Mail was expensive, and so we chose to go with e-mail."

Fajita Grill is a franchise fast-food restaurant specializing in fresh ingredients and Mexican dishes. Food preparers help visitors to the restaurant through an assembly line process of picking desired ingredients for nachos, salads and rice bowls.

Monthly e-mails drive store traffic with exclusive coupons that can be used in the restaurant. The list was generated organically by the restaurant, which has collected 1,300 e-mail names through its Web site and in the eatery. A loyalty program benefits frequent patrons.

But e-mail marketing is not just for fast-food promotions. It works for sit-down dining as well. Jack Tar American Tavern, Marblehead, MA, uses e-mail to boost visibility in its secluded location.

"We are located on a beautiful part of an old town, but we are off the beaten path, and without a storefront on the main street, we need to market to let people know that we are here," said Andrew Kramer, co-owner of Jack Tar.

Jack Tar serves New England classics like clam chowder and crab cakes as well as American standards like burgers, pasta, ribs and roasted chicken.

The restaurant sends e-mail newsletters to its entire customer base quarterly and more frequently to its loyalty members in The Admiral's Club. E-mails are targeted based on the client's order history and location so that the messages are more than just a blast. The marketing was developed to be visible and to gain a local audience throughout the year beyond the summer tourist season.

"Our challenge was to create a restaurant that could sustain itself beyond July and August," Mr. Kramer said. "We wanted to be successful with the local community."

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