A thorough understanding of what makes your patrons want to share your restaurant’s email marketing content is key to offering the right kind of incentives to get your offers promulgated. Restaurateurs are discovering that simply presenting an offer to subscribers does not equate to their spontaneous desire to share it with their social circle. Your customers have to be shown precisely how their sharing activity can provide tangible results, and this is achieved by focusing on the primary reasons why people share online content. In their remarkable book Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies, authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff summarize the underlying reasons why individuals share content:


Sharing of content is linked to deriving personal benefits such as diminished cost or even no cost product or service incentives. From this perspective, the act of sharing is a financially beneficial one that provides free products and services, or allows significant discounts on them. Restaurants can promote this aspect of social sharing by providing discounts on meals; free appetizers, side dishes or desserts; vouchers for two for one offers; and even points/cashback programs where frequent diners are rewarded according to the frequency of their patronage.

Community Contribution & Validation

Although online communities are essentially ethereal coteries, they still operate by the basic standards of Face to Face (F2F) social circles. Members who contribute information, tips, leads, pointers or in other ways constructively participate in the organic activities of the group tend to accumulate more “unspoken brownie points” than the more apathetic or wallflowerish parties, and thus their status within the assemblage gradually increases. Restaurateurs are in a position to provide these types of sharers with ample and valuable ammunition for their upward aiming social climbing by offering group discounts; special invitations intended specifically for passalong use; and specific codes or print-out coupons that are not widely advertised but available only to “select subscribers” for distribution among their clique.

Altruistic Affinity

There is an element of social sharing that does not incorporate a strictly quantifiable personal benefit as the first two components. In online or F2F social relationships there is always an aspect of selfless assistance to others that is manifested to varying degrees. There are countless organizations around the nation and the world where the benefits gained by the participants cannot be stated in financial terms. The Rotarian helping to build a park or the church member frosting cakes for the bake sale is not expecting restitution for their time and expenditures in any financial manner, but only as a “goodwill return” to help others. The best ways for restauranteurs to tap into this magnanimous compassion is by demonstrating to subscribers how their patronage can assist the less fortunate or in other ways benefit the overall community, neighborhood or town. This form of sharing promotion could include:

  • Contribution to a food bank of not just overstocked or aged inventory but fresh and desirable products
  • Participation at local soup kitchens to prepare restaurant quality meals, especially during holidays
  • Supply of healthy packed school lunches at no charge to low income families
  • Holding a weekly buffet at a time between lunch and dinner, which is offered at no charge to local sports clubs, school groups or volunteer organizations
  • Support of other charitable, volunteering and fundraising events, such as providing free delivered lunches to workers at summer day camps; literacy centers; disability programs; community sports events; or Habitat For Humanity construction sites.
All of these promotions catering to the altruistic affinity of your subscribers should be tied in to the amount of patronage generated by a “charitable code” being presented at your venue and summarized in a cumulative manner in your ongoing newsletters. In this way the sharers can vividly see the clear link between their sharing activities and the amount of community assistance being provided by your restaurant.Crafting newsletter content to focus on a visible and measurable value provided to your subscribers to encourage them to share your content will have a positive result that will certainly exceed the cost of providing free kids’ lunches or discounts on appetizers!