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Getting the Message: SMS Marketing for Restaurants

It’s safe to say that just about every one of your customers owns a cell phone and checks it for messages throughout the day. From boomers to Gen Z, it’s the one daily activity that spans every generation. SMS message marketing is so important for small businesses because it can help you reach your target audience when and where they spend most of their time—on their phones.

Otherwise known as text message marketing, SMS (short for Short Message Service) is great for restaurants that want to attract more customers without spending a fortune. A type of opt-in marketing, meaning customers need to consent to receive texts from you, tapping into this affordable resource is an excellent way to reach this captive audience. And not only does SMS marketing let you reach your customers quickly, but they’re also more likely to read your message than any other form of marketing including email, social media, and broadcast because there’s no effort involved. It’s just there in your customer’s hands. And with the right offer, SMS messages are highly effective.

But, with new technology and social media platforms popping up every day, it’s only natural to wonder if this very basic method of marketing is still a viable option for restaurants. Below are ten benefits that prove that it is.

Benefits of SMS Marketing

  1. Low tech: With SMS, customers don’t have to install a new app or do anything extra on their phone. People do not even need a smartphone to send and receive texts—any phone will do. This opens up lines of communication with less tech-savvy demographics such as the elderly.

  2. Part of everyday life: With 18.7 billion texts sent worldwide every day, it comes as no surprise that people still overwhelmingly communicate via text messaging and they expect SMS messages from brands.

  3. Not seen as intrusive: Customers, for the most part, don’t look at text message marketing that they’ve opted into as bothersome. In fact, a recent study found that 75% of customers said they want to receive texts from businesses when a good offer is involved and 30% will purchase something in response to a text message.

  4. High open and response rate: Text messaging has an open rate of 82% as opposed to email which has a 20% open rate. Text messaging has a 45% response rate, while email only has a 6% response rate.

  5. Fast and effective: Not only does SMS marketing let you reach your customers more quickly, but they’re also more likely to read your message.

  6. Works with any budget: If you’ve just opened your restaurant or you just don’t have a huge marketing budget SMS marketing is perfect for you.

  7. Far reaching: If you limit yourself to email marketing, you won’t be reaching as many people as you could with an effective text message marketing strategy. That’s because for people to receive an SMS, they just need a phone.

  8. Time sensitive results: 90% of text message marketing texts are read in the first 3 minutes of being sent, which means if you send an offer with a discount code with a link to your online menu, customers can open it and place an order in less than 10 minutes. For email, it takes 80 hours for people to open 90% of emails! To put that in context, by the time 90% of your customers have seen your SMS message, less than 1% of your customers have seen your email. By the time your email message has been opened, your offer is likely to be expired. All of this makes SMS the most effective channel for restaurants with time-sensitive promotions to share.

  9. Boosts customer loyalty: If you craft attractive messages featuring exclusive deals regularly via SMS, customers will be tempted to visit your restaurant over and over again to redeem the offers.

  10. Versatile: One of the biggest selling points of SMS marketing is its flexibility. When devising a text message marketing strategy, pick and choose what you want to communicate: an exclusive menu item, a discount, a promo code, or news about an upcoming event.

More stats to consider

Best Practices for SMS Marketing for Restaurants

1. Save SMS for when you have something important or time-sensitive to say:

It can be tempting to bombard your customers with text messages, but that could be an instant turn-off. After all, no one wants to get more notifications from restaurants than they get from their friends. Save SMS for more “urgent” matters like a “today only” offer to prevent customers from hitting the “unsubscribe” button.

2. Always get permission to send customers text messages.

Never send customers promotional messages if they haven’t opted-in to receive them. Additionally, pay close attention to how you phrase the kind of messages they will receive. If you say they will receive messages related to special offers, for example, you’re painting yourself in a corner because you won’t be able to send other types of messages.

3. Perform an SMS lookup to verify phone numbers.

To ensure that your text messages reach the intended recipients, perform an SMS lookup to verify the validity of your audience's phone numbers.

4. Shorter is sweeter

When writing a promotion text message, don’t go over the 160 characters per SMS limit. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point, and your messages will convert.

5. Personalize your messages

Even if you do bulk SMS marketing, a bit of customization can go a long way. Even something as short and simple as addressing the customer by their first name helps make them feel special.

6. Provide an opt-out option

Wherever you place your opt-in CTA, you also need to include an opt-out option with clear instructions on how to do it. Additionally, when people receive their first text from you after opting in, also include an opt-out link.

SMS Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

Send discount codes to encourage first orders

There’s no better way to grab a prospective customer’s attention than with a short text featuring a generous discount code or BOGO offer.

Encourage a second order

To turn one-time customers into loyals, send guests who have placed their first online order a "thank you" message with a discount on their second purchase. Not only will they likely order again, but they’ll keep a close eye out for future promotions.

Prevent cart abandonment

Some customers change their minds mid-order and abandon their cart. When this happens, there’s only a slim chance that they’ll return to complete the order. Prevent losing the business by sending them a message reminding them to complete their order. This is highly time-sensitive because once they’ve placed an order with another restaurant, they’ll like not change their mind and order from you. You can even send a "maybe next time” text with a generous offer that will entice them to order from your business next time they’re hunting for great delivery.

Re-engage customers who haven’t ordered in a while

If you’ve noticed that a customer who has ordered from you a few times has begun to slip away, use SMS to recapture their business. Afterall, it’s cheaper to identify a stagnant customer and try to gain them back than it is to attract new customers.

Take Away

SMS messaging is an affordable, accessible, and effective way to reach potential customers, offering convenience and an immediacy that other channels can’t match. In a world that’s constantly evolving, the one thing that seems to remain constant is the bond consumers have with their phones. By taking advantage of this relationship, restaurants can run promotions in real time, attract more customers, and boost profits.

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By Eileen Strauss


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