In the modern world, texting should be one of several ways that you communicate with your customers and let them reach you, as well as part of your restaurant marketing efforts. In fact, given the high open rate and the number of customers who indicate a preference for texting, it will likely become one of your main communication methods with customers.

With SMS marketing for restaurants, you can boost customer engagement and loyalty as well as your revenue. Remember that text messages have a 98% open rate, which means that customers are significantly more likely to see what you send them in a text message than what you send in an email or market with other methods.

How does text message marketing work?

To put it simply, text message marketing for restaurants refers to using text messages or SMS to send your SMS subscribers promotional messages. Restaurants can use it to promote food items or sales, encourage customers to complete surveys or reviews, or even to provide customer service.

Depending on the type of SMS campaign you run, you can:

  • Drive in-store diners with promotions and offers
  •  Drive online orders
  • Manage curbside pickup with ease
  • Manage reservations
  • Let customers know when their table or food is ready
  • Develop an SMS loyalty program

The importance of opt-ins

Just remember that you need to get your customers to opt-in to receive text messages before you start sending them, as this is part of how does SMS marketing work. You also need to give them a simple way to opt out. Potential opt-in methods include web forms, texting keywords, or paper forms.

Of these, shortcodes are among the most popular methods, as it is easy to advertise. You can just ask customers to text a keyword, like your restaurant name or “Food” to a number and sign up. Keywords are a popular option because you promote them on menus, receipts, your website, social media, the register, window signs, and more.

Of course, you also want to include a form on your website, as this a simple way to get new subscribers. 

Some SMS definitions

To help you better understand how text message marketing for restaurants works, consider the following definitions.

  • SMS (Short message service) – This was the first type of texting, introduced in the 1980s. It uses your phone’s native messaging app and it works with any mobile phone. However, it cannot include images, audio files, videos, or other multimedia files. It also limits each message to 160 characters. It is still incredibly common.
  • MMS (Multimedia messaging service) – This also relies on the cellular network to send messages and it is similar to SMS but it supports multimedia like audio, pictures, or contact cards. It also doesn’t have a character limit that is standardized; this depends on the user’s phone. Most carriers, however, cannot handle messages over 300 KB.
  • RCS (Rich communication services) – This essentially turns the phone’s native messaging app into one that can incorporate numerous features. It requires either data or Wi-Fi and supports videos, pictures, locations, emojis, stickers, and more. It even allows for transactions within the app. These frequently include video calling, group chats, typing indicators, and reading receipts. It can also feature sender verification, helping businesses look professional.

Why your restaurant shouldn’t text customers from personal phones?

While you want to incorporate SMS marketing for restaurants into your plan, you need to make sure not to use your personal phone or have your employees use theirs to do so.

Text messaging like this is a major data privacy and security risk. Essentially, using a personal phone increases the risk of accidentally disclosing information and violating customers’ privacy.

The reverse is also true, as there is a risk of customers gaining your employees’ phone numbers and contacting them outside of work without their permission.

There’s also the fact that if employees use their phones, you cannot control the security standards in place. Your company will want to use dedicated texting software that is fully legally compliant and keeps your customers’ information secure. But this can be significantly harder to do or even impossible if your employees use their own phones.

Personal phones will also eliminate access to some of the most important features of your SMS marketing for restaurants, such as analytics, mass texts, and segmenting diners.

It becomes even more complicated if you need to access information on the phone of someone who no longer works for you.

There’s also a risk that you will not be as compliant with business texting laws if you use personal phones. There may even be a mobile app on your employees’ phones that compromises the security. 

Examples of text message marketing for restaurants

There are several types of text message marketing for restaurants that you may want to use, from advertising promotions to confirming deliveries or pickup orders. The following sample text message marketing for restaurants covers a range of scenarios. You can use the following as templates or as inspiration.

Remember that some of the situations in which you may want to use text message marketing in the food industry  include:

  • Advertising a sale or promotion
  • Advertising a limited-time offer
  • Promoting a new menu item
  • Sending a mobile coupon or text coupons
  • Sharing weekly specials
  • Showing a sneak peak of an item or deal
  • Sharing updates to menu items 
  • Answering questions about menu info 
  • Targeting prior customers
  • Confirming or reminding about reservations
  • Thanking customers for their visit
  • Encouraging patrons to fill out a survey
  • Encouraging customers to leave a review
  • Let delivery customers know their order is on its way
  • Let pick-up customers know their order is ready
  • Coordinating curbside pick-up
  • Let sit-down customers know their table is ready
  • Accepting reservations
  • Accepting pick-up or delivery orders
  • Promoting or running loyalty programs
  • Mention local events you are participating in

Example #1

Example SMS Restaurant Message

Hey Alex, thanks for stopping by for dinner! Hope you enjoyed the food. Please let us know how we did in this short survey and get a free dessert with your next meal!

This example showcases several ways that you can use SMS messaging for your marketing in the restaurant industry. It is a follow-up for someone who has recently visited and it:

  • Lets the customer know you appreciated their visit, making them feel cared for
  • Encourages them to fill out a survey
  • Offers an incentive or mobile coupons to do so

You can get creative with other exclusive offers to encourage people to fill out a survey or complete the desired action after reading your automated texts. A special deal on their next meal tends to encourage responses from your subscriber list. 

Example #2

Sample Text Restaurant Message

Long time no see, Justin! Have you tried our new turkey and cranberry salad? Show your waiter this text this weekend and get 10% off your order! 

This example text also serves several purposes. It:

  • Helps you bring back a previously loyal customer who has not visited recently
  • Highlights a dish
  • Includes a promotion or discount code

Example #3

Example SMS Restaurant Message

Hey Jordan! It’s Salad Palace. Stop by to try our seasonal warm chicken and wild rice bowl. It’s a crowd favorite, but it’s only here until the end of the month.

This shows that not all of your text messages need to be multi-purpose. This particular message just promotes a single product to your current subscribers. However, it still uses some great marketing methods, such as a sense of urgency and using descriptive text to describe the dish.

Example #4

Sample SMS Message for Restaurants

Happy birthday Alice! 🥳 We want to celebrate you and your birthday, so stop by Ice Heaven for a free snow cone!

One of the most popular types of promotions that restaurants offer is discount codes or freebies for patrons on their birthdays. This text is a great example of this.

Texting your customers on their birthdays lets you show that you are thinking of them and helps them feel special. Even if they know it is an automated message, they will still feel special when you reach out on their special day.

Of course, you also dramatically increase the chances that the recipient will come to your restaurant on their birthday if they get exclusive deals for doing so, such as a free appetizer or free dessert.

Example #5

Sample Text Message for Restaurants

Who doesn’t love a free meal? Reply ME to enter Joe’s Pizza’s free pizza giveaway. Winner announced 4/30.

This is an example of another type of promotion that you can take care of via text messaging, text-to-win contests. These are a great way to get more opt-ins for your list and to engage subscribers. It is also great for brand awareness and can be easily shared across other marketing channels. The beauty of text-to-win promotions is that you only need to offer a single free dinner to get new customers and add to your existing loyalty programs. 

Example #6

Sample text Restaurant Message

Just a quick reminder that you have a dinner reservation at Molly’s Italian for 6 tonight at 7:30pm. We are looking forward to seeing you!

This is an example of another incredibly common type of text message that you may send to customers, reservation reminders. 

Reminding customers about their meal reservations helps them stay organized and increases the chances that they will show up. That helps you avoid empty tables.

Example #7

Example SMS Restaurant Message

Reminder that we have an all-hands meeting just before the dinner shift today. See you all at 4:30 in the break room.

This is a very different sample text message marketing for restaurants than the others as it is directed at employees. It shows how you can use texting to keep your team organized and remind them about their schedule or meetings without having to call everyone.

How do I choose the best SMS marketing service for my restaurant?

To make the most of your restaurant text marketing, you will want to use a service specializing in SMS marketing campaigns. These will help you with automated text messages, compliance, and more. But how do you choose?

Start by looking at the pricing of the product, as it needs to fit your budget. As you compare prices, be sure to look at all of the potential fees, including if there are additional fees per message.

You will also want to pay attention to the features that are included in the price, such as analytics and the ability to create custom campaigns. You will also likely want to pay attention to automation, contact management, integrations, and templates for SMS messaging.

Conclusion: Why you should care about text message marketing for restaurants

Text message marketing for restaurants and food trucks is a cost-effective and easy-to-use method of boosting your sales revenue and customer loyalty. You will effectively retarget your customers, helping ensure that they become loyal customers and boosting your revenue in that way. Thanks to the high open rate of text messages, you can trust that customers will see the messages you send, giving you better results for your efforts. Of course, you likely still want to supplement your text marketing with email marketing to reach the most customers. 

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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