Fill Your Tables: SMS Marketing for Restaurants

baker holding a tablet
baker holding a tablet

Would you like to see more customers at your dining establishment? Your marketing strategy can include text marketing campaigns. While marketing channels like text work well for most small business marketers, restaurant text messages fall into their own category, because people are a bit more receptive to promotional messages when they’re offering exclusive deals, as restaurants are often able to do.

Combined with the power of social media, you can employ automation in your restaurant SMS campaign to raise brand awareness, inform your customers of weekly specials, and increase customer loyalty with SMS messages by providing mobile coupons or text coupons via SMS message or your app.

This type of customer engagement tends to work well in the restaurant industry, and mobile marketing works best when those notifications hit mobile phones right around meal times.

Table of Contents

  • Establish a Loyalty Program and Collect Mobile Phone Numbers
  • Snail Mail New Customers an Invitation to Opt-In
  • SMS Marketing Campaigns for Your Slowest Hours
  • Promotion: New Menu Items and Sweepstakes Marketing Ideas

Establish a Loyalty Program and Collect Mobile Phone Numbers

There is an art to mass texting your loyal customers — after all, you want to keep customers, not lose them. In the restaurant business, texting your customers is all about reaching them when they’re thinking about meals, not about when they’ll be annoyed.

Your restaurant marketing plan should include a strategy to reach your customers at those ideal times. Once you’ve sent multiple text campaigns, you can look at the open rate for each message sent, as well as response rates (how many people used each code).

When you establish a loyalty program and collect mobile phone numbers for marketing purposes, your customers are trusting you to send them information (and coupons) they actually want. For example, someone who only places online orders with your restaurant might get annoyed if you’re only sending them coupon codes they can use in person. Consider your audience carefully before sending.

Snail Mail New Customers an Invitation to Opt in

Do you wish you had more new customers at your restaurant? Whether your restaurant is new in the neighborhood or you’re just trying to reach community members that haven’t given your small business a chance yet, think about getting their attention through postal mail.

You can send them a short code to redeem for an online order or in-store purchase. Make sure you send them an offer enticing enough to convince them to try your restaurant. For example, a café might benefit by offering one free drink to a first-time customer.

SMS Marketing Campaigns for Your Slowest Hours

Do you know when your restaurant is emptiest? If you don’t want to change your hours and would rather see those tables populated by customers, harnessing the power of your customers’ mobile devices is essential. Send along a coupon that’s good for a specific item at a specific time using your SMS marketing tool. Examples that restaurant owners can use include a variation of one of these SMS templates:

Kids under 5 eat free from the munchkin menu on Tuesdays after 3 p.m.!

50% off any pizza on Thursday after 5 p.m.

Sunday brunch special: buy one entrée, get one free on Sundays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Always make sure you provide the limitations in the text (limit 2 per customer, for example) so people don’t take advantage of your generosity or cause a problem for your staff.

You can also run special events like trivia night or karaoke to entice customers to visit during specific times. Consider what your regular clientele would like to see and provide that type of additional entertainment. Make sure your marketing efforts and campaigns reflect this event promotion.

Promotion: New Menu Items and Sweepstakes Marketing Ideas

Are you debuting a new menu item? How do you feel about giving away a $100 gift certificate every month in exchange for your prospects’ email addresses? Both of these strategies could really pay off. You can use text messaging campaigns and email marketing to send special offers or a discount code to your entire subscriber list.

Limited-time offers could go to your email subscribers who sign up to your text messaging marketing list. You can even ask the customer to click the number to call and make a reservation or to place a pick-up order immediately.

While customers consider some regular SMS marketing messages over the top, restaurant marketing campaigns have slightly different rules because food is involved. Planning your campaign to send at optimal times, providing short, clear messages, being upfront about the pricing, and being clear about the limitations of each coupon can help you bring in customers and keep them coming back.