We live in a mobile-first world. We use our smartphones for everything – browsing the web, messaging, banking, tracking health, entertainment – the list goes on. So it makes sense for almost all businesses to adopt a mobile-first approach when attempting to reach their audience. This includes restaurants and cafes looking to bring in hungry customers.
When you consider all the information someone can receive via their mobile devices – through an abundance of installable apps and their web browser, you might wonder how best to grab their attention.
Text message marketing is one of the most direct forms of communication – it cuts through the clutter of other apps. We know this because SMS has very impressive open and response rates – 98% and 45% – respectively. The corresponding figures for email marketing – 20% and 6% – pale in comparison.
What's more, business text messages are generally well-received. Several reports show that customers prefer to interact with a business rather than have a phone call, for instance.
Is SMS marketing for restaurants still effective?
Even though SMS as a technology is decades old, it's still highly relevant, especially for restaurant owners and hospitality businesses. Here's why:
1. SMS expands your reach
7.26 billion people use a mobile phone capable of sending and receiving SMS messages. This figure is set to rise to 7.49 billion by 2025 and is way higher than the number of global internet users (5.03 billion). SMS is familiar even to people who aren't tech-savvy and prefer to use a basic cell phone.
2. You can roll out timely updates
People booking a restaurant want confirmation that their table is secure. Restaurant text messaging allows you to confirm the details instantly and even provide instructions on how to change the time or cancel if needed. And if you're launching a new menu or opening a new outlet, a text marketing campaign ensures your news will get the attention it deserves.
3. Immediately get your message across
SMS messages are delivered fast. They rely on a cellular connection rather than the internet. This means you can communicate time-sensitive information quickly, for example, exclusive deals with an expiry date – e.g., 'kids eat free during school half term'. Restaurant SMS marketing is naturally concise so recipients can read your messages easily.
4. Collect data and feedback
SMS is ideal for customer engagement, which is why it’s often used for short surveys. As part of your restaurant SMS marketing strategy, you can poll your SMS subscribers to find out what they want. Then you can send more targeted text messaging campaigns to promote the very things being asked for. Happy customers make for returning customers!
5. Boost sales
All of the above benefits lead to the one that really matters – a rise in restaurant bookings and, ultimately, a boost in revenue. You should find that SMS marketing provides a strong ROI, with the increased sales much outweighing the cost of your campaigns.
SMS marketing for restaurants – getting it right
There are a few important tips to follow to ensure you get the most out of your restaurant text message marketing campaigns:
1. Avoid overkill
Use SMS wisely – you don't want to annoy subscribers by sending too much text marketing in a short space of time. This is a mistake many businesses make once they start seeing impressive results from their SMS marketing campaigns.
The problem is that too many texts come across as spammy and will cause people to unsubscribe. Start with one text message per week and only when you have something valuable or time-sensitive to communicate to potential diners. Sometimes it's more appropriate to use softer channels. For example, an interview with your new head chef would be better as a blog on your website, with an email campaign and social media posts to promote the article.
Also, pay attention to the times you're sending text marketing messages. Don't text at odd hours, like 2 am or 7 am, when your audience will hate being disturbed. (Read our blog on the best time to send text messages.)
2. Craft compelling text message marketing copy
While text messages beg to be opened, if your marketing copy is poor, you won't capture your recipient's attention for long. A good rule of thumb for writing impactful copy is to follow the three Cs: Clear, Crisp and Concise.
Clear – tell the recipient about your offer or news and then tell them what action to take, e.g. 'Book a table' or 'View the menu'.
Crisp – use interesting language to make your copy punchy and bring it to life. Avoid boring, overused words.
Concise – get your message across in just one text (160 characters). This is better for the recipient who just wants to scan your content, plus it's better for your budget because if you exceed the character limit, your text will count as two messages.
You can get inspiration for SMS marketing ideas by observing online trends, current affairs and memes. Incorporate humour and wit (everyone loves a chuckle) or use suspense to make your audience curious and motivated to read your message and click through to your restaurant's website.
If you have something amazing to show off – like a new heated outdoor dining area, take photos and send an MMS marketing campaign instead. A picture speaks a thousand words! You could also create graphics or videos to add to your message.
3. Don't be invasive
Always follow text message marketing rules – like never texting someone who hasn't given their consent and opted in.
Use your subscribers' personal data sensibly too. You might well have a stack of information at your fingertips, like birthdays, food preferences, average spend per visit, the number of bookings per year, etc. But if you use some of this information in your restaurant text messaging campaigns, it can look a bit stalker-ish. Here's what type of SMS marketing is acceptable and what isn’t.
What's ok – reservation confirmations and reminders, dining offers, restaurant news and holiday wishes.
What's not ok – anything that uses data your customers haven't explicitly given you for SMS marketing.
For example, you might know that it's a customer's birthday because they booked a birthday meal the previous year, and you noted it in the diary. But if you haven't told the customer you'll remember that information for when their birthday rolls around again, they may be surprised (or even alarmed) to hear from you!
Bonus tip! Give customers the option to unsubscribe with every text message you send. Not only does this promote trust and loyalty, it's also one of the golden rules you must follow.
Using restaurant texting to its full potential
SMS marketing for restaurants is highly effective. Even basic mobile phones can send and receive texts, broadening your reach to include people of all ages and those that aren't tech-savvy. Because texts are delivered fast, they're ideal for time-sensitive dining offers and boosting engagement, restaurant bookings and revenue.
For campaign success, follow three smart tips:
Don't overdo it – start slow and monitor campaign performance to check you're striking the right frequency. A spike in unsubscribes is a red flag your texts aren't well received.
Use the three Cs – make your copy Clear, Crisp and Concise to hold your subscribers' attention.
Don't be creepy – only use personal data insights that subscribers have explicitly provided for SMS marketing purposes.
Want to know more about SMS marketing for the restaurant industry? Get in touch today to learn how Messente can strengthen your marketing efforts.