Why SMS Marketing Can Take Restaurant Brands to the Next Level

industry insights

Latrease Purnell

MAR 30, 2022


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Today’s consumers interact with businesses and gather new information easier than ever before. But since people can use their phones just about anywhere, at any time, to do anything, it’s become more difficult for marketers to capture and maintain their attention. With overflowing email inboxes, screens full of apps, and ever-changing social media algorithms that control which content mobile users see, companies are constantly looking for new ways to break through the digital clutter to reach mobile-first audiences and drive engagement and revenue.

This is why marketers for restaurant brands—from quick-service and fast-food to casual and fine-dining—are turning to personalized text messaging as the next big way to reach mobile-first audiences and drive foot traffic, loyalty, and revenue.

Consumers have shown that they want to engage with their favorite brands via text messaging. In fact, 91% say they’d be open to signing up to receive text messages from businesses, while 55% have already done so. And there’s a big opportunity for restaurant brands to stay top-of-mind and build customer loyalty through relevant, two-way conversations.

Benefits of SMS Marketing for Restaurants

With 20-35% click-through rates and more engagement than email per message, a text message marketing strategy cannot be overlooked. This channel presents an opportunity to not only drive foot traffic to restaurants and increase customer engagement, but to continually stay top of mind among consumers and increase loyalty. By using this channel, restaurant marketers can convert casual site visitors into long-term customers by sharing relevant, engaging content with them.

So where should restaurant marketers unfamiliar with SMS begin? Here are three reasons why they need to start using SMS to build connections with consumers, drive loyalty, and increase order frequency—as well as some examples on how they can start doing so.

1. Two-way conversations are essential for restaurants.

Now that consumers are shopping on their mobile phones more than ever, they’re interested in handling all aspects of their order via mobile—including communicating with brands’ customer support teams. This is a natural extension of the mobile shopping experience, to the benefit of both consumers and brands.

By handling customer service questions via text message, consumers get to stay on one device, and they get to have conversations in real time. In turn, by creating the seamless and helpful mobile ecosystem shoppers want, restaurant brands are building trust, making it easier for their audience to take action and drive repeat purchases.

2. It increases reach. 

Consumers already use their phones to find restaurants—so why not message them where they are? Mobile users have grown increasingly more comfortable using their smartphones to research online. In fact, 70% of US consumers use their mobile devices as part of their interaction with fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, and 42% say they use their mobile devices to look for restaurant coupons and deals—making it a high-use dining activity—according to AdTheorent. Beyond that, mobile users have a high level of optimism when it comes opting in to text message marketing from their favorite restaurant brands. Forty-five percent of consumers say that mobile food ordering or loyalty programs would increase their online order frequency, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

3. You can gain customer feedback. 

Today’s consumers have access to more information than ever. They no longer rely strictly on “best-of” lists or word-of-mouth advertising. Instead, they browse—on their smartphones—for restaurants and brands that cater to their personal wants and needs at that moment.

As restaurant brands compete in a challenging market, it’s important that they are catering their content and communication options to what their customers want. Customers now expect fast, seamless, and accurate ordering from their smartphones. Restaurant brands should test various strategies to ensure they can meet these needs as efficiently as possible. By continually analyzing message performance, they’ll better understand how best to communicate with their audience and what content they want to receive.

Restaurant Text Messaging Best Practices

Whether you’re new to SMS marketing or want to improve your existing program, keeping these best practices in mind will help you get the most out of restaurant SMS.

Always get permission to send text messages

Before sending any text marketing, your program must meet legal and regulatory compliance standards. At a high-level, subscribers must explicitly opt-in for all SMS messages in writing. This opt-in must be separate from email marketing, and must also include language that explains what types of messages subscribers will be receiving, as well as how to opt out if they wish to do so. Choosing an SMS partner that keeps compliance top-of-mind will help you scale a list of subscribers, drive revenue, and build loyalty.   

Keep text messages short and value-driven

Text messaging is an innately personal channel and should be used to send highly relevant messages that drive action. With limited characters, every word matters—and can have a huge impact on engagement and conversion. Longer, less-sensitive information should be saved for email, while concise, value-packed messages should be delivered via text message. Promoting seasonal deals, location-specific offers, mobile app downloads, and your brand’s loyalty programs are all great ways to add value via text message. 

Use segmentation to power personalization

Personalization enhances consumer experiences, increases engagement and loyalty, and gives a competitive advantage to brands who get it right. Segmenting subscribers by demographic, preferences, purchase behavior, and more can have a big impact on your personalization strategy—leading to higher engagement and increased ROI of your SMS channel.

SMS Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

So what are some different ways restaurant brands can use SMS marketing campaigns? Here are a few of the most popular use cases in the industry:

1. Announcing new products

Engage with subscribers by sharing new products and menu items, keeping them up-to-date with the latest offerings.

2. Sharing limited-time deals and special offers

Personalized text messaging is an effective way to stay top-of-mind during events and holidays. Because food is a major part of any celebration, subscribers will appreciate the notifications to place their order ahead of time. Reward customers with offers or discounts, such as birthday perks and national holiday promotions.

3. Sending localized marketing offers and exclusive deals

Connect with local customers using geo-targeting to send the most relevant content. Letting subscribers know about deals or new items they can order from their nearest location removes friction, helping restaurant marketers drive more conversions.

4. Increasing takeout orders

Reward hungry customers with exclusive offers they can redeem on takeout orders and curbside pickups.

5. Recovering abandoned online orders

Remind subscribers about online food orders they abandoned to help recover otherwise lost revenue.

6. Driving app downloads

To reduce friction and increase order frequency, many restaurant marketers use text messaging to drive app downloads and engagement. Because SMS subscribers are likely some of a restaurant’s most loyal customers, they may be interested in downloading their mobile app, too.

7. Building diner loyalty

The instantaneous, personal nature of text messaging makes it a powerful channel for building loyalty—and driving repeat orders. Restaurant marketers should make subscribers feel like VIPs by sharing exclusive offers, first-looks at new menu items, or invites to their brand’s loyalty program.

SMS marketing can help boost your restaurant business

Bottom line: By taking advantage of SMS marketing— the optimal way to have personalized, 1:1 interactions with consumers across the customer lifecycle— restaurant owners can put their brand awareness in the best position possible to increase revenue and customer retention.

For additional resources on how restaurants can grow their businesses with SMS, check out Texts We Love — Attentive’s showcase of top-performing campaign messages from real brands—as well as our blog post on how restaurants and other food and beverage brands ​use personalized text messaging to increase diner lifetime value.


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