Studies reveal that restaurant and bar owners have been reluctant to embrace short message service, or SMS, marketing techniques despite data revealing that 81 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to search for places to meet friends for a drink or enjoy a meal. Many Americans find it difficult to put their phones away even for a few minutes, but many restaurant owners take exception to this kind of behavior in their establishments rather than seeing it for the tremendous opportunity that it is.
Text messaging offers you a low-cost and highly effective way to communicate with your customers and promote special offers or discounts, and restaurants and bars are among the types of businesses that can benefit from this kind of marketing the most. You could use text messages to promote special offers and make announcements designed to attract customers during times when business is traditionally slow, reach certain demographic groups such as women or college students or encourage your customers to sample new dishes. Restaurant text messaging would likely make all of these efforts far more successful.
Restaurants Have Significant SMS Marketing Advantages
The biggest challenge facing SMS marketers is creating a list of recipients who are likely to take advantage of the specials or discounts on offer, but this is rarely a problem for bars and restaurants. This is because bar and restaurant visits tend to be quite long, which gives you several opportunities to encourage your patrons to sign up for text message alerts. Text marketing ideas for restaurants include generating subscribers by placing a simple call to action including a short code on menus, receipts, placemats and signs, which are opportunities that entrepreneurs in other business sectors rarely have.
The timing of text messages is another crucial component of successful SMS marketing plans. You have an advantage in this area too as you know when your customers are likely to be thinking about ordering food or going out to eat. Texts announcing lunch specials could be sent in the late morning and messages about two-for-one dinner deals could be sent during the early evening hours. People tend to enjoy eating out or meeting friends for a drink, which means that messages from your establishment are unlikely to be seen as a nuisance and blocked. This gives restaurant owners who take advantage of restaurant promotion messages yet another significant advantage.
Text Message Marketing Has Incredible Read and Response Rates
You may be more eager to try texting for restaurant promotion after learning about SMS read and response rates. Researchers have found that almost 98 percent of text messages are read and 90 percent are read within three seconds. Consumers also respond to text messages far more often that they do to promotional emails or other forms of electronic marketing, and most respond within 90 seconds of receiving a text. As a comparison, research reveals that specials and offers posted on Facebook are only seen by about 5 percent of their target audience. This is why SMS databases are considered to be ten times as valuable as email lists.
These are key considerations because text messages are an effective way of nurturing customer relationships and building brand loyalty, and even modest improvements in customer retention can have a profound effect on restaurant bottom lines. According to a study from the consulting firm Bain & Company, a 5 percent increase in customer retention could boost your revenues by as much as 75 percent.
Text Messaging Tips for Restaurants
Effective marketing text messages are short and to the point, and they should generally be kept to 160 characters or less. Messages longer than this may be broken up into several texts by wireless service providers, which can reduce their effectiveness significantly. Text messages should also abide by the provisions of the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act and include a way for subscribers to opt-out. This is usually done by including a line such as “Text ‘STOP’ to unsubscribe.” Dining establishments often draw most of their patrons from clearly defined areas, and you could employ geofencing strategies to ensure that only those within a certain distance of your establishment receive texts about your special offers or other incentives.
While text messages are a valuable promotional tool, they can also be used to improve restaurant efficiency, lower overheads and reduce waste. You could send text messages to your servers and kitchen staff when their shifts are changed or surges in customer traffic call for extra workers. You could also make, confirm or change reservations by text message, order additional ingredients from suppliers quickly and send your customers delivery updates to ensure that their orders are correct and somebody will be available to receive them.
Text Messaging Ideas for Restaurants
Restaurant owners who use text messaging to promote their businesses rarely stray from tried and tested promotional strategies. While offering a free appetizer or two entrées for the price of one may be an effective way to attract more customers on slow nights or at unpopular hours, this kind of approach only scratches the surface of what SMS marketing can do for a business. Dining establishment patrons are sometimes fiercely loyal, and you can encourage or nurture this loyalty with text messages. Satisfaction surveys and requests for tips to improve service can make diners feel valued and special, and they can also provide valuable insights into what your customers want and expect.
You could also use text messages to generate excitement and word-of-mouth recommendations. Customer loyalty programs that offer exclusive deals can reward diners who make repeat visits and prompt them to spend more when they dine at your establishment, and text-based surveys or polls could provide you with almost instant feedback about the popularity of new dishes or changes that you have made to your menu. One of the reasons that text messages are such an effective way to market a business is because they often contain offers and discounts that are not available elsewhere, and you could use this air of exclusivity to grow your customer list and build loyalty.
Text messaging could also be used to improve customer engagement while they are visiting your establishment. In more casual dining establishments, text-to-screen technology could be used to allow patrons to take part in quizzes or cast votes. This can be especially effective in establishments where sporting events are shown. Using this technology, patrons could predict the outcome of a sporting contest before it begins and choose a most valuable player when it ends. Several rounds of voting could also encourage patrons to stay a little longer and spend a little more money than they originally planned.
Text Marketing Software Can Be an Invaluable Tool
The pizza chain Papa John’s saw a return of $14 for every $1 it spent on text marketing, but achieving results like this takes commitment and careful planning. Finding time to manage customer lists, ensure that text messages comply with federal laws and regulations and track response rates can be difficult for busy restaurant owners, but text marketing software is available that can automate many of these tasks and greatly improve your chances of success. This software could help you to avoid common SMS marketing pitfalls and it may also provide you with sample texts for restaurant promotion.