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Building the Foundation: A Primer on Mobile Marketing For Restaurants

Last Update: Dec 5, 2023 @ 7:36 am

“Mobile is not the future; it is the now. Meet your customers in the environment of their choice, not where it’s convenient for you.”

– Nancy Abraham, Restaurant Marketing Expert


To reach customers in today’s fast-paced digital environment, where smartphones have grown inseparable from our hands, mobile marketing has become increasingly important especially for restaurant owners, managers, and marketers. This article will serve as your comprehensive guide, providing you with the knowledge and insights to build a solid foundation in mobile marketing for your restaurant.

Understanding Mobile Marketing
Restaurant Mobile Marketing Promo Offers From the Web

Understanding Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is all about communicating with target customers on their phones, tablets, and other devices. Mobile marketing must now be part of any comprehensive advertising campaign due to the ubiquity of mobile devices and our growing dependence on them.

Apps, mobile websites, SMS (text message) marketing, push notifications, mobile advertising, and location-based targeting are all parts of mobile marketing’s expansive toolkit. It makes use of the mobility and specific features of mobile devices to have more intimate and relevant interactions with clients.

Key Elements of Mobile Marketing

1. Mobile-Friendly Websites

Mobile consumers require a mobile-friendly website. It involves optimizing the design, layout, and content to ensure easy navigation, fast loading times, and compatibility with different screen sizes.

Example: Customers may effortlessly browse the menu, discover directions, reserve a table, and make an order on a mobile-optimized restaurant website.

2. Mobile Apps

Mobile apps provide a dedicated platform for businesses to engage with their customers. They offer features such as mobile ordering, loyalty programs, push notifications, and personalized offers, enhancing the overall user experience and driving customer loyalty.

Example: A restaurant’s mobile app allows customers to customize their orders, track delivery progress, and receive exclusive discounts and promotions.

3. SMS Marketing

SMS marketing involves sending targeted promotional messages, alerts, or notifications to customers’ mobile devices via text messages. It offers a direct and immediate channel of communication to engage with customers.

Example: A restaurant may send text messages to customers, offering special discounts for their next visit or informing them about upcoming events or promotions.

4. Push Notifications

Push notifications can reach users even while they’re not using an app. They can be personalized, time-sensitive, and triggered based on specific user behaviors or preferences.

Example: Customers can be incentivized to come or make an order by receiving push alerts from a restaurant’s app about specials, new dishes, or forthcoming events.

5. Location-Based Targeting

Mobile devices provide the ability to leverage location-based targeting, delivering relevant messages or offers to users based on their physical location. This allows businesses to target customers who are in proximity to their restaurant or competing establishments.

Example: A restaurant can send push notifications to users in a specific area, offering discounts or promotions to drive foot traffic during slower periods.

Case Study_ Chipotle's Sizzling Success
Chipotle’s Mobile Marketing Order Now Strategy From the Web

Case Study: Chipotle’s Sizzling Success

Take Chipotle Mexican Grill, a popular fast food chain, as an example of how mobile marketing may affect a restaurant’s advertising and bottom line. Chipotle implemented a robust mobile marketing strategy, resulting in significant success and brand growth. Their app, available for iOS and Android smartphones, is crucial to their service.

Here are five ways mobile marketing helped Chipotle’s marketing: 

  • Mobile Ordering and Pickup: Chipotle’s app enables consumers to browse the menu, make changes, and pick up their orders without waiting in line. This streamlined process not only enhanced customer convenience but also increased operational efficiency for the restaurant.
  • Push Notifications and Offers: Chipotle leveraged push notifications to send timely offers, exclusive discounts, and personalized promotions to their app users. By targeting their loyal customers, they increased engagement, drove repeat business, and attracted new customers seeking enticing deals.
  • Loyalty Program Integration: The Chipotle app features a loyalty program that rewards customers with points for each purchase. Users can accumulate points to unlock rewards, such as free food or merchandise. This incentivized program encourages customer loyalty and drives repeat visits, ultimately boosting sales.
  • Mobile Payment Integration: Chipotle integrated mobile payment options, allowing customers to pay for their orders directly through the app. This seamless integration not only expedited the checkout process but also provided a convenient and contactless payment method, especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Location-Based Targeting: By leveraging location data, Chipotle implemented geolocation-based targeting. For instance, when customers are in close proximity to a Chipotle location, they receive targeted push notifications about nearby deals or new menu items. This strategy helps drive foot traffic to specific locations and increases overall sales.

Benefits of Embracing Mobile Marketing for Restaurants

After understanding mobile marketing, let’s examine its ten most alluring advantages for restaurants:

  • Increased Customer Engagement: Deloitte found that 92 percent of smartphone owners in the 18–34 age bracket use their devices for restaurant-related activities. By implementing mobile marketing strategies, restaurants can effectively engage with this tech-savvy audience, driving customer loyalty and brand awareness.
  • Improved Customer Convenience: With mobile ordering and payment options, restaurants empower customers to place orders and pay seamlessly, enhancing convenience and reducing friction in the dining experience. A survey by Tillster found that 61% of customers preferred using a restaurant’s mobile app for ordering.
  • Enhanced Personalization: Mobile marketing allows restaurants to collect customer data and preferences, enabling personalized marketing campaigns. In a study by Infosys, 78% of customers expressed a desire for personalized offers from restaurants, highlighting the value of tailored mobile marketing strategies.
  • Increased Customer Loyalty: A well-executed mobile marketing strategy, including loyalty programs and exclusive offers, fosters customer loyalty and encourages repeat visits. According to a study by Bond Brand Loyalty, 66% of customers modify their purchase behavior to maximize loyalty rewards.
  • Greater Operational Efficiency: By leveraging mobile ordering and payment, restaurants can streamline their operations, reduce wait times, and increase table turnover. This efficiency boost can lead to higher customer satisfaction and increased revenue potential.
  • Targeted Marketing Campaigns: Mobile marketing enables precise targeting of specific customer segments based on demographics, location, and behavior. A study by Leanplum found that personalized push notifications had a 800% higher conversion rate than generic messages.
  • Higher Return on Investment (ROI): Mobile marketing often yields a higher ROI than traditional advertising. A study by Business.com reported that mobile ads generate 2-5 times higher click-through rates than online ads, translating into increased conversions for restaurants.
15 Best Mobile Marketing Strategies for Restaurants
Chipotle’s Mobile App From the Web

15 Best Mobile Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

Implementing mobile marketing strategies can greatly benefit restaurateurs, restaurant managers, and marketing professionals. Here are 15 best strategies to help you successfully integrate mobile marketing into your restaurant’s operations and drive meaningful results:

1. Develop a Mobile-Friendly Website

Ensure your website is responsive and optimized for mobile devices. Implement a clean and user-friendly design, easy navigation, and fast loading times. Test your website across various devices and screen sizes to guarantee a seamless user experience.

Example: Customers may simply examine the restaurant’s menu, get directions, book a table, and place an order using a mobile-friendly website.

2. Create a Branded Mobile App

Develop a dedicated mobile app for your restaurant that offers a range of features and functionality. Incorporate mobile ordering, loyalty programs, push notifications, and personalized offers to enhance the user experience and drive engagement.

Example: Customers may now personalize their orders, track their deliveries, and access special deals and discounts using the Domino’s Pizza mobile app.

3. Optimize for Local Mobile Search

Implement local SEO strategies to ensure your restaurant appears prominently in mobile search results. Claim your business on platforms like Google My Business, optimize location-based keywords, and encourage customers to leave reviews.

Example: When a potential diner types “Italian restaurants near me” into their mobile browser, your establishment should come up first, complete with contact details and customer reviews.

4. Leverage Push Notifications

Utilize push notifications to engage and retain customers. Send personalized messages with time-sensitive offers, updates on special events or promotions, and reminders to drive customer action and boost sales.

Example: A restaurant may send a push notification to its app users, promoting a limited-time discount on a new menu item, encouraging them to visit and try the dish.

5. Implement Mobile Ordering and Payment

Enable mobile ordering and payment options to streamline the customer experience. Offer features like order customization, saved preferences, and secure mobile payment methods to enhance convenience and increase order frequency.

Example: Starbucks’ mobile app allows customers to place and pay for their orders in advance, skipping the line and expediting the pickup process.

6. Integrate Loyalty Programs

Incorporate a digital loyalty program into your mobile app to reward and incentivize customer loyalty. Offer points or rewards for purchases, referrals, or social media engagement to encourage repeat visits and customer retention.

Example: Users can earn points with each transaction and redeem them for free food or other incentives in The Chick-fil-A app’s loyalty program.

7. Create Compelling Mobile Content

Develop engaging and visually appealing content tailored for mobile consumption. Utilize high-quality images, videos, and concise copy to showcase your restaurant’s ambiance, menu items, and promotions.

Example: Instagram Stories can be used to share behind-the-scenes footage, chef’s specials, or customer testimonials in a format optimized for mobile viewing.

8. Maximize Social Media Presence

Leverage social media platforms to engage with your target audience and promote your restaurant. Optimize posts for mobile viewing, engage in two-way conversations, share user-generated content, and run mobile-friendly advertising campaigns.

Example: Taco Bell effectively utilizes Twitter’s mobile platform to interact with customers, respond to inquiries, and participate in trending conversations.

9. Optimize SMS Marketing Campaigns

Utilize SMS (text message) marketing to reach customers directly on their mobile devices. Send targeted messages with exclusive offers, event invitations, or time-sensitive promotions to boost engagement and drive conversions.

Example: A restaurant might encourage patrons to book a reservation or place an order by sending them a promo code through text message.

10. Implement Geo-targeting and Proximity Marketing

Utilize geolocation technology to deliver targeted mobile marketing messages to customers based on their physical location. Send push notifications or personalized offers when customers are near your restaurant or competing establishments.

Example: A restaurant may send a push notification to app users within a certain radius, offering a discount to attract customers who are in the vicinity.

11. Encourage User-generated Content

Encourage customers to generate content about their dining experiences and share it on social media. Offer incentives for customers to post reviews, photos, or videos, which can be shared and promoted across your mobile marketing channels.

Example: Starbucks’ “White Cup Contest” encouraged customers to decorate their coffee cups and share their creations on social media, generating a wave of user-generated content.

12. Enable Mobile Reservations and Waitlist Management

Offer customers the convenience of making reservations or joining a waitlist through your mobile app or website. Implement automated notifications to keep customers informed about their reservation status or estimated wait times.

Example: OpenTable’s mobile app allows customers to book restaurant reservations seamlessly and receive real-time updates on table availability.

13. Optimize Email Marketing for Mobile

Ensure your email marketing campaigns are mobile-friendly. Design responsive templates, use clear and concise subject lines, and include compelling visuals and calls to action that are easy to click on mobile devices.

Example: A restaurant’s email newsletter may feature mouth-watering images of new menu items and a prominent “Order Now” button for easy mobile ordering.

14. Monitor Mobile Analytics

Utilize mobile analytics tools to track and measure the effectiveness of your mobile marketing efforts. Examine metrics like app installs, user activity, conversion rates, and consumer actions to hone your approach.

Example: Google Analytics for Mobile Apps provides valuable insights into app usage, user demographics, and conversion funnels, enabling data-driven decision-making.

15. Stay Updated on Mobile Trends: Continuously educate yourself on the latest mobile marketing trends, technologies, and consumer behaviors. Attend industry conferences, read industry publications, and follow reputable marketing blogs to stay ahead of the curve and adapt your strategies accordingly.

Example: Mobile marketing conferences like Mobile Marketing Association’s MMA Impact offer insights into emerging trends, case studies, and networking opportunities to help you stay informed.

Things to Avoid on Restaurant Mobile Marketing
Restaurant Customer Mobile Engagement From the Web

Things to Avoid on Restaurant Mobile Marketing

Restaurant owners, managers, and marketing experts should be aware of the dangers that can be encountered when employing mobile marketing methods. Here are some common mistakes and ways to avoid them:

1. Neglecting Mobile Responsiveness

Neglecting to optimize your website, app, or emails for mobile devices can result in a poor user experience, leading to frustration and lost opportunities. Mobile responsiveness is crucial since the majority of users access information and make decisions through their smartphones.

To avoid this, prioritize mobile responsiveness by conducting regular testing across various devices and screen sizes. Invest in responsive web design or utilize mobile app development platforms that ensure your digital assets are optimized for mobile usage.

2. Overwhelming Push Notification Frequency

Bombarding users with excessive push notifications can lead to annoyance and prompt them to disable notifications or uninstall your app. Ineffective push notification strategies can result in negative brand perception and a decline in engagement.

To avoid this, carefully plan your push notification strategy. Deliver timely and relevant messages that offer value to the user. Opt for quality over quantity, and personalize notifications based on user preferences, location, and behavior. Allow users to customize their notification settings to ensure a personalized experience.

3. Ignoring Privacy and Data Security

Failing to prioritize user privacy and data security can damage customer trust and expose your restaurant to legal implications. Collecting and handling customer data without proper consent and security measures can lead to reputational damage and potential legal consequences.

To avoid this, businesses must comply with data privacy rules like the EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA. Be transparent about data collection practices, obtain explicit consent, and ensure robust security measures are in place to safeguard customer information.

4. Inconsistent Branding Across Channels

Inconsistent branding across different mobile marketing channels can create confusion and dilute your brand identity. Incoherent messaging, inconsistent visual elements, or varying tones of communication can undermine your restaurant’s professionalism and weaken customer trust.

To avoid this, establish clear brand guidelines that outline consistent visual elements, tone of voice, and messaging across all mobile marketing channels. Ensure that all communications align with your restaurant’s core values, personality, and overall branding strategy.

5. Failing to Optimize for Local Search

Neglecting local search optimization can result in missed opportunities to attract customers in your restaurant’s vicinity. With the rise of “near me” searches, not optimizing for local SEO can hinder your restaurant’s visibility and customer acquisition potential.

To avoid this, optimize your website and app for local search. Include location-based keywords in your content, utilize Google My Business and other local directories, and encourage customers to leave reviews. Monitor and respond to online reviews to enhance your local search rankings and reputation.

6. Ignoring Customer Feedback and Reviews

Overlooking customer feedback and online reviews can harm your restaurant’s reputation and hinder customer loyalty. Disregarding negative feedback or failing to respond to customer concerns can create a negative perception of your brand.

To avoid this, actively monitor customer feedback on review platforms, social media, and your own app or website. Respond promptly and professionally to both positive and negative reviews. Address customer concerns, offer solutions, and show appreciation for their feedback. Use constructive criticism to improve your offerings and enhance customer satisfaction.

7. Ignoring User Experience Design (UX)

Neglecting the user experience design in your mobile app or mobile website can lead to frustration, high bounce rates, and lost conversions. Difficult navigation, slow load times, or confusing layout can deter customers from engaging with your restaurant digitally.

To avoid this, invest in user experience design to create intuitive and user-friendly mobile interfaces. Conduct user testing to identify pain points and optimize the app or website based on user feedback. Prioritize simplicity, ease of use, and seamless navigation to ensure a positive experience that encourages customer engagement and loyalty.

8. Lack of Integration with Overall Marketing Strategy

Failing to integrate mobile marketing seamlessly into your overall marketing strategy can limit its effectiveness and impact. Treating mobile marketing as a standalone effort rather than an integrated component may result in disjointed messaging and inconsistent customer experiences.

To avoid this, align your mobile marketing initiatives with your broader marketing objectives and brand messaging. Ensure consistency across all marketing channels, including mobile, social media, email, and traditional advertising. Coordinate your campaigns to deliver a cohesive brand experience and reinforce key messages to customers.

9. Not Tracking and Analyzing Key Metrics

Failing to track and analyze mobile marketing metrics can hinder your ability to measure success and make data-driven decisions. You could be missing out on some key learnings and optimization possibilities in mobile marketing if you don’t analyze campaign data.

To avoid this, define key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with your mobile marketing objectives. Utilize analytics tools to track app downloads, engagement rates, conversion rates, and user behavior. Regularly review and analyze the data to identify trends, areas for improvement, and opportunities for optimization.

10. Forgetting to Update and Adapt

Mobile marketing is a dynamic field, and failing to adapt to emerging trends and technological advancements can lead to stagnation and missed opportunities. Relying on outdated strategies or overlooking new features and tools can hinder your restaurant’s competitiveness.

To avoid this, stay informed about mobile marketing trends, industry developments, and new technologies. Engage in continuous learning through industry publications, attend conferences and webinars, and network with professionals in the field. Embrace innovation, experiment with new strategies, and adapt your approach accordingly.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, restaurateurs, restaurant managers, and marketing professionals can ensure a smoother and more effective implementation of mobile marketing strategies. Remember to prioritize user experience, privacy, consistency, and data analysis. Stay adaptable and agile to navigate the ever-changing mobile landscape and unlock the full potential of mobile marketing for your restaurant’s success.

Summary Checklist of Action Plans

To help you kick-start your mobile marketing journey, here’s a summary checklist of action plans to consider:

  • Develop a mobile-friendly website and optimize it for mobile SEO.
  • Create a branded mobile app or explore third-party app integrations.
  • Implement mobile ordering and payment options for enhanced convenience.
  • Design personalized push notification campaigns to engage and retain customers.
  • Integrate a customer loyalty program into your mobile app for increased customer retention.
  • Leverage location-based targeting to drive foot traffic to specific restaurant locations.
  • Gather customer data and preferences to personalize marketing campaigns.
  • Encourage online reviews and promptly respond to feedback.
  • Monitor and analyze mobile marketing metrics to measure performance and make data-driven decisions.
  • Stay updated on emerging mobile marketing trends and technologies to remain competitive.


To succeed in today’s digital landscape as a restaurant owner, manager, or marketer, mobile marketing must be implemented. There’s a lot of evidence that mobile marketing is more effective than traditional techniques. By leveraging mobile apps, push notifications, mobile ordering, and location-based targeting, restaurants can foster customer loyalty, boost sales, and create memorable dining experiences.

Don’t let your restaurant be left behind in the era of smartphones and mobile connectivity. Embrace the mobile revolution, build a strong foundation in mobile marketing, and reap

the rewards of a thriving and digitally connected customer base. By integrating mobile marketing strategies into your overall marketing efforts, you’ll set your restaurant on a path to success, staying top-of-mind with customers and continually delighting them with exceptional experiences.

Remember, in the words of Nancy Abraham, “Mobile is not the future; it is the now.” So, take the first step, dive into the world of mobile marketing, and unlock the immense potential it holds for your restaurant’s growth and prosperity. The time to harness the power of mobile is now.

READ ALSO: How to Create a Winning Restaurant Website Design

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