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Text Your Way to Success: Leveraging SMS Marketing for Restaurants

Last Update: Dec 5, 2023 @ 8:16 am

“SMS marketing allows restaurants to reach their customers directly and drive results.”

– John Smith, Restaurant SMS Marketing Expert


As a restaurateur, you should understand the need to connect with customers in order to increase your income. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, leveraging SMS marketing has emerged as a powerful tool for restaurants to engage with their customer base effectively. By harnessing the potential of SMS marketing, you can revolutionize your restaurant’s marketing campaigns, increase customer loyalty, and boost your bottom line.

What is SMS Marketing
SMS Marketing From the Web

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing, often known as text message marketing, is an electronic marketing approach that makes use of the SMS (Short Message Service) to communicate with consumers by text message. It leverages the widespread usage of mobile devices to reach a targeted audience instantly and directly.

SMS marketing typically involves obtaining explicit consent from customers to receive text messages and building a subscriber list. Once customers opt in, businesses can send them timely and relevant messages containing information about special offers, promotions, discounts, events, updates, reminders, and more.

Key Elements of SMS Marketing

SMS marketing incorporates various elements to create effective campaigns and engage with customers. Here are the key elements of SMS marketing:

1. Consent and Opt-In

The foundation of SMS marketing is obtaining explicit consent from customers to receive text messages. Businesses must have customers opt in by providing their mobile numbers and agreeing to receive SMS updates. Compliance with privacy regulations is crucial, and businesses should clearly communicate the purpose and frequency of messages.

2. Subscriber List

Building a subscriber list is essential for SMS marketing. It involves collecting and organizing customer phone numbers and relevant information. This list allows businesses to send targeted messages to specific segments of their audience.

3. Messaging Platform

Businesses use SMS marketing platforms or software to manage their campaigns. These platforms provide features such as message scheduling, automation, personalization, and analytics. They enable businesses to efficiently send and track SMS messages, ensuring effective communication with subscribers.

4. Message Content

Crafting compelling and concise message content is vital for SMS marketing success. Messages should be clear, engaging, and relevant to the recipients. They may include promotional offers, event notifications, product updates, reminders, surveys, or personalized greetings. It’s important to keep the messages concise, as SMS has a character limit (usually 160 characters per message).

5. Personalization and Segmentation

Personalizing SMS messages enhances engagement and relevance. By segmenting their subscriber list based on preferences, demographics, or past behavior, businesses can tailor messages to specific groups. Personalization may include using the recipient’s name, referencing past purchases, or sending targeted offers based on preferences.

6. Timing and Frequency

The timing and frequency of SMS messages significantly impact their effectiveness. Businesses should consider their target audience’s preferences and behaviors to determine the best times to send messages. 

Avoiding late-night or early-morning messages is generally recommended. Additionally, striking a balance between staying top-of-mind and not overwhelming customers with excessive messages is crucial.

7. Call-to-Action (CTA)

Including a clear and actionable CTA in SMS messages is essential. Whether it’s making a purchase, redeeming an offer, going to a website, or filling out a survey, the CTA directs customers in the right direction. Businesses should make the CTA prominent and straightforward to encourage customer engagement.

8. Tracking and Analytics

Monitoring the performance of SMS campaigns is vital for optimization and measuring success. SMS marketing platforms provide analytics that track metrics such as delivery rates, open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and subscriber engagement. These insights help businesses refine their strategies and make data-driven decisions.

By incorporating these elements, businesses can create effective SMS marketing campaigns that resonate with customers, drive engagement, and achieve their marketing objectives.

Case Study_ The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory SMS Marketing Chatbot From the Web

Case Study: The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is a popular chain of restaurants recognized for its vast variety of mouthwatering food and, of course, its famous cheesecakes. They have successfully leveraged SMS marketing to engage with their customers and enhance their overall dining experience. Some of their implemented strategies include:

  • Opt-in Incentives: The Cheesecake Factory offers a special welcome offer, such as a complimentary appetizer or a discount on the next visit, for customers who opt in to receive SMS updates. This enticing incentive encourages customers to join their SMS marketing list and stay connected.
  • Exclusive Promotions and Discounts: Using SMS marketing, The Cheesecake Factory sends exclusive promotions and limited-time discounts to their subscribers. They may offer a “buy one, get one free” deal on a specific cheesecake flavor or notify customers about happy hour specials and seasonal menu items.
  • Reservation Reminders and Waitlist Updates: The Cheesecake Factory utilizes SMS notifications to send reservation reminders and updates on wait times. This helps customers stay informed and ensures a smooth dining experience, reducing the likelihood of no-shows and optimizing table turnover.
  • New Menu Launches and Special Events: The Cheesecake Factory leverages SMS marketing to announce new menu launches, seasonal offerings, and special events. By sending SMS notifications to their subscribers, they generate excitement and drive customer engagement, attracting diners to experience their latest culinary creations.
  • Birthday Treats and Milestone Celebrations: The Cheesecake Factory sends personalized SMS messages to customers on their birthdays, offering a complimentary slice of cheesecake or a special birthday discount. They also utilize SMS marketing to celebrate customer milestones, such as anniversaries or loyalty program achievements, providing exclusive rewards and incentives.

The Cheesecake Factory is a good example of a restaurant chain that uses SMS marketing to reach out to customers, motivate them to take action, and provide an unforgettable dining experience.

Benefits of Leveraging SMS Marketing for Restaurants

  • Instant and Direct Communication: SMS marketing enables you to reach your customers instantly and directly, with an open rate of over 98% within minutes of delivery.
  • High Engagement Rates: SMS boasts an impressive engagement rate, with an average click-through rate of 19%. Compared to other marketing channels, SMS outperforms email and social media in terms of immediate response and action.
  • Increased Customer Loyalty: By sending personalized offers, promotions, and loyalty rewards via SMS, you can foster a sense of exclusivity and strengthen customer loyalty. A study found that customers enrolled in SMS loyalty programs visited businesses 40% more often than non-members.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: SMS marketing allows for timely order updates, reservation reminders, and personalized recommendations. By delivering exceptional customer service through SMS, you can create memorable experiences and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Higher Redemption Rates: SMS promotions often yield higher redemption rates compared to other marketing channels. Studies indicate that SMS coupons have a redemption rate of 10% to 30%, significantly surpassing email or print coupons.
  • Increased Table Bookings: By offering exclusive SMS-only deals, such as early bird reservations or limited-time discounts, you can drive more table bookings during off-peak hours or slow business periods.
  • Improved Customer Feedback: SMS surveys provide a convenient way for customers to share feedback. With higher response rates than traditional surveys, you can gather valuable insights to enhance your offerings and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Cost-Effective Marketing: SMS marketing is a cost-effective solution compared to traditional advertising channels. With lower costs per message and higher response rates, restaurants can maximize their marketing budget while achieving impactful results.
  • Higher ROI: SMS marketing has a high return on investment (ROI). Research shows that for every dollar put into SMS advertising, a return of $6 is possible.
15 Best SMS Marketing Strategies for Restaurants
Subway Promo SMS Marketing Strategy From the Web

15 Best SMS Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

Implementing effective SMS marketing strategies is vital for restaurants to engage with customers, drive sales, and build brand loyalty. Here are 15 best SMS marketing strategies for restaurants, along with examples and explanations:

1. Opt-in Incentives

Offer customers an enticing incentive to join your SMS subscriber list. For instance, provide a special discount on their next meal or a free appetizer upon opting in. This encourages customers to provide their consent and join your SMS marketing program, ensuring an engaged audience.

Example: “Join our exclusive SMS club and receive a complimentary dessert on your next visit! Text ‘DESSERT’ to 12345 to opt in.”

2. Personalized Offers

Tailor SMS messages to individual customer preferences and purchase history. Send personalized offers based on their favorite dishes or past orders. This approach enhances customer satisfaction and increases the likelihood of conversion.

Example: “Hi Jane, we noticed you love our pizzas! Enjoy 20% off any large pizza when you order tonight. Show this text at checkout.”

3. Seasonal Promotions

Capitalize on seasonal events, holidays, or special occasions to send SMS promotions. Create limited-time offers or seasonal menu items and inform customers through SMS marketing. This strategy generates excitement and encourages visits during specific periods.

Example: “Warm up this winter with our limited-time holiday menu! Text ‘HOLIDAY’ to 12345 for a sneak peek and receive 10% off your next visit.”

4. Flash Sales and Daily Specials

Create a sense of urgency by sending SMS messages announcing flash sales or daily specials. Highlight the limited availability of discounted items, encouraging customers to act promptly.

Example: “Today only! Get 50% off our signature pasta dish. Hurry in before it’s gone! Show this text to your server.”

5. VIP Exclusives

Reward loyal customers by offering exclusive perks through SMS marketing. Provide early access to reservations, private tastings, or exclusive menu items to your SMS subscriber list. This strengthens customer loyalty and makes them feel valued.

Example: “As a valued member of our SMS club, you’re invited to our VIP wine tasting event! RSVP by texting ‘VIP’ to 12345. Limited spots available.”

6. Birthday Surprises

Celebrate customers’ birthdays with personalized SMS messages containing special offers or discounts. Show your appreciation by making their special day memorable and encouraging them to choose your restaurant for their celebrations.

Example: “Happy Birthday, Mark! Enjoy a complimentary dessert on us when you dine with us to celebrate. Show this text to your server.”

7. Reservation Reminders

Send SMS reminders to customers who have made reservations at your restaurant. Include the date, time, and any special instructions. This reduces no-shows and improves overall customer experience.

Example: “Hi Sarah, this is a friendly reminder of your reservation at XYZ Restaurant tonight at 7 PM. We hope to be of assistance to you!”

8. Feedback and Surveys

Gather valuable customer feedback by sending SMS surveys or requesting reviews after a dining experience. This allows you to improve your offerings and address any concerns promptly.

Example: “We hope you enjoyed your meal at ABC Bistro! If you have a moment, please use the following link to provide some feedback. Your opinion matters to us.”

9. Referral Program

Encourage customers to refer friends or family to your restaurant through SMS marketing. Offer incentives, such as discounts or freebies, to both the referrer and the referred customer when they join your SMS list or visit your restaurant.

Example: “Know someone who would love our food? Refer a friend to our SMS club and you both get 15% off your next meal! Text ‘REFER’ to 12345 for details.”

10. Pre-Ordering and Pickup Reminders

Enable customers to pre-order meals or place pickup orders through SMS. Send reminders when their orders are ready for pickup, ensuring a smooth and convenient experience.

Example: “Skip the line and pre-order your lunch today! Text ‘ORDER’ to 12345 with your selection and pickup time. We’ll have it ready when you arrive.”

11. Exclusive Sneak Peeks

Provide exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming menu items, chef’s specials, or new restaurant features. This builds anticipation and keeps customers engaged with your restaurant.

Example: “Be the first to try our Chef’s Special this week! Text ‘SPECIAL’ to 12345 for an exclusive preview and enjoy 10% off when you order.”

12. Limited-Time Discounts for Slow Periods

Drive traffic during off-peak hours or slow business days by offering limited-time discounts or promotions through SMS marketing. Fill empty tables and boost revenue during quieter times.

Example: “Beat the midweek blues with our 2-for-1 dinner deal every Wednesday! Text ‘DINNER’ to 12345 to claim your offer.”

13. Culinary Tips and Recipe Ideas

Share culinary tips, recipe ideas, or cooking hacks with your SMS subscribers. Provide value beyond just promotions to keep customers engaged and interested in your brand.

Example: “Spice up your cooking with our chef’s secret recipe! Text ‘RECIPES’ to 12345 to receive our weekly cooking tips and exclusive recipes.”

14. Community Engagement and Events

Inform customers about local community events or charity initiatives your restaurant is involved in. Promote fundraising nights, food drives, or collaborations with local organizations to showcase your community involvement.

Example: “Join us this Friday for our Charity Fundraiser Night! Text ‘GIVEBACK’ to 12345 to learn more about the cause we’re supporting and make a reservation.”

15. Sneak Peek Behind the Scenes

Share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your restaurant, such as kitchen preparations, special events, or staff highlights. This humanizes your brand and creates a sense of connection with your customers.

Example: “Ever wondered what happens in our kitchen? Text ‘BTS’ to 12345 to receive exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and meet our talented chefs.”

By implementing these SMS marketing strategies, restaurants can effectively engage customers, drive sales, and foster long-term loyalty. Remember to respect customers’ preferences and privacy, provide clear opt-out options, and continuously measure and refine your campaigns for optimal results.

Restaurant SMS Marketing Common Mistakes to Avoid

When implementing SMS marketing for restaurants, it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can hinder the effectiveness of your campaigns and impact customer satisfaction. Here are some typical missteps and some advice on how to avoid them:

1. Over-Messaging

Bombarding customers with excessive SMS messages can lead to annoyance and opt-outs. Avoid sending messages too frequently, especially during inconvenient hours. Respect your customers’ time and ensure your messages provide value.

Suggestion: Choose a manageable interval, like once or twice a week, to send SMS messages, and stick to it. Segment your audience to send targeted messages based on their preferences and past interactions to ensure relevance.

2. Lack of Personalization

Sending generic, impersonal messages can make customers feel disconnected and reduce engagement. Avoid mass-sending the same message to your entire subscriber list without considering their individual preferences.

Suggestion: Personalize your SMS messages by addressing recipients by name and leveraging customer data to tailor offers and recommendations. Use dynamic fields to insert customer-specific information into each message, creating a more personalized experience.

3. Poor Timing

Sending SMS messages at inappropriate times can disrupt recipients or result in overlooked messages. Avoid sending messages during late-night hours or other times when customers are unlikely to appreciate interruptions.

Suggestion: Consider your target audience’s behaviors and time zones when scheduling SMS messages. Send messages during appropriate hours when customers are more likely to be receptive and engaged.

4. Irrelevant Content

Sending SMS messages that lack relevance to the recipient’s interests or preferences can lead to disengagement. Avoid sending generic messages that do not align with individual customer needs.

Suggestion: Segment your subscriber list based on preferences, demographics, or purchase history. Send targeted messages that align with each segment’s specific interests. Leverage customer data to customize offers and recommendations, ensuring the content is relevant and valuable to the recipient.

5. Lack of Clear Call-to-Action (CTA)

Failing to provide a clear and compelling CTA in your SMS messages can result in low response rates and missed opportunities. Unclear or weak CTAs may confuse recipients or fail to motivate them to take the desired action.

Suggestion: Clearly state the desired action you want recipients to take, such as visiting your website, making a reservation, or redeeming an offer. Use action-oriented language and create a sense of urgency to encourage immediate response.

6. Neglecting Opt-Out Options

Neglecting to provide an easy opt-out option can frustrate recipients and harm your brand reputation. Not respecting customers’ preferences and privacy can lead to increased opt-outs and negative feedback.

Suggestion: SMS recipients should be given clear instructions on how to unsubscribe at any time. Provide a clear and simple process for opting out, such as replying with “STOP” or “UNSUBSCRIBE.” Honor opt-out requests promptly to demonstrate respect for customer preferences.

7. Lack of Testing and Optimization

Neglecting to test and optimize your SMS campaigns can prevent you from maximizing their effectiveness. Not monitoring key metrics or making data-driven improvements can hinder your ability to achieve optimal results.

Suggestion: Regularly track and analyze important metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. A/B test different elements of your SMS campaigns, including message content, CTAs, timing, and personalization, to identify what resonates best with your audience. Use the insights gained to refine and optimize your campaigns for better performance.

By avoiding these common SMS marketing mistakes and implementing the suggested strategies, restaurants can enhance the effectiveness of their campaigns, improve customer satisfaction, and achieve better results in engaging their audience. Remember to continually assess and adjust your approach based on customer feedback and evolving market trends to ensure ongoing success.

How to Build an SMS Subscriber List

Building an SMS subscriber list is a crucial step in implementing SMS marketing for your business. Here are some effective strategies to help you build your SMS subscriber list:

1. Promote Opt-In on Various Channels

Promote your SMS marketing opt-in across multiple channels to maximize visibility. Add opt-in invitations to your website, social media profiles, email newsletters, and physical marketing materials. Clearly communicate the benefits and value customers will receive by joining your SMS list.

2. Use Pop-Ups and Sign-Up Forms

Implement pop-up windows or sign-up forms on your website to capture SMS opt-ins. These pop-ups can appear when customers visit your site, encouraging them to subscribe to your SMS updates. Design them to be visually appealing and emphasize the value they will receive by joining.

3. Leverage In-Store Signage

If you have a physical location, place signage throughout your store or at the point of sale to promote SMS opt-ins. Display QR codes that customers can scan to instantly opt in or provide instructions on how to text their opt-in keyword to a designated number.

4. Run Contests or Giveaways

Conduct SMS-based contests or giveaways that require customers to opt in to participate. Promote these opportunities through your marketing channels, and make sure the prizes are enticing enough to motivate customers to join your SMS list.

5. Social Media Promotion

Leverage your social media presence to promote your SMS opt-in. Create engaging posts, stories, or ads that encourage followers to subscribe to your SMS updates. Highlight the benefits and exclusive content they will receive by joining your list.

6. Email and Customer Communications

Utilize your existing email subscriber list or customer communications to promote your SMS opt-in. Send targeted email campaigns inviting customers to join your SMS list and explain the value they will gain from receiving SMS updates.

7. Partner with Influencers or Affiliates

Collaborate with influencers or affiliates in your industry to promote your SMS opt-in to their followers. This can help expand your reach and attract new subscribers who are interested in your offerings.

8. Monitor and Optimize

Continuously monitor the performance of your opt-in strategies and adjust accordingly. Track the opt-in rates, conversion rates, and customer engagement to identify what methods are most effective. Experiment with different approaches to find what resonates best with your target audience.

Remember, when building your SMS subscriber list, it is essential to obtain explicit consent from customers and comply with privacy regulations. Clearly communicate the frequency and type of messages they will receive and provide an easy opt-out option to maintain transparency and respect their preferences.

How to Craft Effective SMS Campaigns
SMS Marketing Graphics From the Web

How to Craft Effective SMS Campaigns

Crafting effective SMS campaigns is crucial for engaging your audience and driving results. Here are key strategies to help you create impactful SMS campaigns:

1. Be Clear and Concise

SMS messages have a character limit, so it’s essential to be clear and concise in your messaging. Don’t waste any time and instead jump right to the meat of the matter. Use simple and straightforward language to ensure your message is easily understood.

2. Grab Attention with the Opening

Start your SMS campaign with an attention-grabbing opening. Use compelling language, intriguing offers, or personalized greetings to capture the recipient’s attention and encourage them to continue reading.

3. Use Strong Call-to-Action (CTA)

Clearly state the desired action you want recipients to take in your SMS campaign. Whether it’s making a purchase, visiting your website, or redeeming an offer, make the CTA prominent and actionable. Use action verbs and time-sensitive language to create a sense of urgency.

4. Segment Your Audience

Segment your SMS subscriber list based on preferences, demographics, or purchase history. Tailor your messages to specific segments to deliver more relevant and targeted content. This increases the chances of engagement and conversion.

5. Timing Matters

Consider the timing of your SMS campaigns. Avoid sending messages too early or too late in the day, as it may disrupt recipients or go unnoticed. Take into account your target audience’s behavior and preferences. For example, sending lunch specials a few hours before lunchtime may yield better results.

6. Offer Exclusive Deals and Rewards

Provide exclusive deals, discounts, or rewards to SMS subscribers. Make them feel special and appreciated for being a part of your SMS list. Exclusive offers create a sense of urgency and encourage immediate action.

7. Create Urgency

Incorporate time-limited offers or limited quantities to create a sense of urgency in your SMS campaigns. For example, “Only 24 hours left to redeem your 20% discount!” This motivates recipients to act quickly and increases the chances of conversion.

8. Use Multimedia

While SMS is primarily a text-based channel, you can enhance your campaigns by incorporating multimedia elements when appropriate. With MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), you can include visual elements like photos, short films, and GIFs to your text messages.

Remember to always provide an opt-out option, adhere to privacy regulations, and respect recipients’ preferences. Regularly review and refine your SMS campaigns based on performance and customer feedback to ensure ongoing success.

Summary Checklist of Action Plans

  • Build an opt-in SMS subscriber list by offering incentives and promoting it through various channels.
  • Craft personalized and compelling SMS messages with relevant promotions and exclusive offers.
  • Utilize SMS notifications for order updates, reservation reminders, and event announcements.
  • Collect customer feedback and insights through SMS surveys to improve your offerings.
  • Implement SMS-based loyalty programs and rewards to enhance customer retention and engagement.
  • Monitor and analyze SMS campaign metrics to optimize performance and drive continuous improvement.
  • Ensure compliance with privacy regulations and obtain explicit consent from customers to receive SMS updates.
  • Test different SMS strategies and messaging approaches to identify what resonates best with your target audience.
  • Integrate SMS marketing with other digital channels to create a seamless and consistent customer experience.
  • Stay updated on SMS marketing trends and best practices to leverage new opportunities and stay ahead of the competition.


SMS marketing might be a game-changer for your restaurant business if you are a business owner, manager, or marketer. The benefits of instant and direct communication, high engagement rates, increased customer loyalty, and cost-effective marketing make SMS a powerful tool to drive customer engagement and revenue growth. By implementing the strategies discussed in this article and staying proactive in your approach, you can unlock the full potential of SMS marketing and take your restaurant’s success to new heights. Embrace SMS marketing now and be prepared to witness the transformative impact it can have on your restaurant’s marketing campaigns and bottom line.

READ ALSO: 5 Effective Ways To Talk With Customers

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