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How to Enhance the Restaurant Guest Experience with SMS Marketing

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Americans spend an average of 5.4 hours daily on their phones and 86% go online/use the internet. So it’s safe to say, consumers live on their mobile devices. This makes the interaction between guests and businesses easier than ever before because information is shared and received instantly. The omnichannel marketing approach to engaging with guests has proven critical for brands in their marketing strategies. Aside from emails, app notifications, and social media, SMS marketing is a great way to target guests.

As a marketing channel, SMS marketing is proven to drive results by using personalized text messaging to reach mobile-first audiences and drive engagement, loyalty, and revenue. How so? SMS average open rate is 98% and replies are received within 90 seconds.

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS stands for “Short Message Service” and is commonly known as texting. When brands use SMS to reach guests and consumers who have given their permission to send promotional or transactional communications via text message, it is known as SMS marketing i.e., text message marketing.

SMS marketing provides brands an immediate, direct connection with guests, the ability to customize and personalize messages, and the timeliness of outreach with autonomous data-driven marketing software. Combining the benefits and low cost of SMS marketing, this channel helps drive ROI for brands!

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Why SMS Marketing Enhances the Restaurant Guest Experience

To reach consumers, who, according to a Microsft study, now have an attention span of 8 seconds and continue to decrease 88% each year, restaurants have to adjust their content marketing strategies. This is where SMS marketing saves the day because it provides an immediate need for timely, personalized guest engagement to guests who live in the digital space.

The pandemic significantly accelerated the idea of a contactless guest experience where guests can order, pay, and pick up their food without ever directly interacting with staff. Online ordering, mobile ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery have grown 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014 and continue to grow annually by 15-20%. Not only are online ordering and delivery experiencing growth, but mobile payments are becoming widely popular. In the same Upserve study, visits to U.S. restaurants where guests paid by mobile app increased by 50%. Guests are already adapting to the digital restaurant experience, so restaurant brands should adopt the contactless channel of SMS marketing to provide the same personal touch and hospitality to this new guest journey.

4 Benefits of SMS Marketing for Restaurants

SMS marketing stats reveal that 89% of phone users would read a message within 30 minutes of receiving it, with 10% under 30 seconds, 26% within one minute, and 34% within five minutes. To put this more into perspective, compared to email open rates, text messages are 134% more likely to be open and read. Exactly. If these stats still don’t convince you, here are five reasons to start using SMS marketing in your restaurant(s).

1) Increases Reach and Engagement. 70% of guests use their mobile devices on their QSR/FCR food purchasing journey and 42% said they use their phones to look for restaurant coupons and deals. If guests are already on their phones looking for restaurant recommendations and information on the dining experience, why not send them a direct text message? Text messages appear right on guests' home screens with a message preview. Rather than hoping guests see you in the masses of emails, a text message is more direct, and 91% of guests say they are interested in signing up for text notifications!

2) SMS marketing is low-cost with a high ROI. Compared to other marketing channels, SMS marketing is an inexpensive and effective tool to interact with guests and increase the probability of a purchase. Depending on the SMS marketing platform and pricing guidelines, sending a text message can cost between $0.03-0.10 or a flat rate of $200-400 a month. To top it off, SMS marketing doesn’t take as much manpower or design effort to send a message!

3) Extremely high open rate and response rate. Would you be more likely to respond to a branded text message, a branded email, or a call from a telemarketer? People are more comfortable using text as their primary form of communication and there’s data supporting that. Remember 89% of phone users would read a message within 30 minutes of receiving it. With SMS marketing, brands reach a higher-value inbox.

4) Enhance existing marketing strategies. One of the best advantages of SMS marketing is that restaurants don't need to build a text messaging strategy from scratch. What’s the saying? Work smarter, not harder. SMS marketing is another channel for messages, offers, loyalty offers, and/or surveys. Restaurants can use this channel to send existing marketing messaging or to drive traffic to a blog or a landing page! You may even see faster list growth via SMS than email when promoting the subscription signup because of the convenience and ease of use.

SMS Marketing Best Practices

If you're interested in using SMS marketing or want to improve the existing channel to reach guests, knowing the rules and best practices of this marketing strategy is crucial to its success.

Always follow SMS regulations and receive permission to send text messages. Before sending any SMS marketing, your software must meet legal and regulatory compliance standards. The rules and regulations of SMS marketing are set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CTIA. After understanding the regulations, you must then receive permission from guests. Guests must explicitly opt-in to receive SMS marketing messages either via mobile or web.

Keep guests updated with concise and value-driven messages. The SMS marketing channel is meant for concise, relevant messages that drive and create action. Example messages would be promoting seasonal deals, location-specific offers, mobile app downloads, and your brand’s loyalty programs.

Know when to let guests opt-in. Guests can receive text messages after placing a reservation online, joining a waitlist to confirm their status, or placing an online order. These messages are transactional and do not count as opt-ins for guests to receive SMS marketing texts such as marketing offers and loyalty offers. For guests to opt-in, they must receive a confirmation text after sign-up, including purpose, a reminder that message/data rates may apply, opt-out instructions, and how to access help instructions.

How to Create an Effective SMS Marketing Campaign

Here is a content checklist of what an effective SMS marketing campaign should look like for guests to open, engage with, and respond either by using the discount or visiting your restaurant(s).

  • Short, concise, and value-driven copy
  • Consistent brand voice
  • Personalized content to match guest behavior
  • Clear CTA (call to action). Make sure you write content that is clear for customers to take action on when receiving a text.
Top SMS Marketing Restaurant Ideas to Utilize

1) Upsell Recommendations. You can drive guest frequency and spending by suggesting other items from your menu using an automated upsell recommendations feature. When guests order an item, the upsell feature can analyze a recommendation based on the item and guest purchase behavior. This feature can be used as a marketing trigger in SMS with content that reminds guests of the items they like to order and what those items can be paired well with.

2) Sending location-based marketing offers. You can easily connect with local guests using location-based, geo-marketing to send automated messages, offers, loyalty promotions, and surveys. Stop spamming all of your guests and only target them as they are near your location!

3) Drive restaurant mobile app downloads. SMS marketing is a great channel 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 the mobile app, too.

4) Sharing limited-time offers and promotions. Probably one of the most convenient ways to send seasonal offers, limited-time deals, and promotions instantly with high visibility is through SMS. You can let guests know about holiday specials and notify them to place their orders in advance to beat the rush! Everyone knows when there’s a holiday, food is involved.

At the end of the day taking advantage of SMS marketing is the best way to have personalized, direct interactions with guests throughout their guest journey while increasing revenue and guest loyalty.


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