Lately I've been reading many great articles about restaurant websites and why you should have a mobile enabled version of your website, for when visitors browse your restaurant on a smartphone.  The general consensus of these articles is that you should seriously consider having  a mobile version of your site.  I agree wholeheartedly with this.

While I may agree with this, I find it important to point out that since people are using mobile devices, specifically smartphones, more and more frequently as their constant way of being "connected", having a plan that includes SMS (text message) marketing is key to the success of your diner rewards and loyalty programs.

"Great", you say. "But what do I send them via text message, and how do I get them to pay attention?".  That is a very valid question.  Fear not though, we have three great examples of ways you can market to your diners using text messages.

1) Butts in seats pay the bills
Whether you like to admit it or not, at one point or another, every restaurant has a slow day.  Text message marketing is the perfect cure for an empty reservation book.  With a little thought, you can craft an offering that will make people want to come in after work.  For instance, maybe a special happy hour offering (e.g. half off appetizers, a martini special, etc.), maybe a dare (e.g. come to the restaurant and tell the bartender a joke and get half off an appetizer), or maybe just a no strings attached discount (e.g. bring a friend in to eat with you and we'll pay for one of the meals).

The point is that you can easily get in front of ALL your diners, no matter where they might be and grab the opportunity of getting them to stop in your restaurant that day, by using text messaging.  Once they get there, more likely than not, they'll stay for a couple of drinks, or bring some friends with them, or even maybe stay longer than they originally planned (i.e. happy hour with friends turns into dinner with friends). Whatever the case may be, these are diners that you were not going to see that day, so any of them coming in will help contribute to your bottom line.

2) Use text messaging as a way to encourage cross platform interaction
One of the more interesting uses we have heard our clients use our text messaging platform for is to get diners to interact on their Facebook Fan Pages. This is actually a blessedly simple promotion and it works wonders:

-The restaurant sends a text out to all their diners with some sort of trivia question, puzzle or contest question. The text message also includes a short link to the restaurant's Facebook Fan Page, where the diner can respond

-Diners go to the Facebook Fan Page, and put their answer to whatever the question was, on the wall of the restaurant's page.

-The restaurant then picks a winner (e.g. the first three people to respond, the best answer as voted on by the kitchen staff, etc.), and notifies them publicly on the fan page that they are the winner

-The diner goes into the restaurant to claim their prize, and everyone wins.

I told you it was simple.  You can use this type of promotion a million times, in a million different ways. The only limitation to this is your imagination.  Every time, you will win with this type of promotion, because you are interacting with your diners.

3) Use Text Messaging to enhance your emails
I know this sounds a little strange, but utilizing text messages can actually make your email marketing easier for your diners to redeem at your restaurant.

For instance, it comes with an option that will allow restaurants to send out emails to diners, and in that email is a button the diner can click to "grab the offer to their cell phone".  The diner clicks the button, enters in their cell phone number, and that offer is instantly text messaged to their phone.

When the diner goes to the restaurant, they simply need to show their phone to the server, and they are awarded the offer or discount.  It's easy, convenient, environmentally conscious and "high tech".

Those are just three examples of ways that we are helping our clients use text message marketing to build business in their restaurants.  The truth is there are dozens and dozens of ways, and as I said before, the only limiting factor in all of this is your imagination.

Do you need some help figuring out how to turn your rewards and loyalty programs around? Is your marketing scattered and all over the place? Visit My FohBoh page and I would be happy to hear what you are up to and give you some great advice to get you on the right track.

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  • This is true.  That is why we always make sure our clients are set up with "unsubscribe" links that automatically appear in any message they draft.  We also track unsubscribes and also the messages that are sent, to get some idea of what is successful marketing and what isn't.

    For our clients, we've found that there is no "basic rule" to go by, so we use analytics to build custom intelligence for each client and their diner's needs. With good analytics, you can put together a very intelligent perspective on what your customers consider "enough" and what might be considered "too much".

    In my opinion, analytics are critical for this type of marketing, simply because what might be right for one restaurant's diners, may not be right for another.

  • Chris, I totally understand we are discussing this within an 'opt-in' situation, but what is acceptable after opt-in can be fuzzy in the mind of the guest. I don't think that they think of opt-in for marketing the same way with physical mail, email, phone calls and text messaging. If anything, most guests would be fine with email marketing while they would get annoyed and angry with text messaging...

    Do you have any specific learnings when running these types of campaigns regarding guest satisfaction, etc.?

  • Thanks for the comment Chris.  We NEVER EVER EVER suggest people send unsolicited texts.  First of all, it's totally against the law, and carries heavy fines.  Secondly though, it's just poor marketing.

    Every example I gave in the post was only meant for diners that are actually opted into your programs.

    Thanks for checking out our post :)

  • The third question should be 'how do I do this without annoying them'? :-)

    Personally, there are very few times I have not been annoyed by unsolicited text messages from brands or businesses. Unless the message is something I have signed up for recently I don't think that text messaging should be used for pure marketing. 

    What have you found with guest satisfaction rates after text message marketing?

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