How Can Restaurants Use SMS Marketing Software?
If you’ve ever faced that age-old dilemma—“What’s for dinner?!”—we’ve found your solution. Its name: text message marketing. Text message marketing, or SMS marketing as it’s also commonly referred to, helps restaurants send timely text messages to consumers right around the time their appetites are perking up before a meal. For restaurants, it helps build their subscriber base, drive new sales, increase revenue, improve customer engagement, and advertise new products in real time. For consumers, it’s a great deal from their favorite restaurant chain or fast-food joint, right around the time they were wondering what to eat or opening up their messaging app to text friends and family about what to order.
In this blog post, we take a closer look at restaurant SMS marketing. If you’ve ever wondered how it works, what the benefits are, how to choose the right restaurant SMS marketing software, or how to cook up your own mobile marketing strategy, your order is up. Keep reading below for best practices for growing your list and designing mouth-watering text messages.
What Is Restaurant SMS Marketing?
First things first: let’s get clear on what SMS marketing is. SMS marketing is the broad term for a combination of commercial text-messaging-related practices.
When most brands talk about SMS marketing, they mean the practice of sending bulk SMS alerts to interested consumers. You can compare it with email marketing, only instead of emails, a brand will send out SMS text messages to consumers who have opted in to a mobile marketing campaign.
The content of these messages will usually consist of promotions, sales, mobile coupons, customer loyalty programs, and so on. You can integrate images, QR codes, web links, short videos, GIFS, and more, to make your texts come to life and drive traffic to your business.
Benefits of SMS Marketing for Restaurants
And text message marketing cooks up some major benefits. As the channel that consumers already use all the time to communicate with friends and family, text message marketing has a massive 99% open rate and can be timed for the very moment your target audience is getting hungry. Text message marketing is more effective than social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, whose algorithms surface posts to a mere 5% of a restaurant’s followers, and even more effective than email marketing, which has a 20% open rate. A little bit of text message marketing automation can go a long way.
How Do Restaurants Send Text Messages to Customers?
If you want to branch out into the texting channel, the best practice is to begin building an SMS subscriber database. In other words, the people who subscribe to receive your SMS text messages and take advantage of your sizzling deals.
You can do this by choosing and advertising a keyword that is specific to your messaging campaign. Once someone texts the keyword to your restaurant’s special short code phone number, this prompts SMS software to subscribe a customer to your campaign.
A short code is a five- to six-digit phone number a brand leases to run its text marketing campaign. A short code can be specifically chosen by the brand, or it can be assigned at random. Short codes that are chosen tend to be visually appealing and easier for customers to remember, such as “1-2-3-4-5.”
A classic example is displaying “Text PIZZA to 12345” at the end of a television commercial, on a billboard, or even in a pizza restaurant. The interested consumer will text the keyword (PIZZA) to the short code (12345) from their mobile device and will then be prompted to finish subscribing to the pizza chain’s SMS loyalty program, where they can receive great deals via text messaging.
How Do Customers Receive Text Messages From Restaurants?
The opt-in process is very important, especially in the United States. Federal laws under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) require recipients to give consent to receive auto-dialed text messages from any organization. The brand must always make sure they’re sending text messages only to customers who want to receive them.
The industry best practice is to implement a double opt-in process (see example below) for every subscriber, whether they subscribed from a webpage form, at the time of purchase, or by sending a keyword to the brand’s short code. This process will help safeguard the brand from legal actions resulting from their text message marketing.
How Restaurants Can Grow a Text Messaging List
For obvious reasons, restaurants want their subscriber lists to be as large as possible. At Tatango, we’ve noticed that the best way to quickly grow an SMS subscriber database is by offering an incentive. For example, a burger joint may run an advertisement that states, “Save 20% off your first burger today when you join our rewards program. Text JOIN to 12345.”
A study found that consumers are 520% more likely to provide their mobile phone number when brands offer an incentive. This is a great way to grow your SMS subscriber list and boost sales.
Our good friends at Cellit recently evaluated more than 9,000 restaurant text messaging lists and found that the average restaurant text marketing list had 791 SMS subscribers per location. That’s the average restaurant text marketing list, but you’re not satisfied with average, are you? Of course not. So how do we take your restaurant text marketing list size from average to extraordinary? There are three methods:
1. Use an opt-in incentive to grow your subscriber list.
No one can argue with this marketing strategy. To grow your list up to 520% faster, create a savory incentive for customers to join, such as dollars off, a percentage off, a buy-one-get-one-free offer, or a discount on a new item. It’s as simple as saying: “Get free breadsticks when you join our SMS loyalty program. Text YUM to 12345.”
2) Promote your text message marketing program everywhere.
It’s not enough to just brainstorm an amazing opt-in incentive but then tell no one about it. To grow your text messaging list, put your opt-in offer all over. On your website. As a pop-up. On banners in your restaurant. At the footer of checks. We’ve even seen restaurants promote their SMS loyalty program on table cards, fast-food bags, paper cups, and counter signs.
3) Reduce your restaurant’s text marketing list churn.
You don’t want to go through all the work of getting those subscribers, only to lose them. By sending text messages at just the right time, you can reduce the amount of list churn you experience.
Did you know that restaurants that sent text message promotions on the weekend had a 4.75% opt-out rate, where restaurants that sent text message promotions on weekdays only had a 1.85% opt-out rate? Did you also know that 72% of people either choose where they will eat less than an hour before or completely on impulse, while 20% take an hour or more to decide? It’s true!
Examples of Restaurant Opt-In Advertisements
See how top restaurants have grown their subscriber lists below. Remember, your opt-in incentive should be everywhere—your restaurant, your marketing materials, and even your website. Check out a few examples from the pros below.
1. Yard House
Yard House is an American sports bar chain, with more than 80 locations across the United States, mostly located west of the Mississippi River. The restaurant offers a variety of food and focuses on fusion dishes and craft beer.
In the example above, Yard House utilizes a web opt-in form to grow its SMS subscribers list. Through its Yard House SMS rewards program, subscribers can earn rewards points and receive exclusive SMS deals by dining at affiliated restaurants. See more at yardhouse.com.
2. Texas Roadhouse
Texas Roadhouse is an American chain restaurant that specializes in steaks around a Western theme.
In this example, Texas Roadhouse’s rewards club sign-up form includes an SMS web opt-in field for users to subscribe to receive news and exclusive offers. The sign-up form also includes zip code information and asks customers to enter their favorite location. This data can also be used to send the subscriber more relevant news and offers based on their location. See more at texasroadhouse.com.
3. Taco Bell
Taco Bell is an American chain of fast-food restaurants based in Irvine, California.
The restaurants serve a variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex foods that include tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and nachos. In this example, Taco Bell uses a pop-up where subscribers can enter their phone number to sign up for Taco Bell’s text messaging program. See more at tacobell.com.
Subway is an American privately-held restaurant franchise that primarily sells sub sandwiches and salads. It is one of the fastest-growing franchises in the world and, as of October 2019, had 41,512 locations in more than 100 countries.
As a way to increase incentive to sign up for their texting program, Subway offers users a $2.99 coupon for a six-inch sub when they subscribe to their SMS text marketing program. Offering opt-in incentives is one of the best ways to grow an SMS subscriber list. Learn more about Subway’s SMS program.
Sonic is an American drive-in, fast-food restaurant chain whose menu consists of hamburgers and French fries, as well as onion rings, corn dogs, chili dogs, and breakfast toaster sandwiches.
In this example, Sonic uses a web opt-in form to provide an easy way for consumers to subscribe to their text message program. When users subscribe, they provide their postal code, which helps Sonic send more relevant and targeted SMS text offers. Learn more about Sonic’s SMS program.
6. Red Robin
Red Robin is an American chain of casual dining restaurants founded in September 1969 in Seattle, Washington. As of September 2019, the company has 562 restaurants in operation, with 90 being operated as a franchise.
In this example, Red Robin requires users to include their mobile phone number in order to sign up for their Red Robin Royalty account. To increase incentive, Red Robin offers subscribers free burgers, inbox surprises, and much more when they subscribe to Red Robin’s text program. Learn more about Red Robin’s SMS program.
7. Red Lobster
Red Lobster is an American casual-dining restaurant chain headquartered in Orlando, Florida, with over 719 locations worldwide.
In this example, Red Lobster includes a phone number field when users are creating an account. When users create an account, they enroll in Red Lobster’s SMS marketing messages and receive exclusive offers, updates, and more. See more at redlobster.com.
8. Papa Murphy’s
Papa Murphy’s is a take-and-bake pizza company based in Vancouver, Washington. It began in 1995 as the merger of two local take-and-bake pizza companies, Papa Aldo’s Pizza and Murphy’s Pizza.
Papa Murphy’s MySLICE rewards program invites users to enter their mobile phone number and provides an option for the user to receive promotional text messages. Learn more about Papa Murphy’s text message program.
9. Papa John’s
Papa John’s is an American pizza restaurant franchise. It is the fourth-largest pizza delivery restaurant chain in the United States with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.
In this example, Papa John’s Text and Email Offers sign-up form includes an SMS web opt-in field for users to subscribe to receive special discounts, access exclusive offers and sweepstakes, get notifications of promotions, and more. Learn more about Papa John’s text message program.
10. Papa Gino’s
Papa Gino’s, Inc. is a restaurant chain based in Dedham, Massachusetts, specializing in American-style pizza along with pasta, subs, salads, and a variety of appetizers.
In this example, Papa Gino’s includes a phone number field in which users can choose to enter their phone number. When users create an account and choose to receive text alerts, they enroll in Papa Gino’s SMS marketing messages and receive exclusive offers, updates, and more. For up-to-date information about Papa Gino’s SMS program, visit SMS Archives.
11. Olive Garden
Olive Garden is an American casual-dining restaurant chain specializing in Italian-American cuisine including pasta dishes, steaks, and salads.
In this example, Olive Garden advertises its text message program when users are creating an Olive Garden rewards account. To subscribe to their text message program, users can text “OGNEWS” to 29002 to receive SMS updates, deals, and more. Learn more about Olive Garden’s SMS program.
12. Long John Silver’s
Long John Silver’s is an American fast-food restaurant chain that specializes in seafood. The brand’s name is derived from the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, in which the pirate “Long John” Silver is one of the main characters.
In this example, Long John Silver’s uses a web opt-in form to provide an easy way for users to subscribe to their text message program. When users subscribe to their program, they share their favorite location, which helps Long John Silver’s send more relevant and targeted text offers. See more at ljsilvers.com.
13. Domino’s Pizza
Domino’s Pizza is an American multinational pizza restaurant chain founded in 1960 and headquartered at the Domino’s Farms Office Park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In this example, Domino’s utilizes a web opt-in form to provide an easy way for its users to subscribe to their email and text offers. When users subscribe to the Domino’s text coupon program, consumers provide their address, which helps Domino’s send relevant and targeted text offers. See more at dominos.com.
Chili’s Grill & Bar is an American casual-dining restaurant chain founded in Texas in 1975. Chili’s serves American food influenced by Tex-Mex cuisine, such as spicy shrimp tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, bacon burgers, and steak.
In this example, Chili’s rewards club sign-up form includes an SMS web opt-in field for users to subscribe to receive news and exclusive offers. As a way to increase incentive, Chili’s offers club members free chips and salsa and other free menu items by signing up for a rewards account. The sign-up form also includes zip code information and asks the customer to enter their favorite location. This data can also be used to send the subscriber more relevant news and offers based on their location. Learn more about Chili’s text message program.
15. Burger King
Burger King is an American multinational chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida.
In this example, Burger King promotes its texting program by offering a $3 Whooper as a welcome offer. To subscribe to Burger King’s SMS program, text “FLAME” to 251251 to receive exclusive offers and updates. See more at bk.com.
16. Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box is an American fast-food chain that we all know and love for burgers, milkshakes, fries, and… egg rolls! The chain uses a pop-up offering a free egg roll with any purchase when subscribers sign up to the Jack in the Box text message program.
In addition to web pages dedicated to promoting a restaurant’s text message marketing campaign, Many brands have started using pop-ups on their websites and mobile platforms. This tool is fairly straightforward: when browsing a website, the consumer sees a pop-up that informs them of the brand’s subscription service and encourages them to sign up.
Pop-ups enable brands to grow their SMS lists much faster. Instead of burying a text message marketing program on a footer of a website or in a hard-to-find webpage, SMS pop-ups are front and center, so every single website visitor sees them and has the chance to subscribe. This is true for restaurants as well—especially if you offer delivery! In fact, delivery order pages are a very common (and effective) place to put a pop-up. Customers are already inputting their information for the order, so there is typically very little resistance to adding their phone number as well.
With the delivery option, you can also entice consumers with delivery time updates, unique delivery deals and combos, and other updates. Adding more unique value makes it all even more enticing for potential customers.
Restaurant SMS Marketing Tips & Best Practices
Good restaurant text message advertising runs on the idea of “pre-suasion,” the art of preemptively persuading the audience. The human body does half the work already: we all get hungry and thirsty, so we are all interested in a good meal at least once (err, if not five times) per day. If a restaurant can sneak in a text message right as their consumers are getting hungry, they can set themselves up as the number one food option in those consumers’ minds. Below are a few of our favorite restaurant SMS marketing tips to up the heat of your campaigns.
Let’s use an SMS marketing example from Chili’s to see what’s working well.
Chili’s is everyone’s favorite Southwest-style restaurant, and they’re as savvy with texting as they are with burgers, ribs, and fajitas. Chili’s SMS marketing strategy is based on a text rewards program that provides members with incentives.
1. Introduce Yourself
At the start of the message, Chili’s includes an identifying tag (“Chili’s”). This is helpful because consumers might not save your phone number in their phones, and you don’t want to get them drooling over a deal but not be sure where to redeem it. Always play it safe by introducing yourself so consumers know exactly where to go to cash in on your delicious offer.
2. Feature a Sweet Deal
Chili’s typically sends out messages featuring deals and free products once or twice a week. In the example above, we see a holiday-focused mobile alert from Chili’s. It’s a 3-for-$10 Independence Day deal. If you give consumers a reason to look forward to your text messages—and come into your restaurant—you increase the likelihood of people opening, taking action, driving new sales, and growing your revenue.
3. Include Pictures
It’s one thing to get a text that says “Today Only! Save 25% on our premium steak sandwich with our Sandwich Shake combo!” It’s another thing entirely to get a text with a picture of juicy cuts of steak on a steaming bun, flanked by a large transparent cup of chocolate milkshake—with fudge streaking down the inside. Food brands can take advantage of images in mobile marketing better than many other brands. Use that advantage! As you can see in the example below, Chili’s uses a picture to really draw the audience in, so even if they don’t read the text, their eyes and stomach get the picture.
When Should Restaurants Send Text Messages?
Just how far in advance should you send a restaurant text promotion to your customers? Some feel you should send a text promotion the same day of the meal because 90% of text messages are read in the first three minutes. Others say you should send a text message a day or more in advance. A survey done by Think with Google sheds some light on this question by determining how far in advance restaurant customers are making decisions about where to eat their next meal.
Below is our advice based on this survey as to the best times to send restaurant text promotions to hungry customers.
Breakfast: 72% of people either choose where they will eat less than an hour before or completely on impulse, while 20% take an hour or more to decide. Sending a text promotion to these customers 60 or more minutes prior to breakfast is best, but be careful—remember not to wake people up, either.
Lunch: This was the most divided of the three meals, with 31% of customers impulsively choosing their lunches, 37% choosing an hour or less before lunchtime, and 28% deciding an hour or more before. To capture a little of everyone, send your text promotion two to three hours before.
Dinner: 46% of consumers say they want to know at least an hour before where they will eat dinner. With these types of customers, you can send a text promotion earlier in the day, or as far back as earlier in the week, and include a phone number for people to click-to-call and reserve.
When you are a restaurant, knowing when to send your text promotion can be tricky, and knowing what meal you want to promote is key. Fortunately, at Tatango, our team has been working with enterprise clients for more than 13 years and can help you navigate your customers to send the right text message at the right time.
Best Restaurant Website SMS Marketing Examples
Now that you know how to grow your subscriber list and when to send messages, it’s time to learn what to say in your messages! Below are 10 great examples of SMS marketing that restaurants have used to attract new customers (and build loyalty with existing ones). You’ll also find a ton of case studies and resources to get ideas for your next restaurant text message marketing campaign. For more SMS marketing examples from restaurants, visit our sister site SMS Archives, the search engine for text message marketing examples.
1. Boston Market
Boston Market, known as Boston Chicken until 1995, is a chain of American fast-casual restaurants headquartered in Golden, Colorado.
Boston Market uses SMS marketing to distribute their coupons, promote exclusive offers, and drive traffic to their restaurants. Boston Market sends messages roughly every eight days and uses copy-only SMS messages exclusively, compared to MMS messages, which can include images, GIFS, and other media.
Chili’s Grill & Bar is an American casual dining restaurant chain founded in Texas in 1975. Chili’s serves American food influenced by Tex-Mex cuisine, such as spicy shrimp tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, bacon burgers, and steak.
Chili’s uses SMS marketing alerts to send their subscribers promotional offers and coupons, and update subscribers about ordering options. Chili’s sends SMS marketing promotions roughly every six days, and always includes a link to “claim your reward” if not also an enticing image as well.
3. Papa Murphy’s
Papa Murphy’s is a take-and-bake pizza company based in Vancouver, Washington. It began in 1995 as the merger of two local take-and-bake pizza companies, Papa Aldo’s Pizza and Murphy’s Pizza.
In the SMS marketing messages above, Papa Murphy’s uses SMS marketing as a way to distribute their weekly deals and offers as well as incentivize online orders. Papa Murphy’s sends messages roughly every two days and sends 100% SMS messages, compared to MMS messages. Papa Murphy’s always introduces themselves at the start of the message—a text message marketing best practice—and almost always includes unsubscribe or help commands at the end of their messages. This isn’t required but is helpful for consumers.
4. Olive Garden
Olive Garden is an American casual-dining restaurant chain specializing in Italian-American cuisine. The restaurant serves several types of Italian-American cuisine including pasta dishes, steaks, and salads.
Olive Garden uses SMS marketing to send subscribers exclusive SMS offers, restaurant news, and MMS coupons. Olive Garden sends text coupons roughly once per week and uses a mix of 90% SMS messages and 10% MMS messages, which include videos as shown in the example above. We love how Olive Garden doesn’t just feature an image, either—they use the space to add more text on top of the image so the offer is super clear even for customers who skim the text.
Subway is an American restaurant franchise that primarily sells sub sandwiches and salads. It is one of the fastest-growing franchises in the world and, as of October 2019, had 41,512 locations in more than 100 countries.
Subway uses SMS marketing alerts to distribute its mobile app, share exclusive discounts, and update its subscribers about order options. Subway sends text coupons about every five days and sends a mix of 93% SMS messages and 7% MMS messages. Subway is great at always sending a deal of some sort, so consumers know to look forward to their messages, and make Subway a regular part of their restaurant rotation.
Sonic is an American drive-in fast-food restaurant chain headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sonic’s menu consists of hamburgers and French fries, as well as onion rings, corn dogs, chili dogs, and breakfast toaster sandwiches. Sonic uses SMS marketing alerts to promote its mobile app, share information about new products via MMS marketing, and distribute exclusive offers.
Sonic sends text coupons roughly every four days and uses a fairly even split between SMS and MMS messages. We think that’s a great strategy because nothing makes us want to visit Sonic more than seeing mouth-watering images of their cones, burgers, and fries!
7. Round Table Pizza
Round Table Pizza is a chain of pizza parlors in the western United States with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
Round Table Pizza uses SMS marketing to send its subscribers exclusive SMS offers, restaurant news, and SMS coupons. Round Table Pizza sends exclusively SMS messages, versus MMS messages. One interesting thing about Round Table Pizza’s mobile messaging is that they often customize their short links, meaning the end of a hyperlink will say something on-brand to Round Table Pizza, such as /RTPlunchplans or /GarlicSupremeRT. This can help make customers trust the links more, and also is a cheeky way to add some personality to a standard website link.
8. Papa John’s
Papa John’s is an American pizza restaurant franchise. It is the fourth-largest pizza delivery restaurant chain in the United States, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.
Papa John’s uses SMS marketing as a way to distribute their weekly deals, share SMS coupons, and incentivize online orders. Papa John’s sends messages roughly once per week and sends a split of 93% SMS messages and 7% MMS messages. When they do send images, they don’t just choose any standard pizza. They turn the image into a mini advertisement as you can see in the example above. Papa John’s also customizes their links, but instead of focusing purely on the end of the hyperlink, they customize the front so their links always appear as coming from pj.pizza. Again, this is great for helping consumers know that they can click on the link without any risk of spam since it’s on-brand and related to pizza. (Anyone else getting hungry?)
Restaurant SMS Marketing Case Studies
Ok, so all of those restaurants are clearly using text message marketing every week, but what are their results? Check out these restaurant SMS marketing examples below to see the kinds of results that SMS marketing is serving up.
- Taco Bell – SMS Campaigns Gains 13,000 SMS Subscribers in 5 Weeks
- Papa Murphy’s – SMS Marketing Generates Redemption Rates As High As 17%
- Subway – SMS Marketing Gets 9% Redemption Rates
- Pizza Hut – SMS Marketing 2.6X More Effective Than Online Advertising
- Carl’s Jr. – SMS Marketing Generates 19% Redemption Rate
- Dunkin’ Donuts – SMS Promotion Increases Store Traffic 21%
- Bulmers Irish Cider – 73% of Recipients Purchased Product
- Chuck E. Cheese’s – 5% of Chuck E. Cheese’s Emails Come Text Messaging
- Texas Roadhouse – SMS Marketing Averages 17% Redemption Rates
- Papa John’s – SMS Marketing Increases Sales 33%
As you can see, SMS marketing is a valuable way for restaurants to grow their audience, generate new customers, drive new revenue, and increase sales.
An Added Benefit: Restaurants Can Use SMS Marketing to Capture Customers’ Emails
SMS marketing and email marketing go together like bread and butter. Speaking of bread and butter, and er, email marketing, we have a great example of a restaurant using SMS to capture customers’ email addresses.
First off, why would a restaurant want to use SMS marketing to capture customer email addresses? Having customer email addresses gives brands another chance to engage with customers and entice them into visiting the restaurant. However, it’s hard to collect email addresses from customers when they’re not at a computer. When a customer is at a computer it’s easy. All they have to do is type their email address into a field on a website. What about if that customer is sitting down at your restaurant and they want to give you their email address? Much harder, right? Most people don’t walk around with paper and pen to provide their email address, and most restaurants aren’t very successful just putting out a piece of paper hoping people give their email information.
So an easy solution is to have customers text you their email address. Customers always have their phones with them, if not out on the table at a restaurant. So texting an email address is a no-brainer and an easy way for restaurants to build another marketing channel via text message marketing. As you can see in the example below, Elephant Bar is doing just that, telling customers to text “rewards” then their email address to the short code 73757.
Dish Up More Restaurant Texting Resources
We hope this article was interesting and informative to you. The restaurant industry can take unique advantage of restaurant SMS marketing software and really leverage a mobile marketing strategy and marketing effort to send customers drool-worthy deals.
Are you a restaurant business, marketer, or business owner looking to build an SMS marketing list, grow your existing list, or start your own restaurant marketing campaign? If so, get in touch with the restaurant texting experts at Tatango. We’ve been the industry leader for the past 13 years, helping enterprise restaurants use our SMS marketing service to launch successful SMS marketing campaigns.
Or, if you want a quick-reference guide to texting for restaurants, download our free Restaurant SMS Marketing Guide, where we discuss even more tips and tricks in addition to the ones we’ve discussed in this article. In this free SMS marketing guide, you’ll learn what restaurant SMS marketing is, and why it’s so important. You’ll also learn how to best acquire restaurant customer phone numbers, restaurant messaging strategies, objectives, and offer types, and how to measure your restaurant’s texting efforts. That’s not all. You’ll also get access to even more restaurant business marketing case studies and examples. Download the guide here.