A Definitive Guide to SMS Marketing for Restaurants

A Definitive Guide to SMS Marketing for Restaurants
21 April, 2023 • ... • 872 views
Irene Dmitrieva
by Irene Dmitrieva

SMS marketing is a powerful tool for restaurants and cafes to boost customer engagement and create new connections. Moreover, businesses can increase customer loyalty as well as generate more word-of-mouth advertising. In this guide, we’ll explore how SMS marketing for restaurants can help you reach your target audience and achieve long-term success.

What is SMS marketing and does it really work?

SMS marketing is a type of mobile marketing businesses use to send text messages to their customers and prospects. It helps businesses of any size,  and it’s an especially effective way for small businesses to reach out to their target customer base without expensive ad campaigns.

Despite the popularity of other digital marketing channels (social media, email, etc.), SMS marketing is still a powerful and viable tool for your restaurant business. Text messaging can contribute to a wide variety of marketing and sales goals as people still rely heavily on SMS for communication. In 2021, 2 trillion messages were sent in the United States and 88% of consumers expect hearing from brands via SMS messaging too. Plus, a customer doesn’t need to download any software to receive an SMS on their phone. 

The benefits of SMS marketing for restaurants

Text message marketing for restaurants is undeniably a smart choice with many advantages.

Boosts customer loyalty

SMS messages with tailored offers create a sense of exclusivity that makes the customers feel valued and encourages loyalty. Plus, SMS is a convenient addition to loyalty programs. 24% of marketers use the channel that way.

Additionally, customers are more likely to share positive experiences with their friends and family if they feel like your restaurant has gone the extra mile to make them feel special. This increases word-of-mouth marketing and can help you reach a larger audience than ever before.

Increases reach

Marketers often compare email vs SMS marketing. If you only use email marketing, you significantly limit the reach of your target audience. That’s because email requires a good internet connection, whereas text message marketing doesn’t. Put simply: if you want maximum engagement with minimal effort, opt for text messaging.

Moreover, 70% of US customers rely on their mobile devices during food purchasing from fast-food and casual restaurants. One of the most popular activities is searching for coupons and deals which makes text messages the best channel to send those. With this in play, you’ll meet people where they are using SMS.

Boosts sales

One of the most appealing benefits of restaurant SMS marketing is that it increases sales. More than half of marketers put SMS in their top 3 revenue-driving channels. What’s more, text messaging allows you to target specific segments of your customer base with tailored offers that’ll be more likely to convert. For example, browse abandon messages from restaurants have a 12.6-21.9% CTR.

75% of customers find appointment reminders (such as restaurant reservations) via text appealing. So text messages reduce the risk of no-shows and save your business money. 

Is cost-effective and easy to implement

Compared to other channels, SMS marketing is a cost-effective way to communicate with customers and boost conversion rates. You have no production costs like in traditional marketing methods, you don’t need to design campaigns like in email marketing. Depending on the platform you use and its fees, sending texts could be as cheap as three cents or around $200/400 per month. On top of that, it doesn’t take much time or effort to craft a message.

Provides great return on investment (ROI)

When compared to traditional methods of advertising such as print, radio, and television ads, SMS campaigns offer significantly more bang for your buck. A survey revealed that the majority of consumers (85%) open their text notifications within 1-5 minutes of receiving them. And 1 in 3 people open theirs only one minute after they received it. This means customers are more likely to get your message in time to take advantage of any promotions or special offers that you run. Additionally, SMS campaigns can be tailored specifically to target the right customers at the right times with the right messages, resulting in higher engagement rates and improved ROI. When a customer enrolls in a restaurant’s text messaging program, their spending at the restaurant increases by 23%.

Ideas on how to use text message marketing for restaurants

From fast and affordable to effective, SMS texting is the perfect communication tool for restaurants. Here are a few of its most popular uses:

Sharing limited-time deals and special offers

Limited-time deals are a great topic for SMS as most people read text messages within minutes. Take advantage of the fear of missing out (FOMO) with limited-time offers and stimulate a surge of customers in a flash. When your products are only available for brief periods, potential buyers will feel compelled to take action quickly or they risk being left behind. Besides, 41% of customers find flash-sale SMS appealing.

With SMS, you can even limit the time of the offer down to only a few hours, and it will still work great:

A limited-time offer in SMS
Source: Textback.ai

Sending out coupons

SMS coupons are the way to go to raise awareness of your restaurant and bring in new customers. You can send these weekly or seasonally to make your guests feel connected and privileged. Promote these coupons on days when business is slow, giving an incentive for potential clients to come by while also boosting sales. With this method, you’ll be able to easily drive more traffic into your restaurant.

An example of a coupon SMS
Source: Textback.ai

Announcing new products

Communicate with your subscribers and keep them in the know about your latest products as well as menu items — this is a foolproof method to earn their trust. Showcase your recent culinary creations to everyone.

You can also inform clients about menu items that are back in stock. These messages from restaurants get a CTR of 10.9-13.2%.

New menu announcement
Source: TextP2P

Announcing events

From festive gatherings to wine tastings, and live music performances — there are plenty of exciting occasions that would be perfect for inviting subscribers to your restaurant. 34% of customers prefer event invitations over SMS. Do you want more people to know about your event? 

Olive Garden leverages SMS to give customers an early booking advantage for events such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day before all the slots fill.

An example of an event announcement via SMS
Source: Avada

With this example, the restaurant invites its most loyal customers to try a sampling of their favorite wine. This way, the restaurant creates a sense of exclusivity and makes the customers feel valued.

SMS invitation to a wine-tasting
Source: EZ Texting

Birthday greetings

Everyone enjoys receiving something complimentary, especially on momentous occasions. Harness the power of restaurant SMS messaging to send your customers heartfelt wishes for birthdays, anniversaries, and special holidays. Even better to include a bonus offer with them.

An SMS example with birthday greetings
Source: SMS Country

Takeaway messages

If your restaurant delivers food, texting and pushes can be a great way to notify clients about the status of their order. Give your customers the ultimate convenience with text-in ordering — an interactive, easy-to-use method of placing orders without calling.

Text-in ordering SMS example
Source: ClickSend

Holiday-themed texts

On holidays, restaurants can re-engage customers by offering discounts, seasonal greetings, and promotions. As people look around for presents or ways to celebrate in style, your restaurant can be part of the festivities.

Drawing more customers to your restaurant couldn’t be easier than during holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Get the word out about all of your special events, offers, and promotions with SMS campaigns. Personalize your template by incorporating your customer’s name and adding some festive, seasonal elements such as colors and calls-to-action to make it truly unique.

A holiday-themed SMS example
Source: SMS Archives

Getting feedback

Every brand needs to consider what its customers think of it. Collecting feedback is a necessary process to help your business grow. 

SMS is great for asking for feedback. Chances are, most active users will notice your message. What’s more, if you leave a link to the survey in the post, the visitor can quickly and easily leave feedback.

A feedback SMS example
Source: Avada

Restaurant reopening

When a restaurant is ready to re-open after renovations or temporary closure, share the news with the loyal diners as soon as possible. Sending an SMS marketing message highlighting changes such as onsite dining protocols, new menus, and updated hours of operation can quickly spread the word. SMS subscribers are some of your most dedicated subscribers — so engaging them first ensures everyone is up-to-date.

A restaurant re-opening text message example
Source: Message4u

Text marketing best practices for restaurants

Whether you’re a novice or already have experience in SMS marketing, adhering to these best practices will ensure your restaurant gains maximum value from SMS.

Always get permission

Taking the necessary steps to ensure legal compliance is paramount before sending any text marketing campaigns. 60% of people unsubscribe from SMS lists because they didn’t provide permission for messages. You must obtain explicit, written permission from your subscribers for all SMS messages — separate from email opt-ins. Make sure you provide details about what types of messages will be sent and how people can unsubscribe if they choose to do so. 

The best way is to use double opt-in, just like in email marketing. Basically, you send an SMS with detailed information about the sender, future messaging, and its cancellation and ask the recipients to reply with a “yes” to confirm the subscription. 

Segment your list

Segmenting your audience gives you the tools to personalize text messaging for each group. By breaking down customer lists into different categories, restaurants can offer more relevant offers to the right audience. For example, a restaurant may choose to focus offers on certain customer groups such as loyal customers or families with young children. Additionally, by understanding what food customers order, restaurants can create personalized messages to incentivize their audience to try something new. To better target your customers, you can divide them by various price ranges. For instance, if you own several restaurants at differing price points, separate them based on affordability.

Make sure to personalize your texts

In text messaging, personalization goes a long way. Instead of using generic language, think of ways to tailor each message to the individual customer. This could include mentioning dishes they have ordered in the past or pointing out special discounts that may only apply to them. Whenever you can, incorporate subscribers’ first names into messages. This way restaurants can increase engagement and build better relationships with their customers. Your personalized text message might look like this:

Hi Sally! If you’re in the mood for something different tonight, we recommend trying our new Salmon Piccata. As a special thank you, we’re offering you 10% off your bill tonight. Just mention this message to your server to redeem. Сan’t wait to see you!

Keep your messages short and to the point

Apart from technical limitations, text messaging is personal and should be used to send meaningful content. Every word matters in such a limited space, so make sure your messages are succinct yet contain a value. Share promotions like seasonal deals, offers specific to certain regions. Urge customers to download the restaurant app or join the loyalty program. Don’t forget to ask for feedback. All this can be conveyed in just a few short sentences! And these will all help you start conversations via text messaging and drive conversions.

Here’s what a brief text message might look like:

An example of a text message urging recipients to access the app.
Source: Attentive Mobile Inc.

Use multiple channels of communication

In addition to SMS, consider using other channels of communication to enhance your marketing efforts. For instance, you can use social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to promote your SMS campaign and encourage people to sign up for your text alerts. You can also use email marketing for restaurants to complement your SMS campaign and reinforce your messaging.


SMS marketing for restaurants is a great way for small businesses to reach their target audience without expensive advertising campaigns. Businesses can use SMS messaging to:

  • Offer discounts and coupons.
  • Announce new food or menu items.
  • Advertise events or special occasions.
  • Send birthday greetings and other personalized messages.
  • Provide order updates for takeaway customers.
  • Launch holiday campaigns.
  • Request feedback from their customers.

All of these activities can help restaurants build better relationships with customers and increase customer loyalty.

Is it possible to send a text message quickly and ensure that your intended recipient receives it through their preferred channel? The answer is yes – you can easily learn how to send SMS from email. No matter your level of experience in SMS marketing, following best practices will ensure you get the maximum benefit from it:

  • Gain explicit written permission from customers for all text messages.
  • Segment your customers into various categories for better targeting. 
  • Tailor each message to the individual customer and use personalization. 
  • Keep messaging short yet meaningful, providing value.
  • Use multiple channels of communication.

By leveraging this powerful marketing tool, businesses can gain a competitive advantage over their rivals and ultimately, boost their success.

21 April, 2023
Article by
Irene Dmitrieva
As a marketing copywriter, I have experience creating compelling content for websites and social media posts. My background in market research helps me ensure that my copy is both on-brand and data-driven. I am excited to bring my skills and experience to Selzy team and help drive success for this company.
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