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Do’s and don’ts of text-message marketing for your restaurant

4 min read


If you haven’t been using text and SMS messaging to help promote your restaurant, it’s a great time to get started.

The average open rate of text or SMS marketing messages is about 95%, and most of those messages are opened within 15 minutes of being received. Some restaurants have seen a steady average of 16% of text offers being redeemed, which is impressive when compared with the 20% open rate and 5% redemption rate of e-mail marketing messages and the less than 1% redemption rate for direct-mail messages.

Text-message marketing is much cheaper than traditional mailed coupons and advertising. You can work with a developer who manages the software, and start promoting your short codes to build a list. When people opt in to your messages, they text a created short code, and the number is automatically added to your list. Send out specials or coupons to your list, and customers will immediately receive a text message.

More than 80% of Americans have a cellphone with texting capabilities. With text-message marketing, you can market to a vast majority of your audience — not just those who have a smartphone that can read QR codes and receive e-mails. Follow these simple do’s and don’ts with text and SMS message marketing, and you’ll start seeing that incredible return on investment in your restaurant.


Give a reason to sign up. If you just ask for customers to opt in to your text alerts, no one is going to sign up. Persuade the customer to sign up by promising exclusive deals, coupons, drink offers and specials to those on the list. Make the deal even sweeter by offering a coupon merely for signing up, such as a free appetizer or half-off drinks.

Time your texts. Text alerts are mostly opened within 15 minutes of being received, so make your text messages timely. If your lunch crowd is looking a bit bleak, send a text message about 10 a.m. (right when people are starting to think about what they want for lunch) with a special deal that lasts only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day.

Create conversation — get valuable feedback. Send a text message on a Wednesday or a Thursday and ask what customers would prefer to have as a special dish for the weekend: your famous chicken cordon bleu or prime rib, and have them reply with either “CHICKEN” or “RIB.” Your customers will love the fact that you take their opinion into consideration and are more likely to visit your restaurant if they know what the specials are going to be in advance.

Send compelling information. Don’t bother your customers by telling them who the band will be that night when you have live music seven days a week, or by letting them know what deserts you’re selling that night. Instead, send them coupons such as “Buy one lunch special, get the second half-off,” or let them know if you have a particularly famous artist performing at your restaurant that night.


Send too many, or too few, messages. You don’t want your customers to forget about your restaurant — so you need to consistently send them text messages alerting them about your specials and events. But you don’t want to irritate them with a barrage of messages either. The best frequency is to send a text message two to four times a month. Remember, if you don’t have anything incredibly compelling to send, don’t send anything at all.

Send messages with more than 160 characters. Some cell phones cannot receive large messages and are limited to sending and receiving messages 160 characters or fewer in length. Keep them short, sweet and to the point.

Sara Petersen is the content and marketing manager at Punch Mobile Marketing. Punch’s mission is to produce the best mobile-marketing content and solutions for foodservice providers to succeed at the mobile level. Read the company’s blog, follow it on Twitter and “like” its Facebook page.