The restaurant business is tough and fickle at best. During weekends and holiday season, your restaurant witnesses a flurry of activities to fulfill the queue of orders. And, then comes a Monday or a lull period, when your restaurant is almost half-empty. While seasonal factors can have a considerable impact on the restaurant business, the right marketing can ensure that your restaurant doesn’t experience the sluggish times.
Among several marketing tools and CRM software available for restaurateurs, SMS or Text marketing is the easiest, cheapest and most effective one to attract both old and new customers. And, there are statistics to prove its effectiveness. According to a report, it was found that text message open rates 99% and 90% of all text messages are read within the first 3 minutes of being received on the mobile phone! Another study revealed that a considerable proportion of SMS responses from brands happened within the first 15 minutes of a customer receiving the message.
India’s mobile phone subscriber base is currently more than 1 billion users, which includes the age group of 15 to 24 years- the largest demographic of people who visit restaurants regularly and use text messaging on a regular basis.
If you are worried about spamming the inbox of your customers’ mobile handsets, then don’t be for two reasons. One, most customers who love to dine out, want to stay updated on the latest happenings and new offerings in the restaurants. Two, they have an option to ‘opt-out’ of your SMS service, just the way they can mark an email as a spam in their mailbox. But, trust us; they won’t opt-out if you always have something hot and exciting to offer them!
Now, do you need any more reasons to run an SMS campaign for your customers? Here are a few ways to benefit from this marketing strategy:
1. Discount coupons
This is one of the most popular ways to increase awareness of your restaurant and invite new customers. You can send text coupons informing about exclusive discounts and offers. You can send out these coupons once a week for regular meals or during festive seasons. Make sure these coupons are sent to only those in your SMS list. Such exclusive coupon-only deals will make your customers feel connected and privileged.
2. Loyalty programs
As time goes by and your restaurant survives and grows through the initial phases, you will definitely rake up a long list of regulars who frequent your restaurant. This could be either because they like the food or ambience, or it is on the way to their home or because it becomes a hangout place for them along with their friends. Noticing and acknowledging such customers will give you a solid base even when business is slow. Create a loyalty program for such returning customers by texting them offer them special discounted rates or VIP passes to events or tastings. They will appreciate it all the more and your restaurant will get some free and very effective word-of-mouth advertising in the bargain.
For instance, a 16-store franchise of Subway restaurants located in New York launched an SMS marketing campaign called ‘My Subway Mobile SMS’ program to increase repeat business from its existing customers. It sent them product offers such as ‘a free 6 inch sandwich with purchase of a 32-ounce drink’. After a few months, these Subway outlets witnessed a 9% redemption rate, which was significantly higher than the 1% redemption rate Subway experienced with their direct mail campaigns.
3. SMS contests and polls
This is another method of engaging with your customers through texting. You can create regular contests or polls where people, customers or not, can answer a simple question or enter a draw and win discounts or other prizes such as a free meal. This fun SMS will also serve as advertising for your restaurant and bring in more business.
4. Special tastings and events
When you design a new menu as per the season or any special occasion, or host an event such as a musical night or a charity dinner, send a text invite to customers. You can also tempt them with discounts or a free sampling by referring a friend's mobile number.
5. Reservation Reminders
The modern day yuppies have a lot more on their mind other than dinner plans.You can remind them of the reservation they made at your restaurant in advance so that they don’t miss it. An SMS will make sure that they remember the reservation and can schedule it accordingly with their friends or family and arrive at your restaurant on time. A win-win situation for both parties.
6. Customer Feedback
SMS marketing can not only be used for marketing and advertising purposes but also used a survey tool. You can get customers to tell you what additions or changes they would like in your restaurant in terms of the food, ambience, and service. Asking for feedback makes your customers feel a part of your restaurant and encourage them to continue their patronage.
7. Staying connected
With the ever-increasing number of new eateries all over, customers are spoiled for choice. People like to try new food and new restaurants. But since more than 60% of restaurants close down within their first year, customers find it hard to stick to one place for long. However, if you send out reminders that your restaurant is not just alive but kicking, it will bring them back. These regular reminders will tell the customers that they are always invited to your restaurant to have a good time with their friends and family.
SMS marketing is a great tool to find your way with your customers. So, start making a list of your customers’ phone numbers and put your restaurant’s mobile number on the menu and other places where people will take notice of it. In no time you will have customers lining up in front of your doors!