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Texting the Table: SMS Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

Learn effective SMS marketing strategies for restaurants to boost brand awareness, customer engagement, and, ultimately, sales.

Reaching out to potential diners and keeping your loyal patrons engaged is one of the most significant challenges restaurateurs face. With shortening attention spans, the competition in the restaurant industry is fierce.

For restaurant owners and managers, SMS marketing can offer a unique opportunity to foster closer connections with patrons, driving more foot traffic and loyalty. A timely SMS can be the nudge a busy family needs to dine out instead of cooking at home. Or, an office worker deliberating lunch options might receive a midday discount, prompting them to choose your restaurant over all their other options.

SMS marketing for restaurants used strategically can significantly enhance brand recall, loyalty, and overall revenue. Keep reading to learn more about how text message marketing for restaurants can enhance your marketing strategy to attract more customers.

SMS marketing, also known as text marketing for restaurants, is the use of text messages to promote dining establishments directly to customers' mobile phones. This method allows restaurants to send timely updates, special offers, event notifications, and reservation confirmations easily, improving communication with customers.

Restaurants' text message marketing is immediate, direct, and personal, offering higher engagement rates than other digital channels. For restaurants, this means increased foot traffic, higher customer loyalty, and boosted brand visibility.

SMS marketing for restaurants can fortify customer relationships and boost overall reach. With its affordability, any restaurant — from small, family-owned businesses to large corporations — can attract and retain loyal patrons.

The benefits of restaurant text messaging include the following:

Direct communication

Text message marketing for restaurants is a form of direct communication. Unlike other mediums where promotional messages can get lost in a multitude of others, SMS marketing messages are a direct line to the customer.

This directness of SMS marketing for restaurants ensures that your message lands in the hands of your intended audience without distractions or detours.

High open and engagement rates

The immediate nature of text messages means they're rarely ignored. Since most texts are read within minutes, SMS marketing for restaurants offers some of the highest open and engagement rates of any digital marketing channel.

Personalized promotional messages

Like email marketing for restaurants, text message marketing platforms allow you to tailor your messaging. You can segment your audience based on preferences, past orders, or loyalty.

Then, using their names and other details, you can send hyper-personalized messages to increase the relevancy of your promotions.

For instance, you can send personalized recommendations to a patron who typically orders vegan dishes. This individual might receive a text message about a new vegan menu or new items.

Increased customer loyalty

Regular communication with customers can foster a personal connection with your business. When customers receive exclusive offers, birthday deals, or thank-you messages, they feel valued.

Over time, these personalized interactions can increase loyalty to your restaurant, making them more likely to choose your food over the competition and recommend it to friends and family.


When considering your return on investment (ROI), SMS marketing for restaurants is relatively inexpensive when done in bulk. When you factor in the high engagement and conversion rates of those messages, the cost per engagement is much smaller than other channels.

The immediate and intimate nature of restaurant SMS marketing can amplify your outreach and engagement efforts. When used as a strategic marketing approach, these text-based messages can drive more foot traffic, increase loyalty, and improve the overall dining experience.

Here are a few ways you can use SMS marketing for restaurants:

Welcome offers for new subscribers

When patrons subscribe to a restaurant's SMS subscriber list, greeting them with a special offer can set the tone for future interactions. It makes them feel valued while incentivizing them to visit your restaurant as soon as possible.

You can add a signup form in your restaurant website design to give customers an easy way to take advantage of your offer and become subscribers. Welcome offers can also enhance your subscriber list management strategy, helping you build your list quickly by obtaining explicit consent to send customers SMS text messages.

Limited-time promotions

Text messaging is the ideal medium for limited-time promotions because of their immediate nature. Restaurants can send out flash deals like X% off on all appetizers or specific menu items for the next few hours, creating a sense of urgency and FOMO — fear of missing out. This single text can entice customers to act quickly to take advantage of a great deal.

Event announcements

Whether you're hosting a live music night, a themed dinner, or a guest chef evening, SMS marketing for restaurants can help you spread the word. Since it offers direct reach, texts ensure that such announcements don't go unnoticed, helping to boost attendance.

Birthday greetings

By collecting birth dates when customers sign up for your subscriber list, restaurants can send personalized birthday wishes coupled with a special offer. This makes the patron feel special while promoting them to celebrate their special day at your restaurant.

Reward system

If your restaurant rewards customers with loyalty programs, you can use SMS marketing to implement a point-based system that notifies patrons via text about the points they've earned after each meal and how to view or claim those rewards.

Over time, this loyalty program and direct access to information about it on a restaurant website can increase repeat visits.

Feedback and reviews

SMS marketing can improve the post-dining customer experience by allowing you to collect feedback from customers. Asking for feedback and reviews shows customers their opinions matter while providing your business with valuable insights you can use to improve.

Secret menu items

Feeling like customers are in on a secret via a secret menu can enhance loyalty and make being a subscriber of your SMS marketing campaigns more engaging. Periodically texting subscribers about exclusive dishes not listed on the menu offers exclusivity that makes customers feel like they're part of a special club.

Secret menu items are also intriguing, spurring customers to take immediate action to ensure they don't miss out on the opportunity to try something new.

Holiday specials

For festive occasions, themed menus or holiday discounts promoted through SMS marketing for restaurants can increase foot traffic during extremely busy peak times. A text is a simple, timely reminder for patrons to celebrate special occasions at your restaurant.

Best practices for restaurant SMS marketing

SMS marketing for restaurants stands out for its directness and personalized nature. However, to use text message marketing for your restaurant correctly, you should adhere to some best practices.

Follow these tips to help yield the desired results of your SMS campaigns:

  • Obtain opt-ins: Never send unsolicited messages to your customers. Instead, ensure that you have explicit permission from patrons to send them SMS updates. This respects their privacy and ensures you're in compliance with various guidelines designed to protect consumers.
  • Segment your subscriber list: Segmenting your subscriber list based on customer preferences, frequency of visits, or demographics can help you craft more tailored messages to boost customer engagement and relevance, ultimately making your strategy more effective.
  • Personalize your messages: Segmenting your customers is the first step to personalization. After that, addressing your subscribers by name or referring to their last order can make your messages more personal.
  • Keep your messages short: SMS text messages are short and concise. Ensure your messages are clear and to the point. Overly long messages can be off-putting and might not be read.
  • Send messages at appropriate times: Sending messages at the right time may take some experimentation to determine which times yield the best customer engagement or conversion results. Only send texts when your restaurant is open for business; never send them late at night or early in the morning. You should also consider message frequency and strike a balance in how often you send texts.
  • A/B test your messages: Not every message you send will be a hit at first. Regularly testing different versions of your messages can help you determine which types of messages resonate best with your audience, allowing you to refine your strategy over time.
  • Comply with legal regulations: Sending automated text messages in bulk means adhering to legal regulations. Familiarize yourself with regulations like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Ensure you provide an easy opt-out mechanism in every message.

Elevate your restaurant's outreach with SMS marketing

A robust SMS campaign offers an immediate, direct, and personal touch. By leveraging text messaging, restaurants can create targeted and effective campaigns that drive foot traffic, foster loyalty, and improve brand recognition.

Strategic optimization, personalization, and maintaining a genuine dialogue with diners can help you build better relationships that lead to increased sales.

Mailchimp's SMS marketing automation software elevates this process, providing a wide array of tools to help you build subscriber lists, craft texts, optimize your strategy, and measure the results. Try Mailchimp today to improve your restaurant's outreach.

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