Text Message Marketing for Restaurants

Text Message Marketing for Restaurants

Most restaurant marketing is targeted at getting new diners–missing the opportunity to build loyalty with past and current ones. Using iLoyal SMS marketing, you can:

  • Boost sales: Send promotions, discounts, and limited-time offers to grow revenue
  • Build valuable relationships: Provide customer service and support with 2-way conversations
  • Engage your audience: Quickly share important updates and new content
  • Generate excitement: Host text-to-win sweepstakes or text-to-vote polls
  • Collect leads: Allow potential customers to sign-up for texts or send in one-off questions
  • Nurture leads: Follow-up with leads and keep them engaged with the occasional text

How Do Restaurants Use Text Message Marketing?

The challenge that restaurants have is that people come in, eat, pay, and leave. These days a majority of people are also ordering online and using no-contact pick-up or delivery. There’s little opportunity to engage with your customers to build relationships and invite diners back.

That’s where texting comes in. When you collect phone numbers you have a connection to your customers that you can use to drive sales and increase customer lifetime value.

The most common way restaurants drive repeat business using phone numbers is by sending time-sensitive promotions that often lead to immediate sales.

It’s a relatively inexpensive tactic with a large ROI potential. Here are other effective ways restaurants use SMS:

  • Drive online orders
  • Send texts when a customer’s food or table is ready
  • Manage curbside pickup
  • Manage reservations by SMS
  • Create an SMS loyalty program
  • And more!

How Does Texting Help Restaurants?

Restaurant marketing has become much more complicated in the past few years, especially in 2020. Competition is heating up and people looking to fill their stomachs now have an array of possible options.

It’s not just the number of eateries that have increased–there’s been an explosion in the number of marketing channels vying for customers’ attention.

It’s now common for restaurants to promote themselves on social media, email, search engines, and review sites. All of those channels have their benefits, but none benefit from text marketing’s unparalleled:

  • 98% open rates
  • 36% click-through rates (CTRs)
  • 45% conversion rates

The high level of engagement with SMS is making it invaluable for restaurants vying for customers’ attention. The iLoyal SMS platform makes it easy to turn every customer into a loyal customer.

How Does Restaurant Text Messaging Work?

There are two ways restaurants use texting:

  1. Promotional Messages (ex. advertising a weekly special)
  2. Transactional Messages (ex. notifications when a table is ready)

Promotional Messages

If you want to start sending your customers restaurant text coupons, you’ll need a list of phone numbers. There are many ways that you can build your SMS audience.

The quickest way to do it is by advertising an SMS keyword everywhere you can. A keyword is a word or phrase customers can text to your number to sign up for messages.

Let’s say you run a restaurant called Antonio’s. Your keyword could be “Antonio.” When a customer texts it to your phone number they’ll receive an automatic response thanking them for subscribing:

Once you’ve built a list of subscribers, you can now send:

  • Limited-Time Offers: Send time-sensitive discounts to drive immediate traffic, speed up slowdowns, and fill chairs.
  • Mobile Coupons: Send a campaign with a restaurant text coupon. You can also use MMS to include an image of your food or a scannable barcode.
  • Weekly Specials: Tell your customers about weekly specials.

Restaurants can also create loyalty programs, request reviews, communicate with their staff, and more.

Transactional Messages

Transactional text messages refer to texts that are sent as part of your restaurant’s daily operations. You might text someone to confirm an upcoming reservation, organize a pickup order, or let them know that their food is ready.

If you’re interested in learning more about the specifics of setting up these promotional and transactional messages with the iLoyal SMS platform, contact us today!

How Do You Collect Phone Numbers for SMS Marketing?

No matter which tactic you decide to use, you should always provide value. This can be in the form of a discount or exclusive content that can’t be found elsewhere. People are protective of their phone number. You have to give them a reason to trust you with it.


A keyword is a short word or phrase people can text in to your number to sign up for messages. For example, a pizza restaurant may encourage customers to “Text PIZZA to 900900.”

Keywords can be advertised on:

  • In-store signage
  • Social media posts
  • Menus
  • Receipts
  • Table tents
  • Placemats
  • Window signs
  • Cash register
  • Website
  • Social media
  • Television ads
  • Radio commercials

Mobile Sign-Up Widget

Capture phone numbers from visitors to your site with this free tool. When someone clicks on the widget, the text message app on their mobile device will open with your keyword and phone number pre-filled in.

Click-to-Text Buttons

If your goal is to start 1-on-1 conversations with customers, a click-to-text button is for you. When someone is browsing your site from their phone, all they need to do is click the button to start a text conversation with you.

Web Forms

You likely already have a form on your site to collect emails. Add an optional phone number field to it and watch your SMS list grow. Just be sure to add a checkbox people can use to provide express written consent.


This sounds like a weird one, we know. Use email to get people to sign up for texts. Here’s the thing: your top fans probably don’t want your messages getting lost in their promotions folder.

They want to read your messages as soon as they’re sent. All you have to do is send an email with a call-to-action that includes a link to your web form—or a keyword!

Facebook Ads

You can use Facebook ads to go after highly specific groups of people. One underutilized tactic is to create a Facebook Lead Gen Ad. This allows people who click on your Facebook ads to provide their phone number to you to learn more about your product or service.

Text-to-Vote or Text-to-Win Contests

This is another tactic that relies on keywords. Encourage people to text in to your phone number to win a prize or vote in a contest.


Encourage people to sign up for texts as they’re checking out. This can either be done in-person with a digital POS or on your website. You must follow TCPA law and use the proper disclaimers.

How Do You Measure Results of SMS Marketing?

A common misconception is that marketing via SMS can’t be measured. The truth is, just like email, you can easily see if it’s driving ROI.

Common SMS marketing benchmarks include:

Click-through rate (CTR)

The average email open rate is just over 21%. The CTR is under 3%. With texts, 98% of messages are opened and links receive an average CTR of 17%.

Conversion rate

This is how many people took an action—such as making a purchase—after clicking your link. You can use Google Analytics and UTM parameters to determine the conversion rate of your texts, for free. The average SMS conversion rate is about 45%.

Why is it so high? Well, consider the fact that people who sign up for your texts are your most engaged fans. They want to hear from you. This is the last group of people who you’d want to miss out on by relying on email alone.

On top of this, people spend close to three hours a day on their phones–making it less likely they’ll miss your message.

List growth

Without a list of phone numbers, you have no one to message. Steady, consistent list growth is a good indicator of success.

Unsubscribe rate

People will inevitably reply STOP to your message. Once they do, they will no longer receive messages. Unsubscribe rates vary by industry, but as a rule of thumb, it should be less than 3% per campaign.


This lets you answer whether SMS is making you money or not. Just take a look at the purchases made or influenced by SMS, subtract how much you spent sending the messages, then divide by the total amount spent on SMS marketing.

Grow with iLoyal SMS

Engage your existing customers, and get more customers.

Stay top-of-mind with email and text message marketing, which will increase the number of visits to your business.

While you’re busy running your business, we’ll align email and SMS campaigns to help you grow! Grow with self-service or managed SMS.