sms marketing for restaurants
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Text message marketing is great for any small business, but particularly for small, family-owned restaurants that want to attract and keep new customers without spending a fortune. Below, I show you how to do SMS marketing for restaurants and why it’s a good idea even now when other types of marketing seem to dominate the industry.

Does SMS Marketing Work in 2021?

With new technology rising every day, it’s only natural to wonder if good old SMS marketing is still a viable option for your restaurant business. The answer is yes, yes it is.

Whether you operate in the USA, Europe, or the Malaysian market, text messaging can help you check many marketing and sales tasks.

First of all, with SMS, customers don’t have to install something extra to their phone, which is often regarded as a hassle by less tech-savvy people.

Second, people still overwhelmingly use SMS to communicate. In fact, in the US alone, 6 billion text messages are sent every day. The same study shows that 75% of customers want to receive offers via text messages. SMS even has a 9.18% higher click-through rate (CTR) than any other channel.

That said, brands using SMS marketing are definitely on to something. They have learned that marketing doesn’t have to be complicated to work. Next, here are some benefits of SMS marketing for restaurants.

SMS Marketing Benefits for Restaurants

1. Everybody can afford it

If you’ve just opened your restaurant or you own a family business that can’t afford to spend a lot on marketing, SMS is perfect for you. Restaurant SMS marketing is cheaper than most other types of marketing, including printed flyers or ads.

2. It reaches more people

If you limit yourself to, let’s say, email marketing, you won’t be reaching as many people as you could with an effective text message marketing strategy. That’s because email marketing is dependent on circumstances like internet access, relatively new devices, a data plan on mobile phones, etc.

For people to receive an SMS, they just need a phone, not even a smartphone, and definitely not one that has internet access. This makes it easier for you to widen the reach of your marketing efforts.

3. Results are available instantly

Did you know that 90% of text message marketing texts are read in the first 3 minutes of being sent? Let’s say you send an offer with a 20% discount code to your online menu and a link that people can click to place an order. Someone might open it and place an order in less than 10 minutes.

4. It boosts customer loyalty

Craft attractive messages featuring exclusive deals regularly and send them as SMS. They will tempt people to visit your restaurant over and over again to redeem the offers. It’s as simple as that!

5. It’s versatile

One of the biggest selling points of text message marketing is its flexibility. When devising an SMS marketing strategy, pick and choose what you want to communicate: an exclusive menu item, a discount, a promo code, or even news about your restaurant.

SMS Marketing Best Practices in the Restaurant Industry

1. Only use it when you have something important to say

It can be tempting to bombard your customers with text messages, but that is an instant turn-off for them. No one wants to get notifications from brands more often than they get texts from their friends.

For messages that aren’t time-sensitive or are longer, use email instead and save SMS for more “urgent” matters like a “get it while it’s hot” offer.

You might also like: Restaurant Email Marketing Done Right: 12 Ideas to Woo Customers

2. Always get permission to send customers text messages

I can’t stress this enough: don’t send customers promotional messages if they haven’t opted-in to receive them. Moreover, pay close attention to how you phrase the kind of messages they will receive.

For example, suppose you say they will receive messages related to special offers. In that case, you’re painting yourself in a corner because you won’t be able to send other types of messages like news or menu announcements.

3. Keep messages short

When writing a promotion text message, don’t go over the 160 characters per SMS limit. Even if newer phones can support longer messages, customers are not looking to read a story when receiving an SMS from a brand. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point, and your messages will convert more.

4. Personalize your messages

Even if you do bulk SMS marketing, a bit of customization can go a long way to making a customer feel special. Even something as simple as addressing them by their first name would do.

5. Give users the option to opt-out

Wherever you place your opt-in CTA, you also need to include an opt-out option with clear instructions on how to do it. Additionally, when people receive their first text from you after opting in, also include an opt-out link.

SMS Marketing for Restaurants: 10 Effective Ideas

Now, let’s look at some SMS marketing ideas that work wonders for restaurants.

1. Send out discount codes

There’s no better way to grab someone’s attention than with a short text featuring a discount code. If you’re using a restaurant texting system that allows it, personalize the code with their initials to add an element of surprise that they’ll definitely enjoy.

2. Say happy birthday with a special treat

If you know your customers’ birthdays, send them a personalized text message on their special day. Wish them a happy birthday and offer something like a discount on their meal, free dessert, or complimentary champagne.

3. Encourage a second order

To turn one-time buyers into repeat customers, send clients who have placed their first online order a message with a discount on their second purchase. They will likely order again and keep a close eye on any future promotions.

4. Prevent cart abandonment

Some customers change their minds mid-order and abandon their cart with slim chances of returning to finish their order. You can prevent that using SMS marketing for restaurants. Recover those lost sales by sending them a message reminding them to complete their order.

5. Re-engage customers who haven’t ordered in a while

Fostering customer loyalty isn’t easy. You might have noticed that some customers who have ordered from you a few times are now slipping away. It’s cheaper for you to identify them and try to gain them back than it is to attract new customers. So, send them a targeted offer via SMS when you notice them drifting away.

Send Automated SMS Messages to Your Online Ordering Clients Activate our pre-built campaigns, sit back, and let Autopilot take the wheel.

6. Organize a fun competition

To keep things spicy and exciting, organize contests or giveaways exclusive to your SMS subscribers. They can be complex, spread over a longer period, and featuring a big reward. However, they can also be instant. Here is a sample text message to send to customers for a fun competition:

  • Happy World Pizza Day! First 5 people who text back get a FREE pizza of their choice. Courtesy of [restaurant name].

7. Announce special events

If you regularly organize events at your restaurant or celebrate holidays like Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving, text your SMS subscribers an official invitation to the party. They will feel special, and you can also include a table reservation link with the message that tables book fast to create urgency.

8. Encourage referrals

Some of the best SMS marketing campaigns are those that bring in referrals. Here are some promotional text message examples that will encourage people to bring a friend to your restaurant:

  • Hi [first name], any dinner plans tonight? Bring a friend to [restaurant name], and you’ll both get a free dessert of your choice on the house.
  • It’s World Friendship Day! Send this coupon code to a friend, and you’ll both get a 20% discount on [restaurant name]’s pizza menu: FRIEND20.
  • Long time, no party, [first name]. Tonight, we’re celebrating World Friendship Day at [restaurant name]. Convince a friend to tag along for all you can drink champagne on us.

9. Announce an exclusive taste test of a new menu item

Send attractive sale messages to customers to make them feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. Let them know you’ve released a new menu item that they can try before everyone else by presenting the message to their waiter.

10. Send spontaneous messages

Make SMS marketing for restaurants fun by not always sticking to a script and going with the flow when you have a unique idea. For instance, let’s say it’s a cold winter Sunday. Send a limited-time offer for 50% off hot chocolate just for the afternoon, and watch your sales soar.


SMS marketing for restaurants is a simple, affordable, and highly effective way of surprising your customers with unique offers and discounts which will turn them into regulars. If you pay attention to the best practices above and don’t overwhelm subscribers with daily messages, your sales and brand recognition will increase.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She delivers business-optimized content to help restaurants boost sales and grow their brand.

She wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.