May 17, 2023
 min read

Why SMS Marketing Matters for Restaurants

This article outlines:

What is SMS marketing and why should restaurants care?

SMS marketing regulations and opt-in rules

How to grow your SMS marketing opt-in audience

Effective restaurant marketing requires an omnichannel approach to engage guests. And SMS marketing automation—also known as text message marketing—has quickly proven itself to be a valuable tool in a marketer’s tool belt. 

Why? On average, SMS open rates are as high as 98% and replies are received within 90 seconds. 

Restaurant brands can use this marketing channel to target their most engaged guests on their mobile devices with timely, personalized messages that drive results. To help get you started, we’ve created a quick guide that covers the basics of SMS restaurant marketing, including why it works, rules to know, and ways to grow your audience.


What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing stands for “Short Message Service” marketing, often referred to as text-message marketing. Prized by marketers for the immediate, direct connection with guests, the ability to customize and personalize messages, and the timeliness of outreach via SMS automation—it’s no surprise that SMS marketing is driving ROI in all industries.

Why SMS Marketing Matters for Restaurants

The restaurant industry, in particular, has an immediate need for timely, personalized guest communication as demand for off-premise dining and contactless service continues to grow. Restaurants are turning to technologies, like SMS marketing, to help them create a consistent, branded experience for both dine-in guests and online orderers.

The case for SMS marketing is clear, but a successful start depends on two crucial steps: Knowing the rules and driving opt-ins. 


Step 1: Know the Rules

SMS Marketing Regulations 

Collecting guests’ phone numbers through marketing efforts doesn’t necessarily mean you have clearance to add those numbers to your SMS campaigns. The rules and regulations of SMS marketing are set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CTIA. It’s important to read, understand, and comply with published regulations.

Get Clear Consent To Opt-In From Guests

Texting guests without their permission is an invasion of privacy and is against the law. To receive SMS marketing messages, guests must explicitly opt-in via mobile or web.

Transactional Messages Are Off-Limits To Solicit Opt-Ins

It’s not permitted to solicit opt-ins to SMS marketing via transaction-based text messages, such as online order updates or reservation confirmations.

So where CAN you solicit opt-ins? Read on to Step #2.

Additionally, new opt-ins must receive a confirmation text after sign-up, including purpose, a reminder that message/data rates may apply, opt-out instructions, and how to access help instructions. (For restaurants running SMS automation through Olo, this message flow is already set up to ensure compliance with regulations.)

Keep Guests Up-to-Date

Access to information about your SMS campaigns should be accessible via your website, in the restaurant, and on any pages where you collect opt-in guest data. 


Step 2: Grow Your SMS Marketing Opt-in Audience 

Whether SMS automation is the first outreach tool you’re testing or simply the latest in your comprehensive restaurant marketing strategy, these three quick plays will drive opt-ins for any restaurant brand.

Drive SMS Marketing Opt-ins Via Web Forms

Include SMS opt-in fields on all of your guest-facing forms (e.g. waitlist, reservation, website sign-ups, guest WiFi, etc.) to quickly grow your marketable database.

Encourage Guests to Opt-in Using Short Code

‍Offer your guests an incentive to sign-up to receive SMS messages from your brand simply by texting a keyword to a short code.

Promote on Social Media, Email, and Offline

‍Remind guests and social followers of the benefits of being kept up-to-date with your restaurant brand via SMS marketing across all channels.

Start Communicating Directly With Guests

SMS marketing has emerged as one of the best and most reliable ways for any brand to connect with its guests. Its use is on the rise, and with good reason: when done correctly, it works. The response rate of SMS marketing is 45%, whereas the email response rate hovers around 6% (Gartner).

To continue learning about the power of restaurant marketing automation and different ways to execute omnichannel outreach, read Why Restaurant Email Marketing Drives Revenue [+ Winning Strategies].

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Contact us to learn more about SMS marketing and how it can help deepen your brand’s relationship with guests.

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