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SMS Messaging for Cafes and Restaurants

As a nation of tea-drinkers and coffee-guzzlers, heading out to a cafe for a cuppa is one of our favourite pastimes as Brits. And with more and more people than ever before eating out and sampling food from around the world in eateries up and down the country, the restaurant sector is booming too.

But if you’re operating a small business in the hospitality sector, you need to make sure that you keep your premises as full and thriving as possible in order to pay your bills and keep the enterprise sustainable.

That’s where SMS messaging comes in. In this blog post, we will look at ways you can use SMS messaging to make your business processes more efficient, boost your customer numbers and become the most popular place in town.

Bookings

SMS messaging has been proven as one of the most effective methods of customer-business communication around because the vast majority of people read all the SMS messages they receive. In fact, some estimates indicate that texts are opened within around three minutes!

This high response rate means SMS messaging has a strong comparative advantage. People put the phone down and delete emails without opening them, but SMS messages don’t go ignored.

As a cafe or restaurant owner, you may well operate a reservation system to give customers confirmation they will get a space. Why not take advantage of SMS messaging’s phenomenal response rates by expanding your booking system to text as well as phone?

Setting up a virtual mobile number (or VMN) is an ideal way to do this, as it allows recipients to quickly and decisively reply to marketing material with an action like a reservation or confirmation.

For instance, you could send a mass SMS to your past customers informing them that you have space this evening. “Why not forget about the stresses of the day and treat yourself to one of Bob’s Steakhouse’s weeknight specials? Text YES and a time between 6 and 10,” your message could read.

Customers who reply with a “YES” and a time then automatically receive a booking confirmation. And the best bit about it? Once you’ve sent the original message, you don’t have to do a thing until the customer arrives at the appointed time.

This makes your booking system more efficient, as it allows your waiters and waitresses to get on with the important job of serving customers rather than making sure they answer the phone every time another potential reservation comes in. Automatic confirmation removes the possibility that wait staff will mishear details, which often happens over the phone in a busy kitchen or bar area.

Offers

It’s not just your booking system that can benefit from an injection of SMS messaging.

If you have an incentive system in place for customers like an early bird discount or a free drink offer, it’s only worth operating if people know that it’s an option for them. If they never know, what’s the point of running it at all?

You can’t phone individual customers to tell them about your offer, and a mass email would probably end up straight in the junk folder. But SMS messaging can be your saviour, as it pretty much guarantees your customers will open and read the information about your offer.

You can get maximum value out of promoting your offer by combining it with the virtual mobile number system outlined above. The cost to you of an offer or an SMS messaging system will often be easily outweighed by getting a few extra customers through the door, so the return on investment can be phenomenal.

Personalisation

SMS messaging is no longer stuck in the days of old-fashioned brick mobile phones with fiddly keyboards and super-short messages. These days, it’s perfectly possible to implement a high level of personalisation to your SMS communications – and often all it takes is a well-organised spreadsheet.

If you have regular diners, it’s important that you keep their business. Loyalties shift all the time in the hospitality sector as new places open and recommendations spread by word of mouth, so any trick you can use to retain your customers is a valuable one.

Why not configure your SMS messaging to be friendly instead of impersonal? Instead of opening your message with “Hi, we’ve got a new offer on at Linda’s Restaurant today!”, it looks so much better to say “Hi Sally, we’ve got a new offer on at Linda’s Restaurant today!”

This makes the customer feel special as the message is targeted specifically at them, so it presents you in a good light and reminds the customer that you care about them – rather than just want their business. Simply ensure you put the name at the start of the message so that it appears in the message preview on the home screen, as this will encourage faster opening rates.

And while people are vaguely aware that it’s possible to personalise mass messages, the technique doesn’t actually have any less impact. People receive so few personalised SMS messages that any ones they do receive stand out, so it’s certainly worth looking into.

Don’t let your competitors get ahead of the game and steal your hard-earned business. Look into personalising your SMS messages and keep your customers feeling happy and satisfied.

Remember the law

When using SMS messaging systems, remember that for data protection reasons messages must include an opt-out option and you mustn’t contact people until you have received their consent.

All your offers must be genuine, and if they’re not you could find yourself in hot water quite quickly. Don’t risk it!

Are you a cafe or restaurant looking to take your SMS messaging systems to another level? Here at Fastsms, we are dedicated to helping small businesses succeed with SMS messaging and can offer some of Britain’s most cost-efficient text bundles, as well as services like virtual mobile numbers and short codes. Call us today on 0800 954 5305 to find out how we can help you!

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