SMS Marketing for the Fast Food Industry

The fast food sector is notoriously resilient in a tough economic climate. The current recession is proving to be no exception with the largest pizza takeaway companies reporting increases in profits this year. As well as UK consumers dining out less at restaurants, the swine flu outbreak over the summer and the associated media frenzy reportedly had a positive effect on sales.

SMS and the takeaway – a recipe for success

The entire catering and hospitality industry is very well suited to using SMS marketing as a way of increasing sales. When consumers ring to order a pizza or book a table, it is almost always their mobile number that they give as the contact number. This means that outlets have a readily available source of customer data that can be used for SMS promotional campaigns.

Can I use my customer’s mobile number for SMS campaigns?
There’s an enormous amount of confusion in this area. People are rightly concerned that they might end up on the wrong side of the regulatory bodies if they use their customers’ mobile numbers for sending promotional messages. The rules on this, however, are very straightforward and make a lot of common sense.

If your customer or prospect has given you their mobile number during the course of your discussions, then you are more than entitled to send them a promotional text. You do however need to ensure the following…

1. Make it clear who the message is from – (e.g. Pizza land Birmingham)

2. Include a contact telephone number

3. Include a text opt out in your text (e.g ‘to stop further messages, reply PIZZA to this text’) – There is more information on Text Marketer’s opt out system later in this guide.

4. You are only entitled to send text messages on the same subject as your original communications. In other words, if someone rang to order a takeaway, you can’t then send them a promotional text about car insurance!

More information is available on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.

Targeting your message to the right audience
The more relevant that you can make your offer to the customer, the better the response will be. By segmenting your database into different categories of customer you can then send tailored SMS messages to the different categories.

Here are some examples of how you might segment your database.

Regular spenders -Your most prized customers. What do they typically order and what offer would be most appealing to them?

Occasional customers – These customers don’t order from you as often as you would like. They might respond if you make them an enticing offer.

Night hawks – You may have a group of customers that order from you late at night. Why not make them an offer that can be redeemed after midnight.

Early birds -These customers might typically order from you as soon as they get back from work. You might want to send them an offer of a discount on all orders before 7 o’clock.

‘Round the corner’ customers – local customers have lower delivery costs so you can afford to make fairly aggressive offers to this group.

What sort of SMS messages work best?
Customers often ask us whether we have any example SMS messages that they can use as a template for their bulk SMS marketing campaigns.
Now obviously each restaurant needs to tailor the text message specifically for their own target market. There are however a few golden rules that can help you get the best possible response from your bulk text campaign.

Don’t Use Text Speak
Some of your target audience won’t mind ‘text speak’ at all but a good many of them will be infuriated by it! Text speak can be confusing and can project an unprofessional image.

Don’t Cram In Too Many Points?
A standard text is only 160 characters so don’t be tempted to crowbar in loads of offers. Keep it simple, concise and clear.

Tell Your Audience Who You Are.
This may seem an obvious point but don’t assume your audience will immediately know who the text is from. Within your account, you can change the sender name so that the customer knows who it’s from before the text is even opened.

Have A Strong ‘Call To Action’.
Make sure that you make it clear what you want the customer to do. Don’t just quote your phone number but ask the customer to dial it. E.g Call us now on 080012345678

Use An ‘Attention Grabber’
Try to start your text with an attention grabber that will arouse curiosity and compel the customer to read on. This is usually a single or couple of words, often in capitals. The word ‘news’ is particularly effective.

Can my customers reply to the texts that I send them?
Yes. Your Text Marketer account has a 2-way module that allows you to receive reply messages from your text campaigns.
In order to receive replies you need to have a unique keyword that is applied to your account. The customers then replies with the keyword as the first word of their reply text.

Responses are stored in you account and can be viewed live. You can also opt to have the responses e-mailed to you or sent to a URL if you wish.
Text Marketer will provide you with a text response number that you need to set as the sender name so that people can reply.

Example message sent from a 2-way account…

“….Fancy a pizza tonight? Call Pizza Land now  on 0123 4567890 or reply PIZZA to this text and we’ll call you back to take your order'”

To set up your account with 2-way, please contact us on 0117 205 0202. Setting up 2-way SMS can usually be completed in a couple of hours.

What time of day should I send my text campaigns?
The trick here is to time your message to coincide when most people are starting to think about their next meal. Although there’s no exact science with this, between 5pm and 6pm would seem to be about the right time.

I don’t want to ‘spam’ my customers, how often should I send them texts?
The frequency of your SMS promotions will largely depend on the type of customers that you are targeting. If you have customers that order from you once a week or more, then they would welcome a weekly offer. On the other hand, infrequent customers, who only order perhaps once every few months, would probably get annoyed with a weekly text. For these customers, a monthly SMS campaign is more appropriate.

How can I tell if my messages have been received?
For each campaign that you send, a delivery report is automatically created. This itemises all the mobile numbers that you sent to and provides an outcome against each one. (delivered, undelivered or pending.) Messages that have an ‘undelivered’ outcome indicate that the number you have tried to send to is incorrect or is no longer active.

You can remove the ‘undelivered’ numbers from your database so that you don’t send a message to inactive numbers again; this is a great way of cleansing your data and saving money on future campaigns.

How can my customers opt out from receiving further SMS promotions from my restaurant?
Allowing people to opt out from your SMS marketing campaigns is vital. There is nothing that will infuriate and alienate your customers more than making it hard work for them to unsubscribe from your text alerts.

Text Marketer have built an opt-out service into their standard SMS marketing account which is easy to use and comes free for every customer. There are no setup or monthly fees for either the standard account or for the opt-out system.

The opt-out system works using a keyword that the customer sends to a 5 digit short code. So an outbound text might end with the following…
‘to stop texts, reply STOP’

When the person sends their reply, their mobile number is then stored in a database within the customer account. Every time an outbound text campaign is sent, the system checks the opt-out list and removes any numbers that occur in the opt-out database. This means that if someone has opted out from receiving messages from you, your account will not allow any further messages to be sent to that number.

Can I put a text response option on my marketing and advertising campaigns?
Yes. If you give people the option, around 50% of them will choose to respond to your advertising and marketing by SMS.
You could create a simple text club that people can join by text. Joining might also give them entry into a free monthly prize draw.


Every month we’re giving away free meals for a year to 2 lucky winners. To enter the competition, simply text MEAL to 88802. (text charged at standard rate)

You will also be automatically entered into our free text club which gives you free news on all our exciting events and offers. GOOD LUCK!

Embracing mobile marketing as part of your strategy for growth makes perfect sense. It is low cost (3.2 pence + VAT per text) and you can test your SMS generates a response before rolling out a larger campaign. Most customers in catering and hospitality find that SMS marketing is so effective that they continue to use it as a vital route to generate new business.

Setting up an account is free and your account comes with 10 free text credits.

We’re always on hand to answer any queries you may have, or come up with ideas on how you might use SMS marketing as part of your strategy for increasing bookings. Please call us on 0117 205 0202, we’d love to hear from you.