How SMS Texting Can Help Save Thanksgiving for Restaurants
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve begun taking pause when it comes to big, crowded celebrations. Even now, several years since the start of it all, many of us still envision a Thanksgiving closer to home that may be more low-key than celebratory dinners in the past. And the good news is that local restaurants can fill a void — and generate revenue — by creating bespoke Thanksgiving experiences for their customer base.
SMS Marketing For Restaurants Engages Customers for Thanksgiving & Beyond!
Whether it’s meal kits, takeout, or a socially distant in-house experience, use texting to let customers know about plans. A holiday texting plan also allows you to create engaging, interactive content and adapt based on feedback.
A quick pulse survey sent by text doesn’t lock you into a plan — but can begin a conversation and allow you to quickly assess what page your customers are on. Enabling 1-on-1 Chat can also be a way to directly encourage comments about potential plans. For example, would customers feel comfortable dining in for a special Thanksgiving meal? Are there any precautions that would make them more comfortable, such as offering curbside pickup, contactless delivery, or temperature checks? It can also help you decide whether your customers would respond to a specialized Thanksgiving menu on the day of the holiday or may be interested in special events during the days surrounding the holiday.
Holidays can be great times to create even more engagement with your customers. A robust text message strategy for restaurants can be used to reach out to past customers through surveys, contests, and coupons. Invite loyal customers to engage with your restaurant by launching a contest. Have people tag the restaurant or invite friends to follow the account for a chance to win a Thanksgiving package. Have a “Thankful Thursdays” campaign where you have a loyal customer code word for a portion off their bill or a free drink or dessert on the house. Your imagination is the limit to the campaigns you can introduce.
Segmenting your contact list can also help you create a dynamic campaign that speaks to multiple customer bases. Gauge success by launching the campaign to those most likely to engage, such as your most loyal customers. Based on their response, you can tweak and calibrate as you open the program to your larger list.
You want to reduce the number of no-shows, minimize leftover ingredients, and ensure that your staff isn’t overwhelmed during the lead-up to the event. Enabling 1-on-1 Chat before the event gives you a chance to respond to questions, set up a reservations system, and provide a way for customers to contact you if there are any errors or questions in a delivery or pickup order.
Texting is more efficient and less error-prone than depending on the phone alone. While you can always pick up the phone to work through a complicated question, staff can handle multiple text requests at once, and you can templatize responses so that the entire staff is on the same page when it comes to FAQs such as COVID-19 policies or menu items. It can also be a quick way to reach out to those with reservations. For example, is inclement weather making outdoor dining an impossibility? Let people know fast and share alternate plans, such as an option to pick up a packed meal to go.
Create Pop-Up Opportunities and Partnerships
From post-Thanksgiving specials to partnerships with local organizations, texts enable you to be nimble and share information quickly. Text can also be a great way to stress Thanksgiving's "giving" element. For example, maybe you’ve partnered with a local nonprofit and plan to donate proceeds or items to them for the holidays. To encourage your customers to participate, you could send your customers SMS texts announcing the special partnership, like “(Surf Turf) We’re partnering with VA Food Pantry. Dine with us this Thanksgiving weekend, and 20% of all proceeds will go toward this local organization!”
Sharing this information with your customer base can encourage them to learn more about the organization or give more. These partnerships anchor you to the community and remind your customers who your business is and what it stands for — especially in these uncertain times.
Start a Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs offer great ways to get your customers into your restaurant—and to keep them coming back. Consider creating a VIP program that grants your customers reward points every time they dine with you. Once they hit a certain number of points, reward them with VIP discounts or free meals to show your appreciation. Then, to encourage them to come in for special occasions like Thanksgiving, offer double (or triple!) the points so they reach their goals faster.
For instance, you could send an SMS text to your customers promoting your loyalty program and incentivizing them to dine at your restaurant on or around the holiday. An example message might say, “(BBQ Inn) Thanksgiving is coming up! Dine with us anytime now through Nov. 30 & earn double the Loyalty Reward points! Every 100 points = a free appetizer!” Or, “(Z Pies) Happy Thanksgiving! Dine with us this weekend to triple your VIP loyalty points and earn special discounts for your next meal with us!”
Make Reservations and Reminders Available via SMS Text
Organizing and hosting a Thanksgiving feast can be stressful, and that’s why so many often prefer to dine out on the holiday. To help ease any lingering stress, offer online reservations and reminders via text.
This provides a hassle-free way for customers to arrange their Thanksgiving gathering at your restaurant. They can simply text and interact with your reservation system, so they don’t have to fuss over making phone calls, playing phone tag with your staff, or visiting your restaurant in person.
When your customers make Thanksgiving reservations through your SMS system, you can automatically send them reminders and updates. Not only does this prevent your staff from making countless phone calls, but it also helps keep your reservations top of mind for your customers. Furthermore, you can confirm that your customers are still planning to attend their reservations while providing them with cancellation and rescheduling options to ensure your staff can best accommodate their needs.
For example, a reminder SMS text to your customers might say, “(Lulu’s Dining) Liz, we’re excited to see you tomorrow, Nov. 23, at 6 PM Respond C to confirm, X to cancel, or R to reschedule. Happy Thanksgiving!”
Offer Takeout and Delivery Promos
Not everyone wants to dine out for Thanksgiving. After all, some may want to isolate, while others prefer to gather around their dinner tables. To accommodate those customers’ preferences and encourage them to order from your restaurant, offer discounts and promos for takeout and delivery on or around Thanksgiving.
Sending SMS texts is one proven way to get the word out about your special offers. For instance, you could provide promo codes to use during the holiday weekend or offer discounts when they order during a special time slot. A sample promo message could read, “(Nick’s) We’re offering 20% off all takeout and deliveries during the holiday weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. Use promo code THANKFUL now through Nov. 26!”
Promote Last-Minute Availability
Did a big party cancel at the last minute? Or do you still have a bunch of open reservations available on Thanksgiving evening? If so, this is a great opportunity to promote these open tables to help get them filled.
To master this approach, you’ll want to create a sense of urgency while showcasing the coveted opportunity of snagging one of these tables on a busy holiday like Thanksgiving.
Consider sending an SMS text to your customers, saying, “(Shoreside) Still looking for the perfect place to dine on Thanksgiving? We only have a few tables left. Hurry up and reserve yours today!”
To further sweeten the deal, you could even offer a discount or freebie to get your customers to fill up those last few tables. For example, you might send an SMS message saying, “(Pete’s Grille) Mark, we have just a few tables left for Thanksgiving dinner! Reserve yours today, and we’ll treat you to a free appetizer!”
Drive More Engagement Using SMS Texting for Restaurants This Thanksgiving!
Engagement Holidays like Thanksgiving provide an excellent time to play with your marketing efforts to help boost customer engagement, raise brand awareness, and increase sales. Leverage EZ Texting this holiday season to drive engagement with your audience and smash your year-end marketing goals. Happy texting!