mobile marketing

Mobile marketing for restaurant and foodservice operators

By Diane Chiasson
Mobile marketing seems to be the new hot topic for restaurant and foodservice operators around the world, but like social media and other new technological trends, there seems to be a lot of talk but not that many restaurant operators have taken it up.

A lot of these new trends are targeting a younger generation – those who use their smartphones to run their lives as opposed to those who own a cell phone just to make calls.

A recent report revealed that 40 per cent of consumers use their smartphones to research restaurants, while 25 per cent of smartphone users have used a dining or restaurant app at least once a month.

Although location-based marketing is still in its infancy stage, it is expected to explode over the next few years. Some of the benefits include an increase in repeat customer visits, gaining new customers and spreading word-of-mouth awareness. It is also an inexpensive way to do marketing.

So will you be jumping on the bandwagon or not?

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, is the president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consulting firm in Toronto that specializes in helping its clients increase business and sales, offers some advice on whether or not your restaurant or foodservice operation would benefit from mobile marketing:

1. Understand the technology

The world of mobile marketing is complicated, and there are several tactics that can be used – from simple local advertising to more complex location detection using GPS. It can include texting a message or a coupon to a cell phone, offering incentives for location-based activities such as visiting a restaurant multiple times, provide social events and meet-ups based on physical location, or share location-based information with others in a social network.

One tactic is to allow your customers to “check in” at your restaurant, giving you presence on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. Customers check in and tell their friends where they are, thereby promoting your restaurant. In return, they earn rewards and discounts from your business.

Another application that allows you to get in touch with your customers is via the mobile network, whereby the customer’s mobile service provider delivers offers, rewards and coupons to their subscribers based on their specific geographic location.

Text message marketing is similar to email marketing, but more immediate. The redemption rate of mobile coupons is also nearly 25 per cent higher than coupons printed off the Internet, and exponentially higher than coupons received in the mail or from a newspaper, at a fraction of the cost. Text message marketing can also create more meaningful relationships with your customers. However, since it is permission-based, you need to make sure that you give your customers a good reason to opt-in and receive your deals.

Another tactic is via GPS built into smartphones. For example, a customer who has opted-in to your restaurant’s mobile marketing plan walks by and will instantly receive a text-message inviting him in for an immediate reward.

2. Take a survey of your customers

Find out whether or not your regular customers would be interested in receiving text messages from your restaurant for coupons and other deals. Ask them if they would be willing to “check in.”  You can conduct this survey using your customer database in several different ways – using comment cards, point-of-sales materials or on your website. Or you can simply talk to your customers when they visit your restaurant in person. There is no point in embarking on a whole new business model if your customers will not use it.

3. Are you willing to commit?

Location, social and mobile marketing are very tightly connected and can comprise several different types of operations like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowolla, Google Places, and many more. You must be able to manage communications across all of these applications for your mobile marketing plan to work properly. You must fully commit to constant updating in order to stay relevant in the minds of your customers, but in order to do so, you must be able to find the time to do it, or hire the appropriate staff to do it for you. There are, however, several new companies emerging that will handle all your social media and mobile marketing updates for you if you find you don’t have the time or technological background to do it.

4. What’s the competition like?

Be sure to check out your closest competitors to see if they are already using any mobile marketing techniques. Like any other marketing plan or trend, consumers can easily become saturated with text messages, deals and offers, and become overwhelmed by it all.

5. Determine your goals

Next, you need to determine what you want to accomplish with mobile marketing. Do you want to increase foot traffic to your restaurant, sell more of a particular item, more patrons for lunch or dinner, new customers, repeat customers, or all of the above? To be effective, you need to set specific objectives and work the mobile marketing tactics to help you reach your targeted goals.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto.  Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, or visit

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