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How to Use Location-Based Mobile Marketing for Your Bar or Restaurant
by Rieva Lesonsky
May 6, 2022
Person holding cellphone with a screen pulled up for a food delivery order

If you’re not using location-based mobile marketing for your restaurant or bar, you’re missing out on a great way to communicate with customers. The number of people who use mobile phone messaging apps is expected to grow from 2 billion the last year 2018 to 2.2 billion in 2019 and hit 2.5 billion in 2021. As a generation raised on text messaging comes of age, mobile marketing will become even more valuable for small business owners.

Understanding Location-Based Mobile Marketing

Location-based mobile marketing uses geographic data about mobile phone users’ locations to send them messages that are relevant to their interests, intents, and location. For example, it could mean texting a promotional code for a free appetizer to a former customer who happens to be passing by your restaurant.

Businesses can use push notifications, text messages or in-app messaging (such as within Facebook Messenger) to communicate with customers who have signed up to receive such messages. (Getting customers’ permission is important.)

Mobile messaging technology can use “geofencing” to draw a perimeter around a certain area (say, within a one-mile radius of your restaurant) so you only send messages to people who enter the perimeter. This avoids mishaps like texting a customer about your lunch special when they’re 500 miles away on a business trip—something that’s more likely to annoy them than to get them into your eatery.

You can also use mobile messaging to greet customers as they walk in the door, thank them for coming back, and suggest menu items or drinks they might like. Even without an offer, such a message makes customers feel valued, helping boost their loyalty. (Just make sure your staff is as friendly as the message—you don’t want the customer to get a cheery greeting via text only to encounter a cold shoulder from the hostess.)

A related mobile messaging tactic, geo-conquesting, allows you to target customers when they’re within a certain range of your competition and send them messages. Are there two gastro-pubs in your city and you’re one of them? When customers approach your competition, send them an irresistible offer for your location, and you might just change their minds.

Making Location-Based Mobile Marketing Work for Your Bar or Restaurant

For successful location-based mobile marketing, follow these tips:

  • Appeal to customers’ appetites. Go beyond plain text: A tempting image of a menu item or specialty drink can sway the decision to visit.
  • Offer freebies. A free drink with dinner or a free appetizer with an entrée is usually more enticing to customers than a percentage off—and also benefits your bottom line because the diner is still spending full price on the meal.
  • Tailor your messages to the weather. An offer for hot soup on a cold day or an icy, refreshing cocktail in the heat of summer can push customers in your door.
  • Increase traffic during slow times. You probably don’t need more people in your bar on St. Patrick’s Day, but how about a random rainy Tuesday night? Use mobile messaging to fill seats during slow dayparts. Limited-time offers good for a two-hour window are a great way to attract customers when you need them.
  • Don’t overdo it. Message too often, or with offers of too little value, and customers may decide to unsubscribe. Look for a solution that allows you to track customer response so you can set the right messaging cadence for every customer based on the actions they take.

How to Use Location-Based Mobile Marketing

Do an online search to find companies that provide location-based mobile marketing services tailored to small businesses’ needs. You can also use existing instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger to communicate with your customers.

Larger small businesses (such as multi-location bars or restaurants) may want to invest in their own mobile app. For a restaurant, this can help grow your business by enabling quick and easy online ordering or even letting customers pay directly through the app.

About the author
Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog
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