Mobile marketing is beginning to sound like the movie Minority Report, where pedestrians had their retinas scanned by computers as they walked by stores and voices addressed them by name and encouraged them to buy products tailored to their personal preferences. That would be scary, but it’s never gonna happen to me, right?

Surely you’ve seen TV ads asking you to text such and such to a number and receive deals or promos. The companies doing that kind of advertising get your number when you text, and use that to target you for future promos.

Seems like we’re getting warmer, Steven Spielberg.

Until recently, nobody in the food service industry was thinking about applying some of these new technologies to an old game: improving sales and customer retention.That’s changing, and one of the agents of change is Fishbowl Inc., a technology-based marketing company for the food service industry. The firm has built email and internet marketing campaigns for over 30,000 restaurants and is recommended by the National Restaurant Association. They recently expanded into mobile technology marketing, where new marketing techniques have revolutionized how restaurants reach their customers.

Scotty’s Brewhouse in Indiana increased to-go orders placed on the internet by 500% with a two-for-one promo that went out via email and applied only to those internet orders.

Smoothie King chain restaurant locations offer a free smoothie in exchange for a text message from customers.The cost of the smoothie is a fraction of the value of having that customer on an email and text list for future promos, and sales are up on promo days by 24%.

Jack-in-the-Box has even experimented with placing a small computer chip in special promo posters that communicates with mobile devices and alerts customers to local store locations and deals.

Maybe those retina scans aren’t that far off after all.

As marketing methodology improves using these new technologies, restaurants will be able to reach their customers in increasingly innovative ways. Building email and text number databases of customers will help connect customers and businesses and allow restaurants to improve sales in slow periods and maximize customer retention. Most importantly, restaurants can learn about their customers and cater more directly to their needs. Knowing what customers want when they want it is half the battle in any service industry, and especially in the food service industry.

Gregory Scott McGuire is a regular contributor to The Back Burner Blog, a resource of restaurant news and trends written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant equipment, supplies, and equipment parts

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