While most people are aware that takeaway food can rarely be classed as ‘healthy’, it’s clear that the UK has a bit of an obsession with it. According to a 2013 study from VoucherCodes.co.uk, the average Brit spends around £110 every month to get their fast food fix – more than they spend on fresh produce, in fact.

Whether it’s a chicken chow mein from the local Chinese or pepperoni pizza delivered by one of the major international brands splashed across our TV screens, it seems we just can’t resist.

Fast food – A challenging industry

As is usually the case when demand grows rapidly, the number of takeaway outlets in the UK has rocketed in recent years. It now just takes a quick walk through any typical high street to enjoy a thorough world tour of cuisines. Put simply, these shops are everywhere. To call it market saturation would be an exaggeration as there’s little sign of demand falling any time soon, but businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. When lowering prices is no longer enough, what’s the next step?

The quick answer to this question would be to improve customer experience, and it’s becoming apparent that companies in the industry are relying heavily on one thing to help them achieve this: technology.

Digital dining

While hungry Brits don’t always have access to touchscreen menus like their Japanese counterparts, the digital revolution has certainly had an effect on the fast food industry. The biggest example of this has to be online ordering. We can buy everything else over the internet, why not food? It’s not just major businesses like Pizza Hut and Papa John’s getting involved either – thanks to the existence of aggregation sites, independent firms can also grab a pizza the action. These services are massively popular too – Just-Eat.co.uk, one of the biggest examples, now receives 3.2 million visits every month.

Convenience for both parties isn’t the only benefit that comes with this new trend; online orders also allow businesses to generate huge amounts of data on their customers – data which can be put to great use with the help of SMS.

A perfect fit

Every business has to focus on its customers, but this is especially important for those in the hospitality and catering industries. It’s for this reason that SMS marketing is particularly good fit for profit-hungry food firms.

For a start, loyalty is a big thing for British consumers, especially when it comes to eating. Once someone has found an outlet that serves the food they like at a price that suits them, they’re likely to return time and time again. Of course, convenience is key here, so location will have a part to play. Customer service is another important factor, so relationships must be built over time. In this sense, texting can be a great tool – it gives shop owners the means to stay in touch with regular customers, providing timely reminders that their business is ready to serve when the time to dine arrives.

Hitting the target

While cost is one of fast food’s biggest selling points already, consumers will always appreciate the chance to save more money. Takeaways have capitalised on this in a way that no other industry can match – whether it’s leaflets through the letterbox, adverts on the TV or posters in store windows, notices of special offers can be found all over the place. SMS is similar to these methods but it has some unique targeting capabilities.

Helping businesses to reach the right people is one of text marketing’s specialities. Using the information gathered via online and phone orders, it’s possible for fast food outlets to increase the effectiveness of their promotional messages. Coupons and promotional codes can be sent, via SMS, to those who are most likely to respond in the intended way.

It’s up to the individual company as to how customers are categorised, but some of the common recipient groups could be:

The loyal ones: Your regular customers are likely to respond to enticing offers if you reach them at the right time. This group might also appreciate extra discounts as a reward for their loyalty.

Late eaters: Takeaways operate at all hours these days, and there are plenty of people who tend to order in the dead of night. Texts could be sent to these people as darkness starts to set in, offering post-midnight deals.

The early birds:  Just like the previous group, early birds have certain times when they prefer to eat; this time it’s just on the earlier side. Reach them by SMS just before they finish work on a Friday, highlighting savings on orders before 7pm.

The locals: Using previous delivery details, determine the customers who live closest. It might be possible to appeal to them by texting collection-only deals.

Instant success

Another benefit that SMS has over other direct marketing methods is speed. Nine out of every ten texts are opened and read within three minutes of being received. Fast food is a quick-moving business – people don’t research or think too much about their purchases – so catching them in the right moment will be essential. This simply isn’t possible using an email or a flyer through the post.

With mobile orders also growing in popularity, a link can even be sent in a message and opened instantly by the recipient. It could take them directly to the site, with the discount code already entered into the order page.

SMS marketing has a clear place in most industries these days, but it can be particularly effective for takeaway businesses. Everything about the typical ordering process and the tendencies of British diners fits in perfectly with this simple technology, making it way too useful for businesses to ignore.