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Text messages used to lure restaurant patrons on LI

With consumers getting deluged with e-mail from marketers, some Long Island restaurateurs are now turning to a new method of getting through to their customers: their cell phones.

Four Food Studio & Cocktail Salon in Melville asks customers to join their list of "valued guests" and provide their phone numbers used for making reservations along with their e-mail addresses. Promising "no spam," the restaurant wants to inform guests about special events - and those who sign up may win a free lunch.

"We're all looking for new ways to reach our guests," said restaurant co-owner Jay Grossman.

Grossman said print advertising and direct mail were costly and in some cases have lost effectiveness. "We're in the world of cell phones," he said.

He said the restaurant sends out text messages about once a month to promote events - such as Valentine's Day - to a list of several thousand phone numbers. The messages are limited to 160 characters; standard text messaging rates apply for the receiver.

Customers who don't want to get a text message can opt to be removed from the list, he said.

Amy Baglan, vice president of Ez Texting, the Manhattan company that Four Food Studio uses, said, "We have a very strict anti-spam policy."

Companies should only use numbers from customers who choose to opt-in to such a list, and someone who wants off a list can reply to the message with the words "opt-out," "remove" or "unsubscribe" by text message or e-mail, she said. A customer can also be removed by texting the word "stop" to Ez Texting's dedicated short code, 313131.

Brian Rosenberg, who owns a Long Island-based company that does marketing for restaurants, bars and nightclubs in the tristate area, said although it was more difficult to get a customer's cell phone than mailing address, mobile marketing goes "right to the eyes of the person you're trying to reach."

Rosenberg said nightclubs have previously been using mobile marketing, and it is now catching on with restaurants, such as Ciao Baby, with locations in Commack, Massapequa and Carle Place, and Coyote Grill in Island Park.

A restaurant light on reservations for the night could send out a message announcing a 50 percent discount on a famous dish or popular red wine, he said. "The reservations pour in after you do a text like that."

Also, he said customers could also show their cell phone text messages at the door to get a discount on a bottle of wine, for example.

While Grossman and Rosenberg say they take care not to send too many messages for fear of turning off potential customers, they believe one day it will be overused and marketers will need to find a new communication tool.

"I think it's certainly the method of the moment," Grossman said. "But, what's next?"

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