We’ve heard your feedback loud and clear – texting is an important way for you to communicate with your diners. So as you evaluate your choices around texting, we want to help you text responsibly.
Only your legal counsel can advise you on legal requirements, but it’s come to our attention that not all restaurants may have kept up with the changes in texting requirements. Here is some context and guidance to help you avoid violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a federal law that created strict rules around texting, and incurring steep fines if you break those rules.
Transactional Text Tips
For transactional texts, prior consent from the diner is required. For in-house reservations or waitlist requests, your host can get consent when the reservation or waitlist request is made by simply asking for the diner’s number and having them agree to receive text updates and reminders about the reservation or waitlist request. Note that reservation text updates and reminders are only available in GuestCenter.
Marketing Text Tips
For marketing texts, you need prior written consent from the diner. Marketing texts, about things like menu specials, require written consent from the diner, which cannot be granted verbally. Further, texting capabilities within OpenTable products are in no way intended to be used for marketing texts.
What’s the Difference?
An example of a transactional text is: “Your reservation for 2 is booked at Restaurant Nova on August 8 at 7PM. Reply 1 to confirm or 9 to cancel.” An example of a marketing text is: “We have $1 oysters during happy hour.” If you combine the two texts into a single message that reminds the diner of their reservation and tells them about your oyster special, that qualifies it as a marketing text — one you should shy away from sending.
The Risks of Getting It Wrong
So what’s the big deal if you make a mistake when texting a diner? You won’t just have an annoyed diner on your hands; fines are high if legal requirements aren’t met — the penalty range can be between $500 and $1,500 per text. As a result, class action attorneys have become focused on texting. Plaintiffs have gone so far as obtaining numerous cell phones so they can attract errant texts. Businesses big and small have been stung by lawsuits over texting. And whether you win or lose, it’s still your time and money, so it just makes good business sense to be extra buttoned up in the first place.
If you choose to use texting for diners who walk in or are in-house bookings, please ensure your team understands how to text responsibly. Ultimately it is up to the sender of the text to prove consent was obtained. If you need advice about legal requirements around texting, please consult your legal counsel. If you have any questions about our products and texting capabilities, please contact your OpenTable Restaurant Relations Manager.