It’s frustrating to search for a restaurant or be told about somewhere special only to find they don’t have a site, you can’t make an online reservation, you don’t know when they’re open or what’s on the menu. This is especially trying when travelling, but even in one’s local city where there are lots of choices, we’ll simply choose some place else to eat.
The restaurant industry is probably the least connected business segment today, especially when it comes to those that are independent or family owned and run. There are thousands, and yet a large percentage continue to limp along with either no web presence at all, or a web 1.0 site created by a nephew trying out his programming skills. The sites are generally not mobile friendly, and they often do not include the basic information required to engage and inform the potential customer. For those with no website at all, relying on blogs and community sites like Yelp and Chowhound to do the talking for you is not a great strategy. You keep your neon sign lit, so perhaps you should consider lighting up a website.
Without a mobile presence, restaurants risk diminishing customer traffic
In a day when mobile search is skyrocketing, restaurants that are set up for the web and for mobile are going to emerge the winners. Sure, word of mouth and street signs will continue to play a role, but not having a mobile web presence will literally run restaurants out of the game, regardless of how good their food and service is. It’s really that simple.
The research is clear
Research clearly shows that restaurants represent the number one search category for mobile devices. By a long shot. Another study indicates that 90% of those searching for restaurants go out and eat (conversion) within the day of the search, 64% within the hour.
And yes, beyond the website, having great reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Chowhound and Google also plays a key role in the survival of the restaurant, more than ever. The difference between a 3- or 4-star rating on Yelp is worth significant customer traffic, and can easily mean the difference between a flourishing business and one that’s shuttering up. Earn a 2-star rating and you might as well start driving an Uber. The web can turn the tides of a restaurant virtually over night, a lot faster than word of mouth or the Yellow Pages of the past ever could.
Here are 7 things to consider when getting your restaurant website started
- People are searching from their mobile device for places to eat. The larger the city, the more this happens, and the more important it is to be found. You cannot rely on Yelp or other community site to do the work for you. You need your own web presence that works on a mobile device.
- It’s easy to get started. You can do it yourself, or find a friend who is web savvy. There are sites available that provide templated solutions. Sure, they might not be perfect, but neither is what you have today. Check out https://www.letseat.at/ for a great place to start. Let’s Eat provides templates and everything you need to get online quickly. If you don’t want to use a canned solution, and pay a monthly fee, there are other great options like WordPress you can easily use to create your site. WordPress offers a full solution for restaurant site creation and maintenance, making this perhaps the most affordable and simple solution available.
- If you’re creating from scratch, here are some things you need to have on your site. The guiding principle here is to minimize information-seeking calls and maximize reservations and traffic:
- Location information including phone number, complete address, days/hours of operation, area map or embedded Google map, dress code.
- If you accept reservations, connect with one of the online providers. Open Table is the most common one.
- Offer your complete menu. If you have more than one menu, or a cocktail list, or a special whiskey list, include them all, and include all of it, not just a sampling. Include your pricing. Hiding your pricing automatically suggests you’re expensive. There is no benefit to hiding your prices; if people can’t afford your food, there’s no point in surprising them when they arrive. And people will simply make another choice if you choose to hide relevant information.
- Ensure the site is mobile friendly. As stated, this is paramount in today’s world, especially in this category. Your contact information needs to be readily available; mobile users need to easily click on your phone number to call you, or easily create an online reservation.
- Your site needs to load quickly, so ditch the bells and whistles. Sure, showcase your food if you want, that’s what the gallery is for. Once someone hits your homepage, deliver the goods – a picture, your contact information, a reservation app, and links to menus, contact, directions, days/hours of operation. You’ve got history? Great, but don’t strut it all out on the home page. This page needs to load quickly, especially on a mobile device. It needs to have a clean look, with obvious links to key information.
- Create a mailing list so you can email regulars about specials and other offers. This rarely happens in the restaurant industry, and it’s a big miss. Building your list is simple – offer a 10% coupon to be emailed upon registration, valid for the next 6 months. You’ll drive new customers to your restaurant, and you’ll have the ability to email them in the future. Reservations are low for Friday night? Fire off an email to your regulars and offer them a free cocktail or appetizer when they make and keep a reservation. The options are endless, so start creating a list today.
- You need to prioritize your efforts against online activity. So if you have limited time/resources, spend the time where you’ll get your biggest bang. Here’s a list in order of priority:
- Web presence that’s mobile friendly. We already covered this, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate the fact that this is the most important thing you can be doing.
- Follow up on the online reviews you receive, thanking customers for positive ones, and rectifying situations that created inferior experiences. People will find you on these sites long before they check out your social media activity, so be sure you look like you care about your customers on sites where potential customers are going. You can monitor your online presence through Google alerts, or other professional tracking services. Here you can find an article with a list of options.
- If you still have time, consider getting involved in other social media like Facebook and Twitter. For restaurants and bars running promotions and incentives on a regular basis, these sites are great for promoting what’s happening while driving customer traffic.
No industry is further behind, and in more desperate need of web development and digital marketing, than that of the restaurant industry. This is a world-wide problem (from the customer’s point of view) while representing a great opportunity for the independent restaurant owner. With mobile usage continuing to surge, restaurants that are fully engaged will reap the benefits, while those that aren’t will surely fall by the wayside over time.