Some of this may sound like common sense, but it’s surprising to discover how many restaurants aren’t taking full advantage of the modern internet. Many of the best local restaurants have a minimal online presence and often one that appears to have been unchanged for decades. The reality is, just having a web page isn’t enough anymore. There’s a wealth of the digital power tools available on the internet, often for free. This blog will discuss 8 ways that we believe restaurants can utilize some of those tools for maximum return.
That’s right. It can’t stand alone anymore, but it’s still part of the team. The site should be clean, easy to navigate, and worth the click. Debut your new menu items and interact with your customers through games, movies, and online discounts. Make the content on your site easy to share on social media and start sharing it.
A Google Places Page
I can’t stress enough how important this is. If your restaurant doesn’t have a Google Places page, you might as well be located on a deserted island. Google Places is a consumer’s portal to your business. This will likely grow in importance with the merging of personal computers and smart phones. People are searching on the go, and when they’re looking for food recommendations, you’d better believe they’ve been searching online. A Google Places page puts your business in the palm of the consumer’s hand, allowing them to call and place an order, make reservations, get directions, and even leave feedback all in the same place. Not taking advantage of that service is a missed opportunity.
Include prices! People usually have a price point in mind when looking online for a place to eat. Even if your restaurant MIGHT be too expensive for their tastes at the time, if you don’t have your prices listed, they’ll probably just skip you and move onto the next place. If your prices are listed, they might remember you next time they’re looking for a fancier place in the neighborhood. Just make sure you keep it up to date. You wouldn’t give someone an outdated menu in your restaurant. Why would you do it online?
Hours of Operation
Seems pretty straight forward, right? Wrong. It’s unbelievable how many local restaurants forget to list contact information on their site. Don’t be one of them! Make sure your information is readable, correct, and on every page. It’s also important to keep accessibility in mind.
A Profile on Social Media
Ok, so this might be more than one thing, but at least participate with the big boys. Remember, this is a chance to develop lasting relationships with your customers, not just to promote your specials. Not to discourage that activity, just don’t make that the only activity. You need to give people some added value or they won’t follow you. Interacting with your customers online can mean the difference between “That guy owns the place” and “Have you met Steve? He owns this place. We come here all the time.” Restaurants should pay extra attention to Yelp. Monitor what people are saying about your establishment and react accordingly. Don’t just get angry when someone posts a bad review! Respond to them with an apology (maybe a free meal?) and FIX THE PROBLEM. Your business thrives on happy customers and word spreads fast online, good or bad. Do your best to make sure the buzz is positive.
If your restaurant specializes in (or offers) carryout, your web site needs to have online ordering. It’s easy, convenient, and it saves you and your employees a ton of work (and money). Think of it this way: Customers who order online do the work for you and often pay by credit card in advance! No more are the days of preparing food for customers who don’t show up. Well, maybe they won’t show, but at least this time it didn’t come out of your pocket. Also, having the customer put in their own order can reduce the chance of missing or wrong items. That’s a win for both parties.
Being a pretty busy fellow, I often live and die by my calendar. Imagine if I could go to my favorite restaurant’s Google Places page, make a reservation for that night and have it synced to the calendar on my phone automatically. That’s a good day.