Despite the fact that 89% of US consumers research a restaurant online before dining there to check out menus and other information (AIS Media), I found some astonishing figures about restaurants:
- 95% of independent restaurants do not have a mobile website
- 40% do not have menus that can be read online
- 50% do not even have a standard website
(Research conducted by RIMS) According to the National Restaurant Association, 50% of all full-service restaurants that have a web site use it primarily to offer consumers information about the restaurants and provide location details. This, I believe, is insufficient for customers who want to do everything online, from looking up restaurant locations on maps, checking out menus, reading customer reviews to booking tables online. With that in mind, here are some tips for restaurateurs planning to develop their websites to attract a lot more foodies online.
- Make the website simple and logical
Keep the design simple, without any clutter. The information should be easily available to customers to help them make a quick decision.
Flash might give your website a jaw-dropping look, but it makes the pages take a long time to open and this delay could cost you customers. Secondly, it is not that search engine-friendly, so it will not rank as well compared to other sites. Don't forget to use colors effectively. For example, red and orange are considered warm colors and used in many restaurant websites and décor.
- Focus on navigation
Most potential customers visit restaurant websites to find hours of operation, phone numbers to make reservations and directions to locations. Therefore, it is a good idea to have answers to these queries on your homepage. Having a map image means customers get directions before they have even asked for them! A restaurant website is an excellent vehicle to collect the email addresses of potential customers, foodies and amateur chefs who would like to subscribe to your newsletters to get interesting recipes and tips, event updates and promotions. As noted by the consumer survey conducted by BizGrader, 60% of consumers feel more loyal to a restaurant when participating in their email club. People who opt in or subscribe will probably turn out to be your biggest brand ambassadors, helping to spread the word about your upcoming wine festival or holiday dinner! Don't miss the opportunity—be sure to have an email subscription form on your homepage.
- Update content frequently
The other night I looked up a restaurant where I wanted to meet friends. The menu page on the site was an image and could not be copied to entice them with my invitation. The biggest annoyance, though, was that the online menu listed a dessert that sounded right up my alley: cheesecake with wild berry coulis. But when I arrived, I learned the dish was not available because it was a seasonal dessert. So my excitement turned to disappointment and turned the experience to a negative one. Needless to say, it's not likely I will visit this restaurant again because I have many other options.
- Highlight special offers
79% of consumers are very likely to frequent the restaurant when they receive coupons or specials (BizGrader consumer survey). Based on this fact, doesn't it make sense to promote special events and promotions on your homepage? Your customers might be looking for a place to eat today. It helps to let them know that you'll have promotions in the future too. This way, you might turn a casual browser into a regular customer.
- Make the website mobile-friendly
Many seasoned professionals in the hospitality industry forget the fact that their potential customers look up restaurants and bars on their smartphones. They happen to be in a neighborhood and are searching for a nearby place to grab a bite to eat or have a cocktail. Sure, they might go to Google or Yelp first to find out what's close, but when they link to your site, they want sample menus, a phone number they can click on through their phone to reserve a table and an address they can copy and text to their friends.
- Use the power of social media
"Social media is the best way for a brand to truly connect with customers," says Eric Casaburi, owner of Let's YO Yogurt. You can use the power of this media by integrating on your website and including social sharing buttons. Let customers pass along information and promotions to friends by liking your Facebook page or tweeting about you. With recommendations from people they follow, there's a much better chance these virtual fans will become real patrons of your restaurant!
Now, it is your turn to share how you have made the most of your restaurant website. If you don't have a website or are not employing all these tips, don't wait to get started or make improvements! Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org