Food for Thought – Is Your Restaurant Virtually Starving Online?

 
dinner plate

Food for Thought – Is Your Restaurant Virtually Starving Online?

Posted by GINGALLEY in Web Design on Jun 12, 2012

“I’m hungry. Really hungry. I just finished working on a client project and it’s almost 9pm. I have money. I love good food. I check online for places listed locally to me, and other than some franchise fast food places, nothing comes up. I head out looking for a decent bite to eat and almost everything looks closed. Then I start pulling into places that look open. “Sorry, kitchen’s closed,” I’m told.”

“I’m a doctor. I’m here to play golf with higher-ups from the hospital I work at. It’s 7pm and we’re jet-lagged and hungry. “Oh, let’s go over to this place near the hotel,” I suggest. I search the name on my smart phone and nothing comes up. “Oh well, let’s go anyway,”I said. Bad idea. Found out my boss is a vegan and the only vegetable they serve is French fries.”

“I’m a professional blogger and I write reviews about restaurants and food for several online and print publications. I heard about your place that opened a month ago. I drove out of town to come try your food and you had taped up a handwritten sign stating that you closed early that day. You have no website I can refer to. I wasted my time and gas. Hope that my frustration does not spill over into my review of your business.”

Do you hear these potential customers out there? Are you open on a Wednesday night and had only three customers since 5pm while the place across the street is packed? You know you serve really good food at a fair price. Who else knows? You had decided to purchase kitschy wall art instead of a website, didn’t you?

I have worked several years in the restaurant business when younger, and for the last 14 years helping customers get the marketing materials and online presence they need. I also love going out to eat, trying new things, and telling all my friends, family, and associates where the good places are.

restaurant-website

I find it shocking and annoying that so many restaurant owners fail to realize the importance of having a website. While it is entirely off-putting to have a hideous website (as many local places do – nonetheless it’s still better than having none at all). If your service is great, and your food is delicious, but your website sucks – that might be chasing away potential customers, but worse still is that you cannot be found online and have no information about your food listed.

Let’s face facts, it is just too easy and fast for customers to find out the information they need. They use their laptops, smart phones, tablets, and their computers at work to research the best restaurant to take their family or a date to.

Visitors who come here for the first time on vacation need to be able to find you and know what you serve. Locals need to know where you are and how you will feed them delightfully fresh and local food. People with special diet restrictions or food allergies also need to know if there is something for them at your restaurant.

The best way to attract customers and keep them coming back is with a professional restaurant website. If you have no website for your restaurant, it makes people think you just don’t care to be professional or helpful. It creates a feeling that you are just open to make a quick buck and will close down or sell it right away when the going gets a little tough.

Here are some “dos and don’ts” just for you…

Don’t:
  • NO! Facebook is NOT a substitute for a business website. While Facebook is a great tool for social interaction, it is not a website for your business. A business Facebook page should be posting links to your menus, specials, and events calendar from your website, not YELLING AT ME IN ALL CAPS that you have the same HAPPY HOUR SPECIALS as yesterday. Avoid the pitfalls of using a personal Facebook page as a Business page. This can make you look unprofessional and unknowledgeable. Also avoid simply posting ads about your restaurant without offering any additional information. Ask questions! Engage people! If your customers, or potential customers, are talking about the weather, mention how your food will cool them down, or warm them up. Offer relevant promotions related to the trending topics, and drive them back to your business website. Why not use just Facebook? Because Facebook could become obsolete while your website can always be there. Facebook often changes their settings and rules without any notice.
  • Please stop with the elaborate Flash intros and cheesy music! Not only does it frustrate visitors with long load times, but your website will not be viewable on many Apple products and search engines can’t index Flash intro pages well so you’re losing valuable built-in SEO. And no, visitors don’t love that moronic royalty-free keyboard loop you’ve got there.
  • Don’t skimp on the photos of your food. Avoid using stock food pictures. If what I order doesn’t look even close to the pictures on your website, I will not trust you in other things either. Create professional images that convey a professional business. Hire a professional. Your friend’s point and shoot camera with a flash will leave your food looking pale, bland, and unappetizing. The food is your most important product!

foursquare

Do:
  • Have a website designed that is mobile-friendly, clean, and informational. Let potential customers experience a taste of your service, atmosphere, and overall vibe through your online presence.
  • The most important things to include on your website are: Location Address, Business Hours, Phone Number, Email Address, Menus, Prices, Events, Information about the Owners and/or Chef, as well as Dietary Information.
  • Have a website designed that is mobile-friendly, clean, and informational. Let potential customers experience a taste of your service, atmosphere, and overall vibe through your online presence.
  • Showcase your Menus as HTML or a similar format. Potential customers can get irritated if they must download a PDF to see what you offer, while other folks may want to print out a PDF copy. Incorporating several file versions of your menu pleases more people.
  • Tell customers about your background and about your cooks and chefs. Why should anyone choose your restaurant over another? Where do you get your food? Offering fresh local food is always a great selling point.
  • Have clear photographs of your actual food. Period.
  • Allow customers to book reservations online, or request a quote for a banquet or for catering services.
  • Use keywords wisely. They are the words in your website that can open the doors for search engines to find your website. Once search engines can easily find your website, they make it easier for customers to find you.
  • Actively listen and engage with your customers to build your overall loyalty. Get involved and ask your customers to share their opinions of your food, service, and atmosphere. The information can be very useful in designing your next marketing campaign.
  • Reel in customers with proximity marketing to those who allow location detection on their phones. Proximity marketing lets customers get the best deals. Tech-savvy consumers can use the technology to shop around for specials, so let them know where you are and what you can offer. Proximity marketing includes services like Foursquare, in which users can opt in to receive localized promotions on their mobile devices from nearby restaurants. When a customer “checks in”, they can earn bragging rights as well as great deals.
  • Incorporate a mobile marketing campaign to give potential customers methods with which to interact with your restaurant in a new way. Uses incentives (such as coupon offers) to participants who text, scan QR codes, or send pictures. It is interactive. Some campaigns can be incorporated with the use of apps and add-ons.
  • Use Twitter to post helpful tips relevant to your food or special events. Don’t just shout and repeat the same thing over and over.
  • Contact GINGALLEY Web Design & Promotions for creation of your professional restaurant website and beautiful custom graphics. You’ll be in good hands.

Okay. I’m hungry again. I’ll be looking online for something good to eat. Will I find you there?

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