Running a restaurant often means operating on razor thin margins, hoping you staffed the day correctly, and working long hours, even on holiday’s and weekends. Yeah- it’s a lot different than what they show on TV.
In an ultra-competitive industry, like the restaurant business, any advantage you can get could mean the difference between profit and loss. It could mean you could finally get that freezer fixed, or update the worn-out booths.
It could mean the difference between taking vacation or shutting the doors.
So how can you get an advantage in this market? What will help you consistently keep butts in seats?
Give the people what they want. Access & information.
Do people even visit restaurant websites?
While you may think your Yelp, Zamato, or Google listing is enough for hungry visitors- the truth is those directory sites are not very user friendly.
There’s no clear way to see your menu, the hours (and sometimes even the address) are unreliable, the review system is not always truthful, and the companies that run these directories aren’t there to help you- they are there to get your advertising dollars.
According to Go Digital Marketing, 89% of visitors research a restaurant online before visiting in person. This includes people who have been to your restaurant before.
So, which restaurant will they choose? I mean anytime I go out to eat with my wife we spend 10 minutes asking each other “what sounds good” with no clear answer. This often leads to one of us picking up our phone and tasking Google to find “food near me”.
It’s the place that stands out in that search that usually gets our business.
While fully understanding how Google determines which restaurants it will show the searcher, the underlying foundation is Google is always going to give favor to any business who gives extra attention to their online presence.
Below are the 5 key things you need to know that help keep busy restaurants turning tables night after night.
Social media is not optimized for search.
I’ve preached about the pitfalls of relying on social media until I’m blue in the face- yet still I hear people say “We have a Facebook, that’s good enough”.
Well, you’re just dead wrong.
I could list a whole number of reasons why that’s a uneducated statement (like the fact that not everyone is on Facebook, and that number is actually getting lower) but for a restaurant the most important fact is that social media is not made for search engine results.
Don’t believe me? Go to Google and type “restaurant near me” or you can even get more specific and type in “barbecue restaurant near me” (or swap it our for your cuisine and town).
Now examine the results. Google shows about 10 organic results on the 1st page (along with some paid ads and the local map pack). Out of those 15 or so results, how many are social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter?
My research shows less than 10%, but feel free to compare notes.
That means if you’re operating on a ‘social media only’ strategy, you’ve now decreased your chances of being found by over 90%. I doubt that was your intention.
A website, that’s properly produced, automatically has more authority in Google’s eyes. This dramatically increases your business’ chance of landing on the first page. And if you’re not on the first page, you might as well not exist.
A website gives you complete control.
There’s nothing worse than an angry customer who loves to leave bad reviews, or post photos that are, let’s say, “less than appetizing”. But the truth is, it’s going to happen. And those bad reviews can leave a distinct impression on the 89% of patrons who are looking you up online. Having your own website gives you complete control over every aspect of how your business can be represented. Positive reviews, professional photos, updated & accurate menus, and directions that actually lead to your door (damn you, Waze!). The point is, on your website YOU decide what impression visitors will have about your restaurant, not some troll who loves nothing more than leaving a bad review. The impression that a online visitor gets will no doubt shape their opinion on your establishment, what do you want that to be?
You can give people exactly what they want.
One of the common mistakes I see with any business building a website is that they make it for themselves. In actuality, your website is not for you- it’s for your customers (or potential customers).
That is the only audience your website should serve.
So, what DO people want? When it comes to a restaurant, visitors are looking for 4 main things. These should be easily accessible and optimized for search engines.
#1 – Your menu.
People want to see what sounds good in the moment, and having you menu online is crucial. While you think the shortcut of uploading a pdf copy of your printed menu should do- don’t!
First, search engines like Google cannot crawl your pdf, which means you actually will never rank for any of your unique dishes. And most importantly they are a complete nightmare for customers to use.
Have you ever pulled up that pdf on your phone? Pinching, zooming, scrolling- all to try and find what you’re looking for. This is bad user experience, and leads to people hitting the “back” button almost immediately.
#2 – Your Address.
This might seem obvious, but if you still have that tab open from your Google search earlier, go through a few of those restaurant’s websites and see how quickly you can find their address. If it’s longer than 3 seconds- you’ve lost most visitors.
Your address is crucial in the decision-making process for your customer. Don’t make them search for it. Make sure it’s clear and easy to find.
#3 – Your Phone Number.
While the phone can be a hassle on a busy day, it’s an important touch-point with your customer. A well designed website can help limit the number of calls, but there are still going to be folks who just rather pick up the phone rather than read through your content.
Make sure wherever your phone number is listed it’s set for “click to call” for mobile devices. Mobile users are likely around 80% of your visitors and it’s such a pain to try and copy and paste, remember, switch back and forth between your website and their phone app, or (heaven forbid) write down your number in order to dial.
Click-to-call simply means your visitor can tap your phone number with their finger and their phone app will pop up with your number pre-populated. It’s standard practice now in 2019.
#4 – Your Hours.
Help avoid the customers who walk in 2 minutes before closing by making sure your hours are front and center. Not only will this keep the kitchen staff sane, it will make visitors more confident that you’ll be there when they arrive.
Sure- many of these things can be accomplished with the aforementioned directory sites, but they are often filled with inaccurate information, hard to navigate, and a pain to update when things change.
Hosting all this information on your own website gives you a central hub for all the up-to-date, important information.
Promote your catering services.
It’s likely your business is more than just your dine-in menu. Many restaurants actually make a significant portion of their income (and higher profits) on catering events.
A website gives you the opportunity to optimize for these services, which is important because you are marketing to a whole different crowd.
People looking to have an event catered aren’t searching for a restaurant- they are searching for a caterer. Even your most loyal regulars may have not thought about you as on option.
Most restaurants fail to understand how this market is different, and forget how crucial it can be.
Along with strategic calls to action and great placement of your catering page on your website, it’s imperative to have a landing page dedicated to your catering services.
Having a optimized page about all your catering options puts you in the running for booking more events. No one is ever going to book you if they can’t find your information, or realize that you provide catering services.
A website is a trust indicator.
While we all love a good hidden gem, the truth is the human brain is wired to limit risk. While the risk of having a bad meal isn’t something that will have a significant impact on someone’s life, it’s still something most would rather avoid.
A modern website is an instant boost to your credibility and ultimately how much someone trusts there going to receive a good meal.
Think about it this way… your online presence is your digital version of your storefront. If you let the bushes grow out of control, your sign fade, and your facade get caked with dirt that’s not really a good impression for drivers-by.
Your website works in the same way. If someone lands on your page and sees an obviously outdated site they will (at least subconsciously) worry that you’re not invested in your business. And if YOU’RE not invested why should they invest?
Not only does this trust work with real-life human beings- trust is also crucial to Google.
Google’s job, at the end of the day, is to provide the most accurate and reliable results to every query they receive. This means Google likes to mitigate risk too.
Websites that are kept up to date, free from errors, regularly updated with fresh content, and fully secure get a big boost of confidence with the world’s #1 search engine.
When Google can determine that you have all the right things in place, they are more confident putting you in their results.
Why are restaurants not figuring this out?
Out of all the industries there are, restaurants (on average) actually do some of the worst job of promoting themselves online.
And that’s really a shame. Other industries would KILL to get the kind of search volume food-related items have.
It’s imperative that I can provide a return on investment (ROI) when I build a website, and that’s not always easy to do. However, providing a return for a restaurant is about like taking candy from a baby.
With a fairly simplistic, but highly-optimized and strategic website you can instantly see a boost to the number of tables you turn every day. Plus, it’s easy to measure the success. With analytics tools we can measure your traffic, which pages people visit, where they come from, your busiest traffic times of the day, and even demographic information such as age & gender.
All of this information can provide crucial insight to ways you can increase your profits by catering to your customers very specific needs. All of these marginal increases in efficiency can make the difference between taking a vacation and closing the doors.
DO YOU OWN A RESTAURANT? If so, I’d love to talk to you about the ideas and strategies I have to help you turn more tables. Contact me today and lets setup a time to chat.