Five Website "Must Do's" for Restaurants
Use these tips to build, revitalize your online image
Your website should be an ultra-effective, 24-hour, seven-days a week sales person and marketing tool for your restaurant. Here are five “must do's” for independent restaurateurs to help make the most of their website.
One key differentiating opportunity for independent restaurants on the web is to highlight the people that make your restaurant happen. Your restaurant is filled with vibrant, colorful, exciting real people – show them off. The ownership team, executive chef and general manager should certainly have pictures and brief bios on the site. Don't stop there, though. Include the whole team. Post a group picture of your kitchen team and service staff. Have a photo taken of the entire staff under your main restaurant signage out front. It's a small thing, yet it helps shows the personality and flavor of your restaurant to folks visiting your website. In addition, it gives pride to everyone on your staff to know that they are included on the website.
One Thousand Words
Great photography on a website jumps out and makes an impression. Surprisingly, many restaurant websites have no pictures whatsoever, or just a few low quality photos. Don't make this mistake. The web is a beautiful four-color world with no real space limitations like a print ad or brochure would have. This is especially important for upscale restaurants. Show your décor, showcase key menu items or highlight the size of private event rooms. The bottom line here is to ensure that visuals on the website effectively convey your restaurant’s brand image.
The goal, of course, in building a website is to have customers visit it. Make sure to cover the basics like including your website address on menus, business cards, match books and print ads. If you custom print bar napkins or other materials, ensure your address is included there, too. Specially print a postcard size piece for take-out and leftover bags that includes a special "thank-you" note that includes your website address and other contact information. Staple it right to the bag.
Do a Google search for your restaurant. This is how many folks will try to find your restaurant on the web. Hopefully, your restaurant's website will appear towards the top of the search results. Many times, however, what you will tend to find is your restaurant's listing in various online restaurant guides. These online directory listings often tend to drown out your real website in the search results. Don't fret – take a proactive step. Visit each of the restaurant guide pages in the search results. Investigate each for factual information, but beyond that make an effort to contact each relevant guide and ask them about including your website address along with your online listing. Some will do it for free; others may look to charge. Either way, do it. Again, this is how the majority of people find your restaurant on the web. If they see your website link on the restaurant directory page, they will likely click through to your site – if in fact they are truly interested in your restaurant. That is the goal because now your site can sell them on why to choose your restaurant.
Stay in Touch
E-mail offers several great ways to effectively and affordably communicate with past and potential customers. Hopefully, you are already collecting customer e-mail addresses in your restaurant through comment forms, business cards or other means. You should also be capturing information from prospects that visit your website by offering an online e-mail sign-up form. Some ideas on what to send them include a monthly e-mail newsletter with tips from the chef, a recipe, event listings, menu changes or perhaps even a customer spotlight. Another e-mail option is the reminder e-mail. Of course, it is important not to send spam e-mail so make sure that you have permission to e-mail these folks.
Is the Mother's Day special still listed on your website in September? Do all e-mail queries that come in get answered? Many restaurant websites are guilty of not regularly updating their websites or responding to e-mails. This is crazy and lazy. First, content on a website is incredibly easy to change so there is no excuse here. Second, an e-mail from a customer is like a phone call. That person is interested in doing business with your restaurant. Don't ignore them, for you do so at your own peril.
This hits on a broader point and that is that many restaurants underutilize their websites. A marketing or design firm builds the site and that is the end of it. No updates, no new content, no nothing. Avoid the pitfall of the "dead" site by dedicating someone on your team as the "web" guy or gal. Maybe it's the owner, the general manager or even a key server. The important thing is that someone is responsible on a day-to-day basis for making necessary website updates and responding to incoming customer e-mails. At the end of the day, you've got to work your website to have it work for you.
Having a website is a great thing. Having an effective website that sells for you and an Internet program that communicates with your customers is smart marketing - and will help you successfully drive new and repeat business to your restaurant. Make sure you're implementing these five “must-do's” so as to not sabotage the efforts of your Internet program. Beyond these areas get creative and have fun with the web as an important part of your marketing and sales toolbox.
Jaime Oikle is the owner of RestaurantWebGuy.com and RunningRestaurants.com, a comprehensive website for restaurant owners and managers that is filled with marketing, operations and service tips to help restaurants profit and succeed. To learn more from Oikle, the ORA’s social media expert, visit his websites: www.runningrestaurants.com and www.restaurantwebguy.com.
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