If you thought that throwing up a picture of the front of your restaurant and contact information made for a great website, then you should take a look at what other restaurants around the country are doing to encourage diners to eat at their establishment. Here’s a list of 10 things we’ve seen restaurants doing that keep guests coming back for more.
1. Food Photography
Give me pictures that make me say yum! If I’m hungry, I don’t want to see pictures of the outside of your building, or the employees at your restaurant, I want to see tasty dishes that persuade me to come on in and dine, or at least check out what else is on the menu.
I don’t know why this is such a big deal for restaurants, but there are two big things that restaurants do wrong when it comes to their menu: it’s not posted at all or it’s in PDF format. If I can’t find the menu on your website, my first thought is that you have something to hide… why would I want to even venture in your establishment if you’re too embarrassed to share your menu? And PDFs are bad news for your site. Mobile users hate downloading anything – it takes too much time – and that downloadable PDF is killing your restaurant’s style. And remember those search engines that you’re trying to compete in? Yeah, they can’t see PDFs, so you’re wasting your time.
Vesta Dipping Grill also has their menu in PDF format, just in case their guests want to download it.
3. Special Menus
If you haven’t noticed yet, more and more restaurants are paying attention to their guests that have allergies, which, of course, is a good thing. My son has tree nut allergies and can go into anaphylactic shock if he even touches a cashew or pistachio to his lips. Are you willing to risk his life and your business because you don’t think it’s important to have an allergy menu? I hope the answer is no, because you never know who’s going to walk through your door with allergies. Make sure you have special menus set aside and online for allergy guests – help people make a choice on where they should eat before they even walk in your door.
And don’t forget about our vegan and vegetarian friends, they also like to know that they have different options when visiting your restaurant – Chipotle got it right with this one page menu.
4. Calories & Diets
Speaking of menus, giving calorie count and other dietary information can help your health conscious guests learn more about the foods they choose. And don’t worry, showing big numbers doesn’t always have to be bad, people just want to know what it is they’re eating. Make sure to include an online calorie menu so that guests that are counting calories, fat grams, or sodium can find the dish that works best for them.
The majority of the things already mentioned can be figured out with online reservations. Let me clarify. If there are online reservations, perfect, I don’t have to call you and I can get everything done from my phone. I can also enter in any special information (that is, if you have a comment box available for me), like that we have someone in our party with food allergies, or someone that may need help finding suggestions for lower sodium meals. What if you knew that information before the party every arrived, and the server came to the table with the right choices without the party ever asking – I’d say you’re one step closer to creating evangelists for your restaurant!
Guests need to know your rules for groups of people. How many people are considered a group? Do you take reservations? Should I call ahead of time? Make it easy for groups to know what they should expect when visiting your website. Linger, a restaurant in Denver, makes it nice an easy with an inquiry form – of course the group could always call, but who has time for that anymore?
7. Happy Hour
Bring on the deals! One of the easiest ways to encourage people to come in during happy hour is to show them the deals. Don’t be shy, share it all, including food and drink specials, times, and any bonuses – like getting special promotions on social media. And believe me, your guests are smart enough to sniff out the deals, even if it means they’re standing at your front door and notice your competitors online happy hour menu is better than the one you don’t even have posted.
8. Social Media & Email Marketing
Speaking of social media, it seems these days everyone is dabbling in social media. But the true winners in the restaurant industry are the ones that keep us coming back for more. I’m a huge fan of Noodles & Company simply because they take care of their audience. I don’t mind listening to what you have to say if I get freebies once in a while, and you mix up that sales-speak with some fun content (hint, sign up for the Noodlegram to get some great deals throughout the year).
One of our Tundrites said they checked-in at Foursquare at a local restaurant here in Boulder called Harpo’s and ended up getting 15% of the table’s entire meal – do you think that they’re going to get return business out of her? You betcha, and she probably inspired new customers to head in as well!
9. Directions, Contact Information & Hours of Operation
For the love of the Internet, please don’t forget to put up your directions, contact information, and hours of operation. And please don’t make it an image where it’s next to impossible for me to do anything from my phone. Your contact information should be in plain HTML so that I can push your phone number and call with just one touch of my smartphone. And the directions should be linked to Google maps so that I can tell my smartphone to go straight to your location. This one sounds easy, but I’ve seen so many of you get it wrong.
Okay, I mentioned in the first post that when your guests are hungry they want to see good food pictures, but those that are really interested in who you are will want to be able to learn more about your story. How did you get to where you are today? Who are your Chefs? Do you source your food locally? Is your building historical? Do you have any special events that you put on? Do you give back to the community?
There are tons of great examples of content you can put on your site or in a blog, just remember who your audience is and make the content relevant for them.
Fruition Restaurant does a great job of sharing their farm to table story over at Fruition Farms, which is linked to in their main navigation.