If you’ve ever asked yourself whether or not your restaurant should have an online presence the short and straightforward answer is yes. In today’s digitally inclined age of smart phones, tablets, and consumer focus on the new and impressive, you can absolutely benefit from building a website for your eatery. Doing so has enormous potential as a marketing vehicle and gives you a number of great ways to promote your restaurant from the outside.
Get acquainted and start chatting with your customers.
Learning more about your customers is the key to providing them with fantastic service and an all around exceptional dining experience. A simple yet effective way to get to know your customers is to use your website as a hub for customer interaction. Draft a survey asking those who frequent your restaurant what brings them back and what they think could be improved. Provide a spot for customers to join your e-mail list and in doing so provide a little information about their dining habits and expectations. Let your customers know that you’re accessible and open to feedback.
Promote from the outside.
It’s common practice to have your restaurant’s name or logo decorating the outside of your building, or on printed fliers for mailing purposes, but building an accessible website and gathering just a few customer details can open up a whole new world of online promotion just waiting to be utilized. Has that 2-for-1 special been a little disappointing on return? Turn it around with an online advertisement supported through your website and accompanying e-mail list. Offer advertisement coupon codes and meal-specific deals through your website and gauge customer response. Pretty soon you’ll be able to determine which promotions are working for you and which aren’t.
So we’ve focused a little on the value of a good website, but what does a good website look like? Honestly, everyone has their own ideas of what design, image combination, and general atmosphere jives best for them in regards to navigating a website. It would be impossible, and highly ineffective, to try to jam-pack your website with a little something for everyone. Instead, keep a few simple concepts in mind while you’re in the design phase and realize that less can be more.
Here are a few helpful tips:
Get help. Building a website from the ground up, with or without prior experience and know-how, is not only a daunting task but can be seen as a disaster if not done with a degree of professionalism. The amount of time consumers spend online makes it easy for them to spot an amateur site, and if that’s how they view your site chances are high that they’ll view your restaurant in the same light. Additionally, writing and positioning content online takes time. Most small business owners just don’t have the extra time needed to effectively create and maintain a top-notch website.
Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed, where you save in money you’ll end up paying in un-impressed customers and precious time if you decide to tackle this task on your own. Just like you’d have a professional install important restaurant equipment to ensure it works properly, having a professional designer “install” your website can mean the difference between smooth sailing and endless complications. Just because you’re not the one painting the picture doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions on what’s being painted, and even if you do hire a web designer you’ll want to make sure they focus on the following:
- Flashy can be bad in large doses. Flash elements and players can look good and serve their purpose if used moderately and effectively. Facing the facts, when a customer comes to a restaurant’s website looking to satisfy that grumble in their stomach they want quick, concise information on how they can do just that. If your site is bogged down by page after page of Flash players loading vivid images customers can easily get turned off and look to find food elsewhere.
- Give customers the goods. Bypassing the flash and providing potential customers with valuable information right when they hit your homepage can do wonders. Make sure you’ve got the appropriate, correct information in all the right spots. Do you have your phone number conveniently positioned on each page? Are detailed driving directions readily available? And above all else, can customers clearly see what food you offer?
- Guide the way. You want customers to be able to navigate from page to page effortlessly, with as little resistance or sidetracking as possible. A common mistake in trying to provide a lot of extra “valuable” information is building a complex roadway to navigate to get to this information and losing your customers. Make it almost stupid in its simplicity when it comes to navigation and you’ll be happy you did.
- Don’t stop. It’s not uncommon to come across a website that has obviously not been touched since its creation many years ago. As times change so to should your website, and letting your site get stale can be as bad as letting food do the same. Customers appreciate new content on a regular basis, and believe it or not updated and evolving content increases your visibility to search engines like Google and Bing.
Let’s be honest, if you don’t currently have a website you may already be behind the curve and not know it. With mobile couponing, ways to pay with your phone, and tablet menus well on their way in you can’t afford to not have an online presence. Start small to get your foot in the door, but make sure that first step is building an efficient, money-making website that works for you and your customers.