At the beginning of your restaurant’s life, you’re spending money left and right. You either bought or leased the building for the restaurant, hired staff, paid for décor, and purchased food and ingredients, not to mention tableware, utensils, and dinnerware. Yet your spending isn’t quite done yet. You also need a website for your restaurant. Why?
Here are the reasons your restaurant does not want to go without a website:
- Get on the same page as the competition
- Meet customer expectations
- Inform your customers
- Attract new customers
- Spread brand awareness
- Differentiate yourself
- Increase business by taking reservations
In today’s in-depth guide, we’ll elaborate further on the above reasons your restaurant should have a website. If your restaurant is currently offline, by the time you’re done reading, you’ll definitely want to change that!
7 Reasons Your Restaurant Needs a Website
Stay Neck and Neck with the Competition
In any area of business, keeping up with the Joneses is important. You need to know what your competition is doing so they don’t leave you behind in the dust. It becomes even more important to have a pulse on your competitors in the restaurant industry, which is incredibly cutthroat with high rates of failure.
You might think that it’s trendy or unique to not have a web presence for your restaurant, but it isn’t. In the meantime, when a customer searches for a type of cuisine in your neighborhood, it’s your competitor’s website that shows up at the top of the results page.
You don’t have a website, so the only way people find out about you is by driving by and seeing your restaurant on the street. That could give you some momentum through word of mouth. We don’t want to discount word of mouth and say it isn’t a powerful promotional tool, as it is. However, you can’t forego having a website and hope your restaurant grows by word of mouth alone. It probably won’t work out that way.
By creating a website for your restaurant, you can ensure you’re at least on the same page as your competitors. It’s what you put on your website that will help you stand out, which we’ll get to in a bit. For now though, you’re not putting yourself at a disadvantage by having no website, and that can go a long way towards improving your restaurant’s chances of success.
Meet Customer Expectations
Your customers are everything to you. Without them coming into your restaurant often, you have no restaurant, plain and simple. Thus, you try to meet as many customer expectations as you can. With so many opinions and tastes, it’s impossible to surpass every expectation, but one that you can easily achieve is to create a website.
We’re living in the 2020s, where everyone and anything has a web presence. It used to cost money to get a website off the ground, as you had to pay for a domain name and hosting. Today, you can create a free website in a matter of minutes, even if you aren’t experienced in graphic design or coding language. This isn’t the website you want to stick with forever, as it’s pretty basic, but it’s better than nothing.
If your customers go to look you up on their favorite search engine but you’re nowhere to be found, they’re going to think that’s strange. They might search for you on Facebook or Twitter, but if they can’t find you online, what do you think will happen?
They’re probably not going to scour the web to track you down. Instead, these potential customers will search for a different local restaurant and give their business to the competition. As your restaurant’s ROI sinks into the red, you might eventually have no choice but to shutter your doors.
Since you’re all about giving your customers what they want, start with your website.
Inform Your Customers
A third reason your restaurant needs a website is to provide information. Again, let’s go back to the example of someone randomly driving by your restaurant on the street. There’s not a whole lot of information they can glean about your establishment this way. They know the name of your restaurant, but they’re lacking other pertinent info.
For example, what kind of food do you serve? What are your most popular menu items? What are your hours? Do you take reservations?
These are all questions a passerby is going to have about your restaurant. In their curiosity, the natural thing to do next is look you up online. A few things can happen. They’ll either click on your website, look at your Google Business listing, or see nothing at all.
Hopefully, you know better than to not have a website by now, so it’ll be either A or B. What is a Google Business listing, you ask? Google My Business is a service by Google for businesses of all kinds, restaurants included. It’s free and incredibly useful.
Provided your customer uses Google, the Google Business listing tells them everything they need to know. The customer can click Directions to see a map to your restaurant or they can click on Website to be redirected to your site.
An aggregate of your Google reviews will be compiled here, giving you a star rating of one through five. A short snippet will tell the customer about your restaurant. They can also see your address, your hours, your phone number, and a reservation link, all through Google Business.
Where does Google Business get this information from? Mostly from your website. Without a website then, you won’t have a Google Business presence, which makes you that much harder to find online.
As we said just above, when your restaurant is too hard to find online and a customer doesn’t feel a special allegiance towards your establishment, they will go to the competition. This loses you money.
Attract New Customers
You don’t only want to create a website for your current customers, but for all the potential new ones as well. This can translate to them coming into your restaurant to sample your cuisine. They could even become loyal regulars.
You have so many methods for increasing your visibility online, and at the heart of them all is your website. For instance, having a Google Business profile is a top method recommended by marketing experts for getting your site seen. You already know from before that your Google Business page is something you have to work on if you haven’t done so.
Next, you want to ensure that your website is optimized for both desktop and mobile users. After all, most people who find you will likely be searching for you on their phone. Even free website builders have optimization features, as this is a standard of any website these days.
Why optimize your website? Well, again, because your customers are expecting it. They don’t want to open your site on their phones and see a squished version with images that take up half the page and text that’s out of alignment. That makes your site unreadable, not to mention unusable.
One of the biggest facets to focus on for more visibility with your website is local SEO. What is SEO? Short for search engine optimization, SEO pertains to where your website pops up in search engine results.
For example, if you go on Google and search “pizza restaurants Philadelphia” and you’re indeed a pizzeria in Philly, where do you show up on the list of results? Are you third on the page? Fifth? Are you not even on the front page?
Ideally, you want to be as close to the top of the results as possible, if not the first result. That requires following SEO measures–or, in your case–local SEO measures.
As you might have guessed, local SEO is simply SEO tactics done on a local neighborhood level to attract more business. For example, when you post on social media, you’ll want to tag all your posts with your location. You’ll also want to use keywords like the one above that are location-based, and splash these across your website copy. Copy, if you don’t know, is the written content on your site.
Beware of keyword stuffing, which is taking a keyword like “pizzerias in Philadelphia” and using it to excess. Google has ever-changing SEO algorithms, but one issue that Google will always flag is keyword stuffing. Doing something like this can hurt your site ranking and keep you off the front page.
Spread Brand Awareness
Your restaurant, even if it’s small, is a brand. Every brand that has become a household name today started out just as small as you are. Microsoft was founded in a hotel in Albuquerque in the 1970s. Apple began in Steve Jobs’ garage, and the garage of his parents’ house to boot. Amazon also grew out of a garage in the 1990s.
Don’t let the size of your restaurant get in the way of your dreams. Your establishment can grow, but you need brand awareness to make it happen. What is brand awareness? This includes the measures you take to get your name known around town and maybe even in surrounding towns and cities so your customer base explodes.
Having a website is a great way to begin your quest for more brand awareness. If you can, you want to establish a brand voice, or a consistent way of speaking that’s used across all your copy, including on social media and in emails.
For example, if you’re a more casual, fun family restaurant, then you’ll use a lighthearted, very informal tone as your brand voice. A family-owned Italian restaurant with strong local ties might write more formally and dreamily.
Whatever your brand voice is, finding it and harnessing it will take you a long way towards achieving your brand awareness goals.
Having a blog that you update regularly will also spread your brand awareness. Now, we know what you’re thinking. You’re a restaurant, what could you have to blog about? All sorts of things!
You could talk about what’s currently going on in the restaurant industry, including food trends and changes. This will increase the chances of your blog post being spread around online. Your restaurant looks like a source of authority, which promotes brand awareness and should earn you more traffic as well.
You might share recipes that your customers can make at home to bring families together. You can also use your blog as a promotional tool, such as Chip’s Restaurant does. Their blog is all about what’s going on at Chip’s, including updates to their menu, seasonal promotions, and the like.
Social media is another great tool in your brand awareness arsenal, as you can cross-post your blog content to your social media to get even newer sets of eyes on your blog.
Differentiate Your Restaurant
What is it about your restaurant that makes it special? Your website is the perfect vehicle for showcasing all the one-of-a-kind elements that people love about your restaurant. If it’s your décor that attracts the customers, then you can showcase images of your restaurant’s interior on your site. Perhaps it’s your food that’s drool-worthy. You can also whet peoples’ appetites with images of your famous, best-selling dishes.
If it’s your family atmosphere, you can create that mood with your copy. Perhaps your audience likes the sense of traditionalism you follow, so make your about page a detailed ode to how your family-owned restaurant reached this point.
Your website should embody the same attitude and feeling your restaurant provides. This will tell potential customers what you’re all about and hopefully entice them to want to come in and try out your food.
What if we told you that your restaurant’s website can be an awesome means of increasing sales? It’s true! We all know that in the society we live in today, few people want to pick up the phone. That goes for doing something simple like ordering a pizza, let alone making a restaurant reservation.
Instead, people would prefer to book their table online, and your website is the perfect place to do that. Remember, your Google Business listing might provide a link directly to your website’s reservations page. If not, then when the customer clicks on your site, make sure you have a separate part of your site dedicated only to reservations. You can even let the customer make a reservation on the homepage so they don’t have to search.
Ask Your Target Market, a platform owned by Umongous, Inc., did a 2016 survey on restaurant reservation habits, and some pretty interesting stats emerged. Up to 25 percent of respondents said they used the Internet to make a reservation, and 9 percent of them went on a restaurant’s app for a reservation.
Most diners who reserve this way do it at least once (32 percent), but others make online reservations a habit (13 percent). Most diners who reserved online, 65 percent, were “somewhat satisfied,” the survey found.
Also, nearly half of the respondents, 47 percent, stated that reserving online was the easiest option. It’s no wonder that 44 percent of those surveyed would book a reservation online if they could.
This all goes back to meeting customer expectations. Sure, some of your customers will expect to be able to reserve by phone, so you should still have that option available. A large portion will want to reserve online. Without a website, making online reservations is impossible to do.
As a restaurant owner, going without a website can hinder your establishment to the point where its survival is called into question. Your website can differentiate your restaurant, meet customer expectations, inform your customers, grow your customer base, build brand awareness, and get the word out about your restaurant online.
You know what you have to do now, which is build your first website to take your restaurant further. Best of luck!