By Brian Casel,
Founder of Restaurant Engine
There's a lot of buzz around online marketing for restaurants — but how does this actually translate into increased revenue?
Here is an outline of 7 ways that a good website can boost your restaurant's bottom line.
1. Make it easier to reserve tables
Your bottom line relies a lot on how often you reach capacity. Your restaurant's website opens up a new opportunity to fill tables on a daily basis. Online reservations also attract customers who prefer using the Internet to make plans.
Instantly convert visitors to your site into paying customers. Add a "Reserve a Table" tab to your top navigation bar. You can embed a widget from a service like OpenTable right on your website, or simply use an email contact form to manage online reservations.
2. Increase take-out with online ordering
Online ordering is no longer a supplement to your restaurant's take-out orders. It's becoming the main course!
Recent consumer research from Cornell University finds that 40 percent of all adults have placed restaurant orders online; and 20 to 40 percent of restaurants indicated increased volume and frequency of total orders after introducing online ordering.
3. Help customers find your physical location
What's easier than searching for your restaurant on Google Maps? That's why the Internet is becoming the leading way people find restaurants and bars in the offline world.
Register your business information with Google's Places for Businesses and embed a Google Map on your website. Use these online services to guide customers to your door.
4. Help new customers discover you online
People can't patronize your restaurant if they don't know it exists. A well-designed website with top search ranking does wonders for brand awareness.
Some restaurants use paid advertising to direct more traffic to their site. Others just rely on organic inbound links and searches
This is where SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, comes into play. Add keywords to your site that reflect your niche, like "fine Italian dining" or "raw organic." This attracts new people to your restaurant through generic searches. Let's say Barbara is craving some a smoothie after getting off the subway — when she searches "juice bar, Grand Central, New York," having these keywords on your site helps her discover your smoothie joint first.
Use professional photos, descriptive language, and an enticing online menu to make your best first impression. Also, optimize your website for mobile devices to attract new customers on the go.
5. Promote your events calendar
Traditional event marketing is typically a one-way conversation. People can't comment on printed ads and flyers. Your website, on the other hand, opens up the opportunity to reach out and engage with people on your invite list.
Create an events calendar to feature your restaurant's nightly specials, live music and art events. Add your calendar to a tab on your main navigation bar, and promote individual events through social media. Attendees can then easily share events through their own networks. If an event goes viral, your drink and food orders will go through the roof.
6. Provide "social proof" of your restaurant's quality
There's really no better place to share customer reviews than on your restaurant's website. Reviews from customers show that your restaurant really does deliver quality food and service.
Harvard Business School's research found that a one-star increase in Yelp rating led to an average 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue. Even better news — Yelp is helping independent restaurants regain market share from chain establishments.
Incorporate "social proof" into your website by copying and pasting your best reviews from around the web. Add Yelp and TripAdvisor buttons to encourage customers to review your restaurant online.
7. Increasing catering orders
Your website is the perfect place for customers to place catering orders. These orders are usually planned in advance, specific and high-volume. This is a huge driver of sales for restaurants.
Dedicate a section of your website to this service. Add a catering menu and include a form to gather customer inquiries and orders. It may even become your biggest generator of revenue.
Brian Casel is the founder of Restaurant Engine, a website design solution for restaurants. Get a free Restaurant Website Checklist on the Restaurant Engine Blog. Email Casel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo provided by Wikipedia.