One of the best ways to market your restaurant involves creating a website. More than 72% of Americans have internet access, and that number is growing.1 People are turning to websites more and more to find information on a restaurant. In fact, according to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, 48% percent of adults have visited a restaurant website.2
Anyone with enough time can learn to make an attractive webpage for free. However, if you do not have the time and can afford it, you can always outsource. Every restaurant owner should consider creating a website, but a website is especially important if you want to attract the following business:
- Young people
- Take-out and delivery orders
Every visitor to your webpages should have easy access to basic information about your restaurant. Make sure the following information is easily available on your site:
Name, address, hours and phone number.
Your name, hours of operation, address and phone number should be easily visible on every page.
Make sure all menu items are listed on the website, including the drinks and desserts and all pricing. If you have take-out or delivery service, it is especially important that you post your menu, since customers will often go online to find out what they want to order. In addition to listing your menu items, you may want to post a downloadable portable document format (PDF) of your real print menu.
“About Us” section.
You should tell your customers about your restaurant concept and your values, as well as a little bit about the history of your restaurant.
“Contact Us” section.
Ask customers to contact you with any comments or concerns about the restaurant or the website itself. Be sure to prompt customers for their email so that you can add them to your database.
News and reviews.
If your restaurant has appeared in any positive reviews or stories from magazines, newspapers or online journals, be sure to mention it on your website. Taco Taco’s homepage provides an example of an effective way to show off your awards and good reviews.
If you are looking for new employees, make sure to include a “careers” or “jobs” section on your site. It should include a printable application available for download, to be mailed, faxed or emailed upon completion.
If your restaurant has more than one location, you will definitely want to list all of your addresses, and if each location offers a different menu, be sure to include and differentiate all of them. If you own a franchise, make sure to make all information about franchise opportunities available to visitors.
You can easily create and design your own map for the website. It should show the location of your restaurant in relation to all major roads and highways. You could also link to your address on Google maps or Mapquest. Another option, if you can afford it, is to purchase your own Mapquest or Google mini map.
Your website does not have to be limited to informational content, although giving information about your restaurant is critical. Still, it is better for your business if you create a website that is both informational and interactive, so people will want to return periodically. The more often visitors return to your website, the more likely your online promotions and website marketing will be effective. Consider including the following in your website to encourage visitors to come back:
Online reservations and orders.
Give customers the ability to make online reservations and order through your website. Providing them with this service will encourage impulse reservations and orders, and it saves on your labor costs, since it results in fewer phone calls. For online reservations, you can use a restaurant reservation service. For online ordering, you can go through an online restaurant ordering service, or you can purchase restaurant ordering software for your own website and set it to send orders directly to your restaurant’s point of sale (POS) system or by fax.
Customers like to know what to expect. You can try posting pictures of your menu items, dining room, customers, etc. One great way to share pictures is through a slideshow like the one on Gluek’s website. Live webcams are another great visual reference for customers, showing them exactly what is going on in the restaurant, bar or kitchen at any given moment. Eskimo Joe’s website offers a perfect example. The more visuals you can give that show your restaurant full of customers, the better.
If you have any special promotions or events scheduled, be sure to include a calendar on your site where people can look up important dates. This will encourage people to return to your website periodically.
Another great incentive to keep customers coming to your website is to provide them with recipes for old specials or discontinued menu items. These recipes should be changed out on a weekly or monthly basis to encourage visitors to return to the website.
Creating a database with your customers' contact info is an essential component of direct mail and email marketing.
Give your customers the opportunity to sign up for newsletters and promotions from your restaurant by entering their email. This is a great way to build a database.
On your “Home” page, you can post or link to printable coupons. This could serve as a gift to repeat visitors and an incentive for people who have never visited you before to try out your restaurant. Your website should also list any other promotions, like Happy Hours or 2-for-1 specials. You can even offer visitors a place to sign up online for contests or giveaways.
You can turn your website into an actual point of sales with an online store. You can sell gift certificates, merchandise and any other goods you could offer, like bottled salsa or coffee beans. You can use restaurant online ordering software to do this.