Common pitfalls to avoid and easy fixes with big payoff
Your online media presence has become essential for engaging current and potential customers. If you are not taking advantage of the vast variety of platforms for branding on the Internet, let’s face it—you're way behind the times and are missing out on great revenue-generating opportunities.
However, with all the available (and free) social media options, the most important asset to your bottom line is your actual website—that's where your message needs to start and where you need to drive your customers. You may have paid to have your website developed; you may have a friend who knows Wordpress and built a site for you; you may be using a “self-build” type of website program with drag-and-drop functionality. Regardless of the way your website came to be, we've found several common issues that can cause restaurant websites to underperform…13, to be exact.
Misusing Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on allow you to communicate with your audience in real-time, for free. This means you can promote your specials for the day as well as upcoming events. You can address customer complaints and even post job opportunities. Because all your online social sites need to be working in coordination, you need to ensure you are diligently and consistently updating all your social profiles, on a very frequent basis (in other words, daily!). Beyond simply updating all of these sites with the same information, it's crucial to ensure they complement each other. The central hub that brings everything together is your website, the launching pad for your users to directly access your social media “world.” Constantly confirm links to your social sites are working and fix any broken links that are found.
No Email Signup Form
Websites are not meant to simply collect traffic numbers. They are now becoming important places to capture key customer information so you can build relationships and fully engage your audience. One of the easiest ways to build a relationship with your customers is to capture their emails and keep them informed of your restaurant's activities. In this social age, if you are not attempting to build strong relationships with your customers, you are missing out on an opportunity to build your network and cultivate a following.
Search engines “crawl” through websites looking for text, and their findings determine a website's rankings in the search results. Using Flash in your website can make it particularly difficult—if not impossible—for some customers to find you. Flash also makes websites load more slowly, especially in mobile browsers. Apple products are not usually Flash-enabled and lack the capability to display Flash websites in the way they were intended. Bottom line, it's a dated technology and your best bet is to stay away from it. Segregating your reach and not allowing your target audience to connect with you is a mistake.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of altering online content to make it more web search friendly, which in turn will drive more traffic to your site. People tend to search some combinations of words more than others. If you are not engaging in any SEO activities, you are potentially losing out on tons of traffic. Do a web search for your restaurant and you'll see the value in the results that do (or don't) show up.
No Customer Testimonials
Absolutely nothing is more critical to building confidence and trust than customer testimonials. Customers definitely want what you have to offer—if there is little-to-no risk, and you can deliver what you promise. However, a major roadblock is convincing potential customers that you are the real deal and that you have the most spectacular food and service. The issue here is that money and time are zero-sum resources (meaning, they can only be used once) so taking chances on new or advertised things without personal referrals or testimonials is a difficult road to walk down. These testimonials prove you can do what you advertise.
Posting PDF Menus on Your Website
You want your menu portrayed in a clean and crisp way that is easy for your customers to access. That means using HTML to place your menu on a website page. Attaching a PDF menu document to your website forces your customers to click on an additional link, doesn’t allow for easy editing, and doesn’t look professional. Plus, Google doesn't like PDF files as much as easy-to-crawl HTML.
No Feedback Form
You will be competing against Yelp on this one, but it is still necessary to have a feedback form on your website. This is a good way to invite customer feedback, positive or negative. If you can gather this feedback directly, and make an effort to improve the dining experience, you get an opportunity to make that customer's next experience all the more special.
Not Enough Product Information
Where does your meat come from? Do you use local farms for your vegetables? These are just some of the questions the modern day foodie will ask. It's important not only to provide education on food origin, but also to reference any allergenic ingredients and/or other ingredients of which those with special dietary needs should be aware.
Not Using Analytics
How much traffic did your website have last week? Which pages are getting the most visits? Are you tracking conversions? If you are not measuring it, you are not managing it. Website analytics, along with providing telling stats about your web pages, can also track any campaigns you are working on to drive traffic to your site. That may be a promotion of some kind and you want to know if the promotion was a success. The only way to really tell is through website analytics.
Missing Out on the Potential of the “About” Page
What’s your story? Why did you open your restaurant? What is your background? A rich and compelling story can go a long way when trying to gain the trust and commitment of your customers.
Relying on Stock Photography
People want to see your restaurant, your food, and you and your staff. Using stock photos doesn’t allow you to get intimate with your customers, and will certainly develop the wrong expectation when new customers visit your restaurant. Spend the money and have a professional photographer take pictures for your website.
Not Mobile Friendly
If you have been out of the loop, smartphones with data plans are becoming the norm. This means your customers are using their phones for their Internet capabilities, and will occasionally research local restaurants with them. You need to be prepared with a mobile-friendly website. Make sure your site design is responsive, and their smartphone experience will be a good one.
Lack of a Long-term Strategy
Your website should not be something you set up once and promptly forget. Like your restaurant, it needs to stay clean, updated, fresh, and must continually evolve. Create a website developmental strategy. It could be as simple as deciding to update your site at a certain interval, and developing a checklist of items to change out at those times (such as pictures, specials, events, and so on).
The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.