By Vin Sparks
A website is one of the most important tools any business has for branding, growing the business and engaging customers effectively. Yet nearly 50% of restaurants in the United States do not have a website or their website is inadequate to the point of harm for one reason or another:
- It’s outdated and left unattended so past events are still up as though they have not occurred, old specials are being promoted or the site contains broken links.
- It is an elementary effort at a website with pages “under construction”, it’s design too simple, it’s layout too confusing, it lacks quality photo images or it’s missing key components (there are seven of them).
- It’s not a site they own. Making social media pages or pages on third-part sites the primary location of the restaurant’s branding and messaging is, often, a mistake. To send a valued customer to Facebook, Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor or any other like website to find the information they need is costing that restaurant a lot of money in lost opportunity. I think it also sends a message to the customer that the owners just don’t care.
- It’s not mobile-friendly. Images get pushed over text, text is skewed and words are broken up between lines. The customer is forced to navigate the site using his/her thumb and forefinger in a series of attempts to zoom in and out while move across the pages of the site.
These restaurant website troubles are not just insignificant issues. They are destructive to the point where it could be better just to take the site down and that is much like becoming invisible.
Now, the 7 components I mentioned earlier. In addition to the basics (menu, location, hours and contact information) every restaurant website should:
- Call-to-Action: It can be in the form of buttons or other graphics or text, these links that call a visitor to act right then enhance the site’s power to convert visitors into customers. Call-to-action should be above the fold (visible before having to scroll down the landing page).
What kind of action would you want a new visitor to take? Buttons can help a customer to make a reservation, purchase a gift card, register for an event, take a quality survey, participate in a poll, subscribe to a eNewsletter and much more.
- Testimonials and Reviews: Several recent surveys have shown that diners will not just take a recommendation of a friend when deciding where to eat without doing some research first. More than 80% of the respondents to these surveys have indicated that research online to make choices about where to eat factors heavily into the decision even if they have a strong recommendation from a friend or family. What an owner does on their website to take advantage of this will be critical to the growth of his/her restaurant.
- Food & Venue images: No, not photos taken with a cell phone. That’s not an indictment of cellphone cameras because they are good cameras. That speaks to taking pictures without proper consideration to lighting, angles, color and filters.
- Usability: Visitors get to a restaurant’s landing page and will stay and navigate the site based upon their experience while there. How easy is the site to use? Is the information they’re looking for readily available? Is the site intuitive? Let’s face it, the longer the customer clicks around the site, the more interested they are, the more apt they are to visit the restaurant. Another thing that affects the quality of the website experience when visiting any site – page speed.
- Must be Mobile friendly: Some research is suggesting that nearly 80% of the visits to restaurant websites originate from a mobile device. If upon landing, your visitors must use a pinch and spread motion with their thumbs and forefingers to navigate your site, if your images get caught behind text and if text splits words between lines – you’ll lose them.
- Social media profiles: Many visits to a restaurant website are not made to look at menus, find locations or determine the hours of the establishment. Many go to the site to make sure that they are connected on social media with the right restaurant. Making sure that the social media icons are readily available and linked properly is very important.
- A Blog: The restaurant’s blog is the hub of all messaging that takes place in social media. It feeds content to customers, starts conversation around many things other than what may be the daily special today and can help you with content on your social platforms. It’s where the restaurant owner tells his/her story, where they shape their brand and messaging and where they control the restaurant’s online presence.
Gone is the era when a business owner could have a tech-savvy nephew or the sister of a friend that is in marketing school design a website for the business and get by with that. A website is an integral part of a very sophisticated online branding strategy that has become increasingly important to the growth of a small business. It cannot be put on the back burner any more nor can it be relegated to a third-party site.
Are you adequately leveraging your site and social to effectively manage your brand online or are your site and social profiles hurting your business?