Modern restaurants need an online foundation before beginning marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate, a digital presence so your prospective clients can easily find you, business listings and review site listings to expand your digital presence, and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. All of these pieces focus on helping your customers refer others to your restaurant directly and indirectly.
The primary focus of your website is to showcase your food and beverages, which is apparent through your menu and food and beverage photography. The secondary focus is to showcase your basic business details so your customers can find you. Both of these focuses are equally critical to having a successful website.
The goal of your website is to be mobile-responsive and accessible to prospects and search engines, which means designing it with intuitive navigation and having your menu in HTML format.
Tip: If your restaurant accepts calls, add your phone number to the top of the homepage and ensure it’s clickable on mobile devices.
On your website’s homepage, you want to have your high-quality food and beverage photos front and center. Showcase dishes that your restaurant is known for or that you want to be known for. Within the first two seconds of seeing your homepage, a new visitor should be able to know what cuisine you offer, what your restaurant is called, and where it is located. This means including your logo and address (or at least city and state) on the homepage with the logo above the fold.
Your website menu should include links to your secondary pages, including your (food and beverage) menus in HTML format, online ordering, online reservations, loyalty program, complete contact information, and blog.
On each website page, you will want to include your primary contact information, hours, and social media links. This way, no matter what page a prospect is on, they can contact you quickly.
When developing content for your website beyond the menu, it’s important to include specific cuisine and location keywords. These keywords can also help your customers find your website.
You will also want to promote your team culture in some way on your website. Showcase your team to humanize the business in your local community.
Tip: Use a third-party delivery service combined with your online ordering to make offering this service easier on your growing team. You can also use a third-party online reservation platform, too, instead of creating one from scratch.
Tip: Encourage gift card purchases on your website to reach audience members who don’t have time to go to your physical location to purchase a gift card. Then, use that gift card website page in your communications and advertising efforts around holidays.
Tip: If you host events at your restaurant, have an events page that is easily accessible from the homepage. Then, make sure your email signup pop-up comes up on that page as it will help you grow your email list so you can target people who are interested in your events later on.
Directory Listings & Review Sites
There are so many websites, printed mailers, and apps that contain business listings for restaurants. The best online business listings for your restaurant include:
- Google My Business
- Reserve with Google
- Bing Places for Business
- White Pages
- Yahoo! Local Listing
You may also want to consider listing your business in your local newspaper after your online presence is managed.
Be sure to add as many details as you can to each business listing using your messaging guidelines. Don’t forget to include quality images that portray your business and align with your visual branding. The more specific, customer-focused details you add, the more likely a prospect will reach out to you over a competing restaurant that does not provide so many helpful details. This also helps you receive more qualified prospects from a variety of avenues because they not only can find you, but they can understand your business through your thorough business listings.
Tip: If you offer delivery, be sure to set your delivery radius for each business listing.
Building a Digital Presence
Having a digital presence is just as important as having a physical presence in your community; however, having a digital presence is more than creating a profile or listing on every possible site available. Instead, it’s important to use only the most relevant and essential social media and directory sites to showcase your business. These listings must be established and maintained over time, which will help you create and maintain a positive reputation online, which is extremely important for the well-being of your business.
Be careful not to spread too wide on this, since the role of the digital presence is primarily to convey a positive reputation, promote core messaging, and show that the restaurant is active. Having too many social media pages and business listings makes it hard to manage over time, which can negatively impact your reputation if prospects presume an inactive or outdated page means an inactive business.
ONLINE REPUTATION STRATEGY
Customer stories, through online reviews, can help establish trust and an emotional connection with your prospective customers. This customer-generated content can change the opinions of prospective customers because customers trust other customers the most. This is why restaurants need to not only request reviews, but they also need to manage their online reputation.
While anyone can review your business on most business listings or social media pages, most people only do so if they were really wowed by your food and service or were really upset with your food and service. Negative reviews happen to everyone, which is why it’s so important to develop a strategy to monitor and improve your online reputation. This strategy will involve two things:
- A way to ask your customers to review your business
- A plan on how to respond to negative and positive reviews appropriately
When asking your customers to review your business, you have many options. In the restaurant, you can have your waiters and waitresses ask your customers at the end of their meal and have a link (to a specific business listing or a list of them where the customers can choose where to leave a review) on the customer copy of their receipt. You can also automate this process with technology, sending emails and texts to a customer who has provided that information (say, when making a reservation) a few days after their visit.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
ORM generally starts with your Business Listings. You will send customers to your Business Listings (Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and more) so they can leave you a review. Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take it off of that platform by encouraging them to email you (or you can email them first if you have their email). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
Tip: If you know where a customer found you, such as via a Google search or Yelp, then recommend that they use that platform to leave a review.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews on Business Listings, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create an alert for your restaurant name, cuisine specialty, a combination of your restaurant name and location, and a combination of your cuisine specialty and location to monitor your brand mentions on any platform. Google Alerts makes it easy to keep tabs on who is talking about you and your accolades. It can also help you find social media posts you might be able to share (see Social Media in Lead Nurturing).
When reviewing your brand’s online reputation, it’s beneficial to view your brand sentiment. This narrows down to positive, negative, or neutral. The sentiment is the overall view of your brand from all online mentions. The goal is to have a positive sentiment, which doesn’t mean all reviews, posts, and comments are positive, but instead that most are. This positive view or sentiment shows that your customers and community have a positive view of your business, which is critical to success.
If your sentiment is negative, then you need to resolve that with ORM, so start monitoring and responding to negative reviews, posts, and comments. If your sentiment is neutral, then your audience doesn’t really have an opinion about your business, which may mean that not enough people know about it yet.
Your sentiment is heavily influenced by your social media program, so start there to improve it by sharing quality content that your audience cares about.
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