Australians are some of the world’s most internet savvy, so your website needs to be every bit as impressive as your bricks-and-mortar venue, writes Clea Sherman.
A website should be on the checklist of every modern-day restaurant, but is yours doing enough to bring people through your door? There are several key tactics that will make sure your site is an effective marketing tool, not just an online placeholder. A highly important element is that your site looks good on smartphones.
A recent study from the Australian Communications and Media Authority showed that over 20 per cent of Australians rely solely on their mobiles to access the internet. That’s one in five potential customers who are viewing your site on a very small screen. If it is a struggle to make out the text, they’ll move on to the next.
Restaurant website developer Marcelo Soler of St George Web Design explains that there has recently been changes to the way Google surfaces online content. “If your site is not responsive—easy to view on a smartphone, that is—you run the risk of Google favouring the competition ahead of you or even removing your listing from search results completely,” says Soler.
As well as looking great on mobile, it’s important to make sure the details a customer is looking for are front-and-centre. Don’t hide elements such as addresses, contact info and menus behind tabs, but rather make it as easy as possible for customers to get the info they need, to help them make the decision that yours is the restaurant they’re looking for. Soler adds that a written menu on your site is the way to go, as opposed to a downloadable PDF. “It’s easier to access and helps for SEO,” he explains.
Put simply, search engine optimisation [SEO] means that your website is strategically built to tell Google that it deserves to sit at the top of search result listings. SEO expert Giles White of Whiteclick points out that along with being optimised for mobile, restaurant websites must include key words that users are searching for. A strategic web developer or SEO advisor will be able to help you with this, researching the terms that your customers are using (“Italian Restaurant St Kilda”, for example) and help you add them to your website content. That way, Google can find them and list your establishment in search results.
According to White, many restaurants in Australia are neglecting to leverage the power of SEO—“Those that have strong potential to ‘own’ certain keywords and boost their referrals from search engines”.
Once Google knows you exist, it’s time to give your customers a reason to walk in the door. Grab their attention with mouth-watering images and show off the smiling faces of your staff. Give them
a taste, so to speak, of what they can expect when they come to see you, whether it’s a fun, friendly family vibe, a highly formal setting or a hip urban eatery.
Marnie Fletcher, assistant marketing manager of North Bondi Fish, explains the restaurant’s website was purposely designed to be streamlined and simple. After following the rules to develop a responsive site, North Bondi Fish allows the food and the location to do the talking by showcasing sensational food pictures and those that highlight the impressive views.
With tempting pictures being a huge part of its online strategy, Fletcher explains that North Bondi Fish harnesses the power of social media to keep a connection with customers between visits. The restaurant regularly posts on Facebook and Instagram, mixing it up with shots of food, beverages and the venue. “We speak to our customers through images and leverage social media to include links to blogs, reviews and special events,” she explains.
The downside of the internet and social media landscape, of course, is that negative reviews can surface, damaging your reputation. This doesn’t have to be the end of the world if you convey the message that you are listening to customers by responding to unfavourable comments.
“We have a policy on response times for comments and feedback in place,” says Fletcher, highlighting that a strategy is necessary to minimise the impact of unhappy customers who complain online.
Finally, go ahead and have some fun with your online presence. As a restaurant owner, you have enjoyed creating
a venue that reflects your taste and your personality, so don’t be afraid to do the same with your website.