Nowadays, having a website is pretty much mandatory for every business owner. But simply setting up a site is not enough—you have to do it right. By Rebecka Delforce
So you’re hanging out your shingle in cyberspace? Well, no doubt then, you’ll have created a website with whammo—you know, the intangible quality some websites have when it comes to drawing in customers, enticing them to browse, and finally persuading them to purchase. After all, without the whammo, your cyber visitors—and their dollars—will soon be winging their way elsewhere.
So how do you whammo up your website? Simple, says Ken Burgin, CEO of Profitable Hospitality, an Australian company that offers management services to the hospitality industry. “If you want to brew up a website that boosts your bottom line, then you’ll whack in a few key ingredients …”
Offer a visual feast
An important part of any website is the visuals—but for the restaurant and catering industry, the visuals are paramount. “When you walk past an old restaurant and it has old, yellowed photos of all the dishes, you don’t walk in,” says Burgin. “Same with the shots on your website. You don’t want to advertise grey, shadowy, limp food—get a professional photographer.” And don’t stop at the food, says Burgin. “It’ll cost you a couple of grand anyway, so have the photographer take photos of the wait staff, the chef at work, the local farmers and butchers, the local scenery, the restaurant when it’s full, the fresh produce being delivered … post visuals that give your cyber visitors the feeling that they’re already at your restaurant.”
Lure the hungry hordes
There’s no point in having a website that looks great if it’s got no pull power. Clever websites lure traffic. Here’s how it works. When asked to find a restaurant, search engines like Google will only find your restaurant if you’ve included key words on your home page. Pretend you’re a customer who doesn’t know a restaurant’s name but knows the suburb in which they wish to eat and what food they’re after. What type of words might you ask a search engine to look for? “Seafood, Italian, pasta, family-atmosphere, award-winning, Leichhardt … BYO …” Drum up words that describe your restaurant and stick them on your home page. That way, you’ll draw in customers you didn’t even know were looking for you.
You’re in the service industry, so be of service!
Once you’ve lured your cyber visitors, serve them. Ensure your website takes the hard work out of making a booking. Firstly, give customers the basic information they want to know—your address, phone number, type of cuisine, opening hours, booking system, dish prices, credit cards accepted, BYO status, parking and wheelchair facilities. “Don’t leave anyone hungry for information—they’re unlikely to call you to find it, but instead just browse the web for another restaurant,” advises Burgin.
Indeed, the easier you make it for your customer, the more likely they are to make a booking. Why not have a PDF version of your menu they can download? Why not have a tick-box catering menu that customers download, tick what they want and fax back to you? Why not post a map, showing your exact location? Why not use the services of an online restaurant booking facility, such as www.bookingangel.com.au so that customers can book a table online whenever it suits them? In fact, says Burgin, “Studies of a similar booking service in America show that 30 per cent of online restaurant bookings are made after 11pm—that’s a lot of business to throw away because you’ve left for the evening!” And then, just when you’ve got these basics sorted, go the piece de resistance…
Go the piece de resistance
But only if it works well! Yes, we’re talking the IT piece de resistance … and indeed multimedia can be attention getting. If you post it on your website, it can impress—but only if runs smoothly. “Far better to have a website with basic information that uploads quickly, than drive people away with fancy, flashy multimedia that bogs down their system and sends them clicking off your site,” says Burgin. That said though, if you select well, multimedia can add a personal touch to your site. “Look at what The Moody Chef café in St Leonards (www.themoodychef.com) have done with their website,” says Burgin. “They’ve posted a great video of the team introducing themselves. You feel like you know them before you even get there. That creates trust.”
Okay, so you’ve drawn in the customers, you’ve impressed them with easy-to-find information, wowed them with reliable whiz-bang technology and induced them to book themselves in for a nice meal. All done, right? Not so fast. To ensure continued website whammo, you need to monitor your traffic and update your pages accordingly. Most web hosting companies track this information for you. It’s what you do with it that counts. Someone who can attest to that is Jason Deacon, official wedding sales coordinator and unofficial webmaster and designer for wedding reception centre Nathania Springs, winner of the 2006 R&CA Best Hospitality Website Award. After creating the website, Deacon monitored the movements of his cyber visitors and found most spent their time in the photo gallery. So up went the number of photos on that page. Deacon also found that visitors were e-clicking on links at the top of the pages, but at the bottom of the pages were simply logging off the site. He did a quick rework and put more links at the bottom. “It made a huge difference,” says Deacon. “Now, as visitors near the bottom of the page, they head into another link, spend time there, get to the bottom of that page, head into another link; they keep going until they eventually sign up with us or request a postal package to be sent out to them.”
So there, a cleverly designed website has the power to directly boost your intake—and is certainly within your reach. Just follow the steps above and you’ll be on your way to serious website whammo and many happy returns.