Restaurant Marketing Online
Although many restaurants have a web site, most of the restaurant sites are really lame, displaying only a couple of photos of their place and simply posting their phone number for people to make reservations.
This is adequate, but a web presence should mean much more for restaurateurs than just showing some information.
The latest Internet Usage Statistics (June 2008, Nielsen // NetRatings) tell us that there are more than 220 million Internet users in the US. This represents 72.5% of the population, and means that most of your potential customers have access to the Internet.
And yet, most of the restaurateurs are doing next to nothing to promote their business online.
A web site is a great vehicle for you to communicate with your existing and potential clients, so why are most restaurateurs not using their website more to do their online marketing?
There are probably some reasons, including including the lack of technical knowledge and Internet experience of many restaurant owners. But having a solid web presence does not have to be difficult or complicated. Online marketing is a great way to cheaply advertise and promote your business if you follow these 10 rules:
1. Have a clean and easy-to-navigate website. Hire a web designer if you need to, but make sure that you know how to update your site. Some restaurant owners outsource all their web services, including updating and maintenance of the site. This is a big mistake – since you should be posting information frequently, and relying on an external partner means delays, inaccuracies, etc.
2. Do not choose form over substance. This is a mistake that many web masters / designers make. Just because they can use fancy flash intros, with music and sophisticated graphics does not mean that these effects should be used. There is nothing more annoying than visiting a website looking for information only to suffer through a distracting and totally useless flash movie. Remember, your website is there to provide your clients with valuable information, and to collect their information so you can include them in your database. Any other reasons are superfluous.
3. Post meaningful information often on your site so that people visit frequently to check out your updates. For example, you can announce special events that you are hosting, such as charity dinners, wine dinners, new menu items, etc.
4. Give something away in exchange for contact information and create a database. This is very important – since the more names and email addresses that you have from your clients, the more you can use this information to send messages with promotions, gift certificates, discount coupons, etc.
For example, you could use an opt-in form that says something like: "Please enter your name and email in the form below to receive a coupon for a free entrée (or a 15% discount, $ 20 gift certificate, etc.) so you can try our wonderful restaurant "Not only this is a great way to capture new clients, but the marketing cost for you is zero. If it does not work, you do not have any expenses. If it works, you have a potential client for life. There is no downside here.
It is a good idea to add an optional Birthday field (ONLY month and day, you do not care about the year). This will be really useful for you to use when sending gift certificates or discount coupons whenever a birthday is coming soon. Not only will you attract the birthday person, but they will bring along friends and / or family as well, since birthdays are usually social events.
And remember, do not give coupons to people at least that they register. You want to capture as many names and emails as possible.
5. Post some videos and photos of your place, but do not post them in the main page. Some people like to know what to expect before they go to your restaurant but they do not want to get annoyed if they have already been in your restaurant and are looking for only certain information.
6. Add an online booking module so that people can make reservations directly through your website. You can contact a company like OpenTable (www.opentable.com). This adds convenience for your clients since they can book right there and then, plus it's also convenient for you since you know who is coming ahead of time and can make arrangements to have the appropriate number of staff, etc.
7. Offer a map and directions to your location. This is very easy by integrating modules from Google or Microsoft Maps, Mapquest, etc. Your webmaster will know how to do this if you do not know it yourself.
8. Create a monthly or quarterly newsletter and post it on your site. You can write about your staff, your dishes, if you have an ethnic restaurant, you can write about the country or the region where the food comes from, some fun information, etc. The point is to keep your place fresh in the eyes and minds of your clients.
9. Post a recipe (or even better, a short video with your chef cooking some signature dish). This will make your place unique and special. And do not forget that you can also post your video in external sites such as YouTube, etc. attracting more potential clients.
10. Send emails to the people that you've captured via the opt-in form from your website as well as any other email addresses you've collected. Remember, you need to give your existing clients some incentive for them to give you their names and email addresses, so that you can add them to your database. Because of the jurisdictions of email marketing, I will discuss this vehicle in a latter newsletter.
Your website should complement your restaurant, and it should be consistent with its values ??and strategy. It should reflect your vision, your strategy and your values. You do not want your potential clients coming to your restaurant after seeing your web site only to get deserved when they find that their experience in your place is nothing similar to the one promised in your web site.
Always think about your clients when you add content to your site. It is there for them, not for you. If you follow my easy steps, your site will be much better than your competitors' – and your marketing will improve considerably.
Jose L Riesco
© Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.