Five Questions To Ask About Your Restaurant’s Website

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Not what you want your potential guests to see at your website

 

Let’s face it, your restaurant’s website is probably not that great.  I can say this without looking at your restaurant’s website because a vast majority of restaurants websites range from underperforming to an annoyance that drives away guests.  I am not the only one who has noticed this (or here, here, here, I could keep going).  There is a growing tide of resentment against restaurants and their lousy websites.  As the guests complain, we as an industry have been slow to respond.

It is fair to say that most restaurant managers do not have a background in website design.  Most restaurants contract this task out to someone who is an expert in website design, but has little or no experience in restaurant management.  Each party is content with not concerning themselves with the tasks assigned to the other.  The problem with this idea is that restaurants fail to capitalize on their website as a “fifth wall” of marketing by conveying timely information to potential guests in a way that will land them in the restaurant.  Many managers are content with the fact that their website looks “neat” and has all of the necessary information.  This is because they are unaware of everything that a website can do for a restaurant.  For that reason I came up with a list of questions by which you can judge your own website’s functionality.

Here are five questions you should ask about your website:

Can you update it?  The question is not if it can be updated, but rather if you can do it onsite.  Do you have the flexibility to adjust prices, add seasonal menu items, remove items that are out of season, and let your guests know about upcoming promotions?  You should.  A well designed website will give you the control to make these adjustments from the office in a short period of time.  Beware of companies that build your site, but do not teach you how to use it.  You become dependent on them and your business operates on their time frames.  It is your site, and you should be taught how to use it.

Can you add to it?  This is a problem that is often encountered by restaurants who answered an advertisement for a $99 website.  They get a small website, but have no ability to expand it to offer additional information to their guests.  People who look to the web to find out about your restaurant want to be able to have all of their questions answered on the site.  As you expand your offerings and promotions, your site will need to be able to expand with it.  If you lack this flexibility, you should probably consider making a change.

Does it target potential guests?  Imagine your website as a product in a grocery store.  Is yours a big end cap display that people stop and look at or is it out of stock on the shelves?  Your website should proactively reach out and capture guests.  The key to this is not spending a bunch of money to buy top billing as many designers would have you believe.  The key is building a site that search engines love.  Then you must add content to your site that allows you to target any factor that drives guests to the area your restaurant is in.  This takes minimal effort on your part if the site is designed well.  It can also lead to a sold out event at the arena nearby filling your restaurant.

Is your site smart phone friendly?  Restaurant websites are disproportionately viewed on smart phones.  Your website should therefore be designed to work well with smart phones.  That really cool introductory montage that your web designer created for you might have looked amazing, but smart phones hate it.  It is more important that your site is functional than fancy.  All of the bells and whistles are nice, but they are a detriment if the guest cannot load your site on their phone.  Take a look at your own site and see how smart phones react to it.  If you cannot fully utilize the site on a smart phone, it is definitely time to consider a new site.

Does it enhance the guest experience?  We have all seen the stories about restaurants attempting to utilize iPads to improve guest satisfaction.  The truth is that with so many guests carrying smart phones it is redundant.  A great website will allow guests to use their phones to pull up the website to learn about the history of the restaurant, the types of products you offer, and the flavor profile of that high dollar Cabernet.  Your website should give access to information to guests seated in your restaurant in depths that your menu never could.  A well designed restaurant website is the ultimate upselling tool.

Having a background in restaurant management and website design gives me a unique perspective on this problem.  Restaurants pay far too much for websites that do far too little.  Your website should provide a return on investment greater than any other marketing beyond your four walls.  It should also serve as the “fifth wall” to improve the guest’s experience while they are in the restaurant.  If your website does not do this for you, it is time to consider a redesign.  The benefits of this technology will yield the greatest dividends to those who are early adapters and create the websites by which all others are measured.  Choosing to be ahead of this curve will provide dividends now and into the future.

As a very limited time offer, I am taking this a step further.  There are many factors to consider beyond the five questions listed above.  The first five managers/owners that send a request to David@HospitalityFormula.com will receive a complimentary website analysis.  I will give you a rundown of your site and point out the strengths/weaknesses.  This is a great opportunity to receive practical analysis from someone who understands what a website can do for your restaurant.  There is no obligation at all.  I will delete this offer when I have reached five so don’t wait to receive this honest third party opinion.

Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips, the new book from the author of The Manager’s Office, teaches the skills of exceptional servers that will increase customer satisfaction and dramatically improve restaurant sales.  This book is more than a server training manual.  It is the secret to teaching your staff to enjoy selling and give your guests the experience that will create raving fans.  To learn more about the book, visit www.tips2book.com.  Use the coupon code “MANAGER” to save 20% at the checkout.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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  • http://www.kclunchspots.com Dave

    Your first point is probably the most important. It does not instill great confidence to see last year’s specials and events on a website. I’d also stress that the majority of users are looking for quick info. Hours, address and phone number should be right on the front page or at least prominently linked from front page. Steer away from flash (annoying and not iphone friendly) and the dreaded PDF menu.

  • http://www.kclunchspots.com Dave

    Your first point is probably the most important. It does not instill great confidence to see last year’s specials and events on a website. I’d also stress that the majority of users are looking for quick info. Hours, address and phone number should be right on the front page or at least prominently linked from front page. Steer away from flash (annoying and not iphone friendly) and the dreaded PDF menu.