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3 Ways to Boost Online Visibility and Web Traffic for Your Restaurant

Sep 21, 2021
min read
Written by
This article outlines:
Key elements of a restaurant website that will attract and retain customers
Tips for optimizing your restaurant’s Google My Business and Google Maps listings
How to ensure maximum discoverability for your restaurant on social media

o remain competitive in the restaurant industry, brands of all sizes and types need to have a strong online presence. A user-friendly website, optimized Google listings, and active social media accounts increase discoverability, drive sales, and help foster long-term customer loyalty.

Here are three ways to boost your restaurant’s visibility online and drive traffic to your website:

1. Prioritize Your Restaurant Website

When people want to learn about a new restaurant today—explore the menu, find nearby locations, view order options, etc.—they’ll often start by looking at their website. And first impressions are everything.

A well-executed website has the power to convert a window shopper into a paying customer, whereas a poorly designed one can quickly drive people away. Consider your website an extension of your restaurant brand. It should mirror the brand colors, messaging, and overall vibe of your brick-and-mortar locations so that anyone (existing and new customers) can get a feel for what your business is all about.

When thinking about the design of your restaurant website, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Carefully consider their end-to-end journey. How easy or difficult is it to find your website? View the menu? Place an order? And what is the experience like on a phone? The less friction, the more likely they’ll book, place an order, or share with their friends.

You’ll have an easier time attracting and retaining customers by ensuring your restaurant website has these important features.

Key Elements Of An Effective Restaurant Website

  • Responsive (mobile-friendly) design
  • User-friendly navigation
  • High-quality imagery
  • Clear calls to action (CTAs)
  • Ability to order online, make a reservation, or join the waitlist
  • Attractive, cohesive branding
  • Accurate information (contact info, address, hours, etc.)
  • Social media links
  • Ability to share comments about the dining experience
  • Option to opt-in to email and SMS marketing

Examples Of Well-Designed Restaurant Websites

First Watch Website
First Watch: Join the waitlist and order online CTAs are the first thing you see; high-quality food photography; straightforward navigation makes it easy to subscribe for updates, view the menu, and more

SoDel Concepts Website
SoDel Concepts: Simple, compelling messaging; user-friendly navigation; clear CTAs, including purchase a gift card and join the email list; high-quality imagery; brand story and culture is front and center

Round Table Pizza Website
Round Table Pizza: A hot new menu item catches your attention right away, followed by the order now button; straight-forward navigation; home page promotes the loyalty program and branded merchandise

CA Fish Grill Website
California Fish Grill: Eye-catching imagery and branding; safety update at the top; clean navigation; ability to download the app with a strong CTA; a video that highlights differentiators on the homepage

For even more tips, check out The 10 Essential Elements of a Restaurant Website, written by our friends at Bentobox.

2. Optimize Your Restaurant’s Google Listings

One of the most common ways that customers find places to eat today is by searching online—primarily using Google.

Google now owns 92% of search engine market share worldwide, and according to Google Trends data from the last five years, the search term “restaurants near me” recently reached peak popularity in July 2021.

But don’t just take our word for it: Look at your customer data. When you review the origin sources of your covers or online orders, how many came from Google?

Restaurants can increase their visibility, bookings, online orders, and more, by optimizing their Google My Business listing, which is directly tied to their Google Maps listing. In other words, by meeting people where they are.

But what exactly does optimize mean?

How To Optimize A Restaurant’s Google My Business Listing

To rank high in Google Search results and appear in Google Maps when customers are searching for nearby restaurants, you first need to claim your Google My Business profile.

Then, it’s time to fill out all of the profile details: Address, Phone Number, Website, Keyword-rich Description, Menu, Business Hours, Logo, Photos, and Service Options.

Next, give customers the ability to “Reserve a Table,” “Order Online,” or “Join the Waitlist”—right from your Google listing. The more details you provide and fewer hoops customers have to jump through, the better.

Google My Business is an important platform for restaurants to communicate directly with current and potential customers, by posting announcements (events, seasonal offerings, safety precautions, etc.), answering questions in the Q&A section, and responding to reviews—good and bad.

With a fully optimized Google listing, restaurants can:

  • Increase bookings (reservations & waitlist, and online orders) by enabling customers to take action directly from the listing
  • Appear on Google Maps when people look for restaurants nearby
  • Enhance the guest experience by making it easier for customers to find information (menu, photos, reviews, answers, etc.) quickly
  • Engage with customers and build trust
  • Identify opportunities to improve service based on guest feedback and recover guests whose sentiment indicates they may be a churn risk
  • Set their brand apart from the competition

Example Of An Unoptimized Restaurant Google Listing

Lilian's Restaurant Google Listing Mock-up
Lilian’s Restaurant profile is missing key information, reviews, and images, so it will not display high up in Google Search results or on Google Maps.

Example Of An Optimized Restaurant Google Listing

Bartaco Google Listing
bartaco ranks high for “tacos Nashville” because of its fully optimized, user-friendly Google listing and stellar reviews.

For more tips, read 5 Local Business Listing Mistakes Restaurants Should Avoid.

3. Establish A Strong Social Media Presence

According to a 2019 survey by the marketing agency MGH, 36% of U.S. diners follow restaurants on social media, and 39% of that group do so to determine if they want to eat there. Furthermore, nearly half of U.S. diners said they’ve tried a restaurant for the first time because of a social media post by the restaurant.

Needless to say, social media is an important avenue for finding and attracting new restaurant customers. But it’s not enough to post an occasional photo. Restaurants need to outline specific goals for each platform (i.e. building brand awareness, engaging directly with customers, showcasing unique offerings, etc.) and spend time cultivating a community around their brand.

When you’re first getting your restaurant set up on social media, think quality over quantity. Focus your efforts on two or three major platforms, so you don’t spread yourself too thin. If you’re unsure which social channels are worth the investment, consider your current customer demographics, look at referral traffic sources in Google Analytics, and/or survey your guests with high customer lifetime value (CLV).

Let’s say you discover that your best customers spend a good chunk of their day on Instagram. Here’s how to make your profile (and, ultimately, your restaurant) attractive to new and existing customers on that platform.

Start by filling out all of your Instagram profile details:

  • Pick a username that accurately reflects your restaurant and is easy to remember
  • Use your restaurant logo for the profile photo
  • Add a link to your website
  • Write a keyword-rich description and include a branded hashtag
  • Set up a shop if you have merchandise
  • Add the option to order food if applicable
  • Add the option to send an email to the restaurant

Then, create a content strategy for posting images on your feed. Here are a few tips:

  • Establish a posting cadence by theme: Food, drinks, people, vibe, brand story, user-generated content, etc.
  • Determine what brand voice and tone you’ll use for your captions (i.e. playful, thought-provoking, punny, personable, etc.)
  • Identify opportunities to engage with followers by asking questions and polling
  • Create a plan for posting consistently (i.e. at least five days per week, testing different times to measure engagement)
  • Stick to your brand color palette to ensure your feed is aesthetically pleasing (i.e. dark and alluring, neutrals, bright and fun, etc.)

In addition to posting images, take advantage of all of Instagram’s features, including Stories, Reels, and Instagram Live to get customers excited about your restaurant offerings. For example, post a smoothie tutorial, poll your followers, tell the origin story of your famous queso, or do a live Q&A with everyone’s favorite bartender.

Next, create Instagram Stories Highlights that will live on your restaurant’s profile for all to see. For example, menu spotlights, locations, user-generated content, Q&A about a seasonal offering, and chef tips. Here’s some inspiration from leading brands:

Social Media Tips for Restaurants
Row 1 from left: Sweetgreen showcases salad ingredients, Dunkin’ answers Qs about a seasonal drink, Starbucks outlines its commitment to sustainability, and 16 Handles reveals a new topping. Row 2 from left: First Watch unveils its spring menu, Din Tai Fung shows off its famous dumplings, Lazy Dog tells customers about free delivery, and Hawkers tells their brand story.

When it comes to curating your restaurant’s Instagram profile, consistency—from the overall look of your grid to the posting schedule—is key. In fact, 30% of millennial diners actively avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence.

For inspiration, these 10 restaurants are killing it on Instagram.

Example Of An Unoptimized Restaurant Instagram Account

RJ's Instagram Page
RJ’s Instagram profile is missing a description, its images are dark and dull, and the restaurant isn’t taking advantage of all of the platform’s capabilities to build an audience.

Example Of An Optimized Restaurant Instagram Account

Barcelona Wine Bar Instagram
Barcelona Wine Bar has a fully optimized Instagram account with on-brand posts, Story Highlights to entice restaurant-goers, a branded hashtag, and a keyword-rich description.

While every social media platform has unique opportunities for optimizing a profile, start with these guidelines:

  • Ensure that all profile details are filled out and updated as needed
  • Create a clear CTA to maximize conversions (i.e. Order Online or Reserve a Table)
  • Utilize relevant hashtags to increase discoverability
  • Use location-based tagging when possible to help people find your restaurant
  • Make it easy to contact you with questions or for more information
  • Ensure all images, video, and messaging are on-brand
  • Seize the opportunity to interact with and learn from current and potential customers
  • Leverage user-generated content to build a community around your brand

Taking these steps on social media will grow your following, boost brand awareness, drive traffic/orders, give regulars an easy way to advocate for your business, enable new customers to find and engage with your brand, and provide an additional digital front door to your restaurant.

Final Thoughts

The importance of a strong online presence for restaurants—and businesses in general—can not be understated. New and existing customers need to be able to find and engage with your brand quickly and easily across platforms.

Your restaurant website, Google listing, and social media accounts—or lack thereof—could be the difference between earning a customer’s business and losing it to a competitor.

Main photo by Monstera at Pexels