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
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
Example Of An Optimized Restaurant Google Listing
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:
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
Example Of An Optimized Restaurant Instagram Account
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.
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