A strong, persuasive online presence can spell success for your restaurant. According to Search Engine Land, 85 percent of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses. This makes it critical for you to embrace online marketing: if your virtual front door isn’t open to customers looking to discover more about your restaurant, you’re squandering the opportunity to lead them to your physical front door.
Here are a couple ways to get started:
1. Have a website. It’s the first step to building out your restaurant’s online search presence. Unfortunately, not many restaurateurs are taking advantage. According to Restaurant Sciences, only 50 percent of independent restaurants have their own websites.
2. Post online menus. Potential diners are not using the Internet to read about your company history or corporate vision; they’re looking for a place to eat good food. Show them what you can offer by posting your restaurant menu online. As local expert Clint Garwood says, “An online menu is better than no menu at all.” [For more on tools to post your menu online, hop over here --Ed.]
3. Enable online ordering / reservations. Services like OpenTable (for reservations) and GrubHub (for online ordering) are indispensable -- especially today, when diners would rather click and type than wait in line or make a phone call. By enabling online ordering or reservations, you make everything easier for your customers as well as your staff.
4. Know thy review sites. Listen closely and respond promptly to what your customers are saying. By monitoring restaurant review sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, Citysearch and Urbanspoon, you can gain new insights on how to improve the restaurant experience, while also giving yourself more control over your online reputation.
5. Engage with food bloggers. Enlisting foodies with high-authority blogs is a great way to start online conversations about your restaurant and gain greater visibility on the web. Sometimes, the reviews they write won’t be as positive as you hoped -- but if you’re confident enough about what you’re offering, blogger outreach is a risk worth taking.
6. Build and grow your e-mail list.Sixty percent of consumers feel more loyal to a restaurant when they’re part of its E-mail list. So start building and growing your subscriber base and leverage the power of E-mail marketing to promote specials, offer coupons, and drive more customers to your restaurant.
Chris Campbell is the CEO of Review Trackers, a simple yet powerful online review monitoring platform for local businesses.