8 Steps to Get Your Restaurant Game Cooking Online
Take full use of today's online opportunities so you can eat up the competition.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Like every business category out there, restaurants can take advantage of the online environment to grow their business and enhance their brand reputation as well as improve their overall operations.
Related: How BentoBox Is Ending the Era of Badly Designed Restaurant Websites
However, many restaurants may have -- so far -- used off-line strategies only for marketing and operations; therefore, they may find it difficult to know where to start.
Here are eight steps you can take advantage of that may help you up your restaurant game online:
1. Enhance your website to make it more attractive.
Your restaurant's ability to provide an excellent in-person experience may be gauged by the look and feel of your website, so you want to make sure it reflects what customers will experience should they come try it.
Keep your website clear and uncluttered so it is easy to navigate, and visitors can get to the information they want most: your location, hours, reservation system and menu.
Be sure to include many photos illustrating the quality of your food as well as the ambiance you provide.
Also, offer links to all your social media profiles so online visitors can stay updated on the latest information and be motivated to engage at review sites to share their experiences with others. Companies like BentoBox specialize in website design for restaurants.
2. Incorporate online ordering and/or delivery services.
Research from GrubHub discovered that small restaurants average 50 percent increases in revenue and 20 percent in takeout order volume after adding an online tool like GrubHub.
Related: A Restaurant Built (and Rebuilt) With Customer Loyalty
By incorporating this additional service, your restaurant will add more value for existing customers and be able to attract new ones. There are numerous other delivery tools, too, that can now be added to your website, including UberEATS, Postmates, ChowNow and more.
These tools handle the online ordering process for you, so all you need to do as a restaurant is expedite the orders for pickup or delivery. Be sure to announce this service online and offline to maximize the return on investment.
3. Leverage available technology to improve the customer experience.
With technology taking over every aspect of life, your customers will expect you to incorporate technology into your restaurant. Make sure to market the fact that you have added the newest technology, whether it's a mobile payment platform or behind-the-scenes updates.
For example, Upserve offers a restaurant management system that serves up various types of data that can help you be more responsive to customers; this helps personalize their experience. Upserve also provides a way to track every guest, so you can customize future visits or any marketing you plan to do through email or mobile marketing platforms.
This includes your customers' favorite dishes, dates when they visited the restaurant, upcoming reservations, their average bill and more.
Upserve further helps you with the back end of your restaurant so you can handle prep, supplies, inventory and more, all factors which go toward helping you create an online reputation as an excellent restaurant.
4. Optimize your online presence.
The National Restaurant Association found that 88 percent of adults surveyed said they use online resources to look up restaurant locations, directions, menus and hours of operation. In order to improve your own online presence and connect with potential customers conducting restaurant searches, make sure your audience and existing customers can actually find you online.
That means regularly assessing your SEO process and adding content that includes keywords that help consumers find you during searches related to seasonal menus, location and services like takeout, delivery and events.
5. Stay in the know with online reviews, opinions and third-party profiles about your restaurant.
Whether the problem is inaccurate information on your Google business listing or a site like MenuPages, or a negative or positive review on Yelp, stay on top of what's happening by continually reviewing these online sites for what's being said about your restaurant.
By making sure you correct any inaccurate information, and addressing feedback, you can engage with your audience, correct any bad experience and illustrate to your online audience that you care and are actively involved with them.
6. Become an online expert.
Leverage the power of a blog and submit articles to various online news sites that feature cooking tips, healthy eating advice or information about event-planning, parties or any other related subject, where you can align your restaurant and industry expertise with content that gives your audience value.
One of the easiest blog platforms to use is WordPress, which offers a way to easily schedule blog posts and create regular content that can add another dimension to your online presence.
7. Get into the mobile app biz.
Ordering and restaurant-loyalty apps are a must if you want to improve your interaction with new and existing customers. Your restaurant app can be a draw for customers who like to use their smartphones to check in and tell others about where they are eating. An app can also advertise special promotions and deals that enhance your upsell strategies, to encourage more visits or larger meal tabs.
8. Engage with your audience on the social level with useful content and discussions.
Your social profiles are more than places to just collect likes; you can use these pages to add seasonal content, promotions and videos of restaurant recipes being created, photos of new dishes on your Instagram page and more.
Related: At This New Fast-Food Restaurant, Human Interaction Is Almost Zero
You can also add surveys to learn more about what your customers are interested in seeing at your restaurant. Use tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts and regular content updates as well as be informed on the latest comments and discussion on your social profiles so you can respond as quickly as possible.