Creating an online presence with useful content is one of the major keys to be successful on the Internet today. Today, a website has to offer much more than just basic information about your restaurant or foodservice operation. It has to engage your visitors and encourage repeat visits.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, offers these ideas for improving your web presence, and thereby increasing interest in your operation:
1. Get found
Most people use search engines like Google to find what they are looking for. For example, if a person felt like eating Indian food, he might type, “Best Indian food, Toronto” into the search box, and will get over 10,000 results. But how do you ensure that your restaurant operation appears on the first page? SEO, or search engine optimization, is a must-do for all businesses today, and it starts with your keywords. Research keywords and phrases that relate to your operation by asking your customer, studying your competitors’ websites, or use a keyword research tool. Include these relevant words in your homepage, title tag and the rest of your content. Be sure to include your geographical location.
2. Show your personality
Consumers are looking for more than just your hours, location and menu when they look at your website. They are also checking out your atmosphere and style. You need to convey the personality of your operation – whether you are fun, family-friendly, elegant, etc. – through your website using the appropriate colours, graphics, design, text, videos, games and content.
3. Don’t keep it static
Make sure that your website is updated on a regular basis and you have something new at least once a week. Change your menu options, announce specials, promotions or upcoming events, rotate photos of your food and drink, or update the text. Keep in mind that all the information you put on your website should enlighten or educate readers about something. Schedule at least 30 minutes a week to work and improve your website.
4. Make personal contact with customers
Allow customers to be able to interact with you on your website. It can be something as simple as the ability to order online or make reservations online, signing up for a newsletter or offering a comments box to send you messages. Just make sure you respond to all inquiries, and never ignore any comments – whether they are positive or negative.
5. Value-added content
If you can dedicate more time to your website, add value to your content by starting a blog or posting online videos. A personal blog or video can create familiarity with customers who read your musings (on your blog) or see your face (in the video), so that when they visit your restaurant, they already feel like they know you. This creates a personal connection and makes the customer feel he is dining in a familiar and comfortable environment.
6. Get on the social media bus
Yes, getting involved with social media could become a full-time job in itself, but combining your web presence with social media tools will help you increase your search rankings significantly. Try to prioritize which social media tools would work best for your restaurant operation. For example, if you cater to a younger crowd, using Twitter might be more effective than for an older crowd.
7. Track the response
Your website is the easiest way to keep track of how many people are interested in your operation, as you can see how many people click onto your site versus your sales activity, as well as customer response to your specials, promotions and events. This information will help you plan for the future.
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