Things have changed. Can you feel it? Think back to twenty years ago, before you had a smartphone, before Twitter and Facebook … before the Internet was everything to business.
Pretty wild, huh? The entire world has turned upside down, but one thing hasn’t changed – people still want to experience incredible food. With dining out at restaurants in the United States now outpacing grocery store purchases, savvy customers have a lot of options at their disposal. Being ready to stand out in a crowd is more important than ever, and savvy restaurants do that by being more accessible online.
There are a few key numbers in how accessible your business is to potential customers. Desktop computer ownership has dropped by 10 percent in the last five years for adults under 30, with younger consumers opting for more mobile formats like laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The growth of smartphone adoption is nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, 68 percent of all American adults — and 86 percent of adults under 30 — now own smartphones. People simply want faster access to more information, all the time.
And that desire for more access could translate into more views for your website. With 65 percent of smartphone owners searching regularly for nearby restaurants, it makes sense to ensure your restaurant shows up.
Diners no longer wait to sit down at your table to see what you’re serving that day. In fact, nearly two-thirds of consumers are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu on their mobile device. Three out of every 10 will abandon your website altogether if it’s not easy to view on a mobile device.
So why have smartphones and tablets become so important to diners on the go? It’s because mobile devices are ideal for consuming content, more so than any desktop computer.
- Mobile devices are personal. Consumers have come to think of their smartphone as an extension of themselves, with them wherever they go and reflecting their personal style.
- Mobile encourages sharing. Consumers can talk to anyone anywhere in the world with a click of the button, but that also translates into deeper connections with people close to home — people who may also frequent your restaurant.
- Mobile is all about accessing information. Quickly locating timely information is at the root of every smart website developer’s strategy. And asking information about restaurants is among the most common queries for consumers on the go.
Website developers no longer talk about web strategy and mobile strategy as different things; users are making their device choices not by type of content, but by personal circumstances. With their smartphone at their fingertips, consumers don’t generally think, “I’ll save this website/article/search for when I get home tonight” anymore. It’s now or never for their interest. Your next new customer is searching for you this very moment … and they want to make their dining decision on the spot.
So, how can you make that moment really count?
Invest in responsive design.
Since most consumers today own multiple devices for accessing the Internet, it’s difficult to predict which device your customer will be using to visit your website. Responsive web design has only one set of code that adapts (or “responds”) to the type of device it’s being viewed on.
With responsive design, the way items are arranged on the screen, the size of your text, and the size of your photos all adjust based on the device being used, without any extra clicks or separate sites. The content moves around and increases or decreases size to accommodate the size of screen it’s being viewed through. Responsive websites are more streamlined, easier to maintain than separate desktop and mobile websites, and better looking than a website built only for the traditional desktop.
With websites built based on responsive design principles, you are only loading the absolute bare essentials on smaller platforms like smartphones, while more visual content can expand for larger platforms like desktops and laptops. Why does this matter? Because the more items your website needs to load when someone visits, the longer it will take (especially for mobile devices). The longer it takes, the less likely a visitor will wait around before seeking out another option.
In other words, when load time goes down with responsive design, visits go up – visits to your website and, hopefully, visits to your restaurant.
What should my new website include?
How can you make sure that potential customer wants to stick around your new website long enough to turn their experience into a meal? How do you seal the deal?
There are a few basics when it comes to building a successful restaurant website. Above all, make sure it matches the look and feel of your overall brand. Your website could easily be the first impression a new customer has of your establishment, your food, and the overall experience of dining with you. You want the website to be equal parts accurate and attractive.
The basics of any great restaurant website include:
- Enticing photos. Nothing sells your menu to a potential diner like high quality photographs. The Internet is a uniquely visual medium. Take advantage of that!
- Your menu. Make sure your menu is in a format easily read on a mobile device. Just posting PDFs or JPGs of your menu can strain the eyes or are difficult for smartphones to load, so include your menu as live text.
- Video! Website visitors are 10 times more likely to engage with a video than other forms of content.
- Your phone number. Calling your restaurant is still an easy way for guests to order directly from you, ask questions, and check your hours of operation.
Your website doesn’t need to be complicated. It just needs to answer your customer’s questions in as simple and elegant of a way as possible. Less is more. For every page on your website, just ask yourself:
What do my customers need…
right this very second…
exactly where they are…
with what they have at hand…
to make a decision to dine at my restaurant?
Will a new website be expensive?
Maybe. It depends on how many visitors you expect, how many bells and whistles you need, and how adept you are at building your own site from a template. The wide range of website hosting and design costs could end up being the majority of your marketing budget or it might be a minor expense. It depends on what fits your business’ marketing needs. More complicated doesn’t always mean better, but simpler doesn’t always mean cheaper, either.
Make a plan for a new website that’s easier to read, more engaging, and will drive more customers through your doors. Investigate different options — from building your own site through squarespace.com or godaddy.com to hiring a web design firm to build a site for you — to decide what feels right for your level of interest and ability.
And if that plan is more than your marketing budget can spare, consider funding it through one of Rewards Network’s restaurant financing programs. We’ll not only get you the cash you need, we’ll also bring a consistent stream of new customers to the table with our built-in marketing services.