Why Restaurant Websites Suck…and What They Can Do About It

I search for restaurants, restaurant reviews, patios and food nearly every day. When I find any search result, I’m automatically pleased…until I click on it. Restaurant websites/lack of websites are generally horrifying; stock music plays in the background, colors make your eyes bleed, and the menu won’t load. Not saying there aren’t some really enjoyable eatery websites, but holy guacamole, there are a lot of unsavory sites.

Many restaurants haven’t jumped on board this thing called the Interwebs, but why?

  • Not selling products online?
  • Limited marketing budget?
  • Don’t care?
  • Misconception that people don’t use Search prior to their dining experience?

Well, I of course 100% recommend you get a website, even if it just covers the basics like address, hours of operation, and menu. But besides a website, there are other ways to build a web presence. Some of the free platforms restaurants should take the time to set up and fully complete profiles for are Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare.

Yelp and UrbanSpoon: Claim your business profile before it turns into a user generated profile that may not reflect your business properly. By claiming this listing, you will receive notifications of reviews, and be able to provide cuisine type, pricing, features, menus and a link to your other web presences. These are used by potential customers on desktops, as well as “last minute” mobile diners. These apps also track location, and if an address is included, the restaurant will show as a local result to the user. The Office Bistro & Lounge in Akron has a great, optimized Yelp page… which actually influenced my decision to go last weekend.

Facebook: Create a page that fans can like and interact with. This is basically like creating your own focus group to collect feedback. When a customer checks in to your restaurant, it will appear on their wall and create impressions to their friends. You are able to update specials, news, events, and upload lots of scrumptious pictures. Eating is incredibly visual, and it just so happens that Facebook is totally into images and visuals with the timeline feature. Local eateries Flip Side, The Green House Tavern, and Gervasi Vineyard & Italian Bistro do a pretty good job with Facebook.

Twitter: Twitter is a great way to update specials, share news, and answer the ever popular question, “Where should we #eat tonight?” Check out the Deagan’s Kitchen & Bar in Cleveland to get a good feel for how Twitter can be used well.

FourSquare: FourSquare offers nearby destinations, tips and incentives for your customers to use. By setting up your account, you will receive notifications of tips as well as be given the opportunity to entice people to visit with special deals. The specials are great because users don’t have to print them, and you can change them as often as you like. Shout out to Hodge’s Cleveland for a good use of FourSquare.

Of All Things, What Do Your Customers Crave?

The main subject of restaurant search is the menu. In general, people like knowing what dining experience they should expect and how much they’re going to pay. Using a popular chain restaurant, Olive Garden, their largest search volume falls in inquires for the restaurant’s menu. It’s 15 times more popular than the next most searched-for phrase, “olive garden restaurant.”

Some “Live Or Die By” Tips For Your Menu:

  • Don’t create your menu in flash. It may look hot and sexy, but Google won’t be able to index it, and iPhone users won’t be able to view it.
  • Don’t use a scanned image of your menu, the same issues with flash will occur with a jpeg or tiff image.
  • PDFs are good to use from a printing and indexing standpoint. (Personal preference, I would love to see a menu on a webpage opposed to a PDF – that way users don’t have to contend with PDF issues in their browser.)
  • Add links to your website or web presence on your menus. In case they get used by a review site or somewhere else, you will be able to generate traffic and a backlink.

So restaurants, listen up! Feed bellies and please your customer’s search abilities, please. Take from this:

  • Social media is an opportunity you should fully invest time in
  • Optimize your profiles
  • Get a legit website, and make it as palatable to the eyes as your food is to the taste buds
  • Do not use flash
  • Menu, menu, menu… upload and update
  • Follow the Oatmeal’s advice (he’s a genius, so listen to him)

Have more questions? Ask us! We love to answer them, so if you’ve got a question cooking, post it in our comments. Or, literally cook something up and bring it to us here at TKG.

Geoff is our fearless leader – President & Owner of TKG, a role he’s held proudly for the past 15 years. He likes to talk “big picture” online marketing trends and strategy, and how/why businesses can use the web to achieve their goals. He’s also a passionate Steelers fan; we felt you should know that.

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