The internet affords businesses new opportunities to attract customers but going digital requires more than a website and wishful thinking.
The turbulent events of the past year have forced many operators in the food and hospitality business to rethink their approaches. In an industry built on the relationship between food and people, finding an authentic place to include technology isn’t easy, especially when menu items or culinary approaches don’t always lend themselves to takeaway or delivery.
Yet, that’s not to say a restaurant couldn’t benefit from a bolstered presence online. So here are eight checklist items to help restaurants go digital this year.
1. Optimise the Website
It is essential for websites to be optimised for smartphones today as they’re the primary device used to perform food searches. Many restaurant websites are downranked if they have old, poorly built, and/or non-reactive sites.
2. Invest in SEO
According to Jacob King Stanley, Director of specialist SEO agency House of Psalm, prioritising SEO will lead to stronger and more consistent leads and increased sales. He suggests starting with the basics like adding your business to widely available and free directories. “The main ones include Google My Business, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, Yahoo, Facebook, Instagram, Open Table, Bing, Foursquare and Apple Maps Connect,” he says.
King Stanley recommends going further by using Google to find localised listings and adding businesses to each of them in turn. Search engine optimisation is an important process for creating a lasting digital footprint that helps customers find the site with minimal fuss. It’s a long game strategy with no quick fixes. Consider hiring a professional advisor or agency to ensure you’re employing the right strategies to increase visibility with search engines.
3. Create A Takeaway Menu / Offer delivery
Create a digital footprint for your delivery or takeaway menu. Leverage your delivery partnerships to increase your presence online and enable more customers to experience your menu. Ensure your photos and descriptions are of high quality to showcase your offering to new customers. Many restaurants benefit from increased awareness via delivery. Use hero menu items to showcase your style of food and be careful to pick options that travel well and offer favourable profit margins. Consider adding takeaway only options to better tailor your menu.
4. Increase Social Presence
Build a community on social media. Engage with your local community to showcase new menu items and receive direct feedback on promotions and special offers. Trial polls and surveys to interact with your fan-base and community and use social posts to update customers with regards to changes in hours or services. Consider creating micro-communities using Facebook groups to create a digital community built around a specific location or city. Use these groups to promote specific services and offers and use them to garner feedback for improving offerings and services.
5. Find Alternative Revenue Streams
Create a space to make money when your doors are closed. Consider using your website to sell merchandise or products directly to customers such as hats, t-shirt, bottled sauces, or DIY dinner kits. “What’s to stop you from implementing your own e-commerce store on your website and distributing that nationwide and creating a brand around your product?” asks Adam Cheers, founder of Peanut Butter Jelly in Sydney.
Cheers says one of the biggest learnings to come from the global pandemic is the demand for products beyond a restaurant’s immediate community. He suggests looking at products like sauces and margarita mixes to drive revenue in your business. Create an authentic online presence that represents your brand. Selling products or offering delivery may not be right for every restaurant so think carefully about your core values and digital versions of your menu. Products or services could be desirable for a digital audience. Read our profile with Butter Sydney to find out how they diversified their revenue stream.
6. Collaborate With Others
Collaborations are a great way to share audiences and create a buzz or interest in a special offer or service. Look for complimentary brands to team up with. Create and experiment to find new and exciting ways to showcase the personality of your brand. 1800 Lasagne founder Joey Kellock has found myriad ways to generate buzz through teaming up with brands that have a similar outlook. Read about his stunt with a local lube brand for inspiration.
7. Consider If Digital Ads Are Right For You
Ads may not be every restaurant’s first port of call, but they can be a great way to build awareness and drive digital and foot traffic. Speak to an agency or an advisor to find a strategy that best suits your venue and budget. “A good agency will work with your brand and your budget to create a strategy that engages your desired customer,” says Jack Phillips, Executive Producer of content agency Snackable. “The trick is to be strategic in your approach and understand that it may take some trial and error to land on an effective approach.”
Phillips suggests looking for specialised agencies that specifically focus on or understand food and have a proven track record for helping restaurants. Ensure you scrutinise the results to generate an optimal cost per lead. Don’t waste your hard earn marketing budget on a slapdash approach.
8. Consider If Influencer Marketing Is Right For You
Influencer marketing is a touchy subject but has been used by many restaurants and venues to drive traffic and awareness. Think carefully about who you engage and why. Speak to a specialist to ensure it’s the right fit for your brand.
“Influencer Marketing has helped restaurants spread the word about their new offerings and fostered community spirit through lock-downs,” explains Danielle Lewis, CEO and founder of Influencer agency Scrunch. “Instead of the Insta-celeb, micro-influencers are leading the charge helping the food/restaurant industry create relatable content for consumers. Just don’t forget the old marketing rules apply, assess your Influencer’s audience data first to make sure they speak to potential customers in your area.