Thanks God It's Friday!
And this is a new post from lazygourmet...

Although many restaurants have a web site, most are really rather lame - displaying only a couple of photos of their place and simply posting their phone number for people to make reservations.

This is adequate, but a web presence should mean much more for restaurateurs than just showing some information. And yet, most of the restaurateurs are doing next to nothing to promote their business online.

A web site is a great vehicle for you to communicate with your existing and potential clients, so why are most restaurateurs not using their website more to do their online marketing?

There are probably some reasons, likely including the lack of technical knowledge and Internet experience of many restaurant owners. But having a solid web presence doesn't have to be difficult or complicated. Online marketing is a great way to cheaply advertise and promote your business if you follow these 10 rules:

1. Have a clean and easy-to-navigate website. Hire a web designer if you need to, but make sure that you know how to update your site. Some restaurant owners outsource all their web services, including updating and maintenance of the site. This is a big mistake - since you should be posting information frequently, and relying on an external partner means delays, inaccuracies, etc.

2. Don't choose form over substance. This is a mistake that many web masters/designers make. Just because they can use fancy flash intros, with music and sophisticated graphics doesn't mean that these effects should be used. There is nothing more annoying than visiting a website looking for information only to suffer through a distracting and totally useless Flash movie. Remember, your website is there to provide your clients with valuable information, and to collect their information so you can include them in your database. Any other effects are redundant.

3. Post meaningful information often on your site so that people visit frequently to check out your updates. For example, you can announce special events that you are hosting, such as charity dinners, wine dinners, new menu items, etc.

4. Give something away in exchange for contact information and create a database. This is very important - since the more names and email addresses that you have from your clients, the more you can use this information to send messages with promotions, gift certificates, discount coupons, etc.

Not only this is a great way to capture new clients, but the marketing cost for you is zero. If it doesn't work, you don't have any expenses. If it works, you have a potential client for life. There is no downside here.
You can add an optional field for Birthday, where you capture ONLY the month and day (so people won't be afraid of divulging personal information). This will be really useful for you to use when sending gift certificates or discount coupons whenever a birthday is coming soon. Not only will you attract the birthday person, but they will bring along friends and/or family as well, since birthdays are usually social events.
Also, please don't give coupons away if people don't register. You want to capture as many names and emails as possible.

5. Post some videos and photos of your place, but don't post them in the main page. Some people like to know what to expect before they go to your restaurant but they don't want to get annoyed if they have already been in your restaurant and are looking for only certain information.

6. Add an online booking module so that people can make reservations directly through your website. This adds convenience for your clients since they can book right there and then, plus it's also convenient for you since you know who is coming ahead of time and can make arrangements to have the appropriate number of staff, etc.

7. Offer a map and directions to your location. This is very easy by integrating modules from Google or Microsoft Maps, Mapquest, etc. Your webmaster will know how to do this if you don't know it yourself.

8. Create a monthly or quarterly newsletter and post it on your site. You can write about your staff, your dishes, if you have an ethnic restaurant, you can write about the country or the region where the food comes from, some fun information, etc. The point is to keep your place fresh in the eyes and minds of your clients.

9. Post a recipe (or even better, a short video with your chef cooking some signature dish). This will make your place unique and special. You can post this video also on YouTube with a link to your site increasing your exposure even more.

10. Send emails to the people that you've captured via the opt-in form from your website as well as any other email addresses you've collected. Remember, you need to give your existing clients some incentive for them to give you their names and email addresses, so that you can add them to your database. Email marketing is a vehicle in its own so I was talking about this one in more detail in a previous post.

And remember, your website should be an extension of your restaurant. It should reflect your vision, your strategy and your values. You don't want people coming to your place with an expectation from your site, and leaving disappointed because you didn't deliver the dining experience that they were looking for.

Always think about your clients when you add content to your site. It is there for them, not for you. If you follow my easy steps, your site will be much better than your competitors' - and your marketing will improve considerably.

Related post: Restaurant Email Marketing

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