The restaurant industry is a tough and perilous world. Restaurant operators need to be smart to stay ahead of their competitors.

One of the best ways operators can outpace their peers is by utilizing restaurant technology to market their business and grow profits.

This post will detail ways that restaurants can leverage technology to attract customers and grow.

We’ll dive into the advantages of restaurant websites, software that improves operations, and how to utilize google search to improve your restaurant’s web presence.

Let’s get started!

restaurant website design chicago

1.) Inspire New Customers with Your Website

It’s important for small businesses to have a strong website. That rings true for restaurants, too. Between 70-80% of people research small businesses online before visiting the business. A restaurant’s website should be eye-catching and mouth watering while informing the visitor. A strong website can create a great first impression for potential customers.

An added benefit to having your our own website is that it helps you control the online story of your restaurant, so 3rd party review sites like Yelp aren’t the only ones who get to tell that story.

At its most basic, a website needs to answer the following questions:

  • What type of restaurant are you?
  • How can customers find you?
  • What do guests say about your restaurant?

Let’s explore how you can answer those three questions.

First Impressions Create Guest Expectations

Your restaurant’s website can play a huge role in creating new customers. Here’s a checklist of what your website should provide:

Great Photos

A great picture of food can stop a diet in its tracks. And high quality cocktail photos can make the wait for happy hour unbearable. Restaurants and bars sell a perfect product for an image-hungry instagram culture in which the right photo can create new customers.

In addition to food and drink, great website photos should highlight your restaurant’s design and atmosphere to create the right expectations for customers. These can also inform customers of appropriate dress, if it’s kid-friendly, and the overall vibe of your dining room.

Website visitors should leave your website with an understanding of what dining at your venue will feel like.

Accurate Menus

Another must-have for a great website is to have up-to-date menus listed on your site. This gives customers a chance to find the perfect dish to satisfy a craving, and can also provide pricing so you attract the right clientele who are able and willing to spend money with you.

It’s important to make sure your menus are always accurate. Especially if you rotate food and drinks seasonally. When spring hits, you don’t want an old winter menu of hearty dishes to be a gatekeeper, dissuading hungry customers who are seeking out seasonal bites.

Contact Information and Hours

It’s also important to provide hours of operation so customers know when you’re open.

Make sure to have your address listed and also provide a google map location on your site so people can easily find your location. Google also uses this information for search results to quickly provide relevant information to searchers on the web. You need to have correct listings so Google displays the right information

Mobile Friendly

In 2016, mobile and tablet internet traffic outgrew desktop web traffic. While a global number might not mean much for a small or local business, Google reported in 2018 that 50% of mobile users visited stores within one day of a local search.

With on-the-go mobile search leading to actual customer visits, you can’t underestimate how creating a mobile friendly website can impact your business. On the flipside, 52% of mobile users say that they are less likely to engage with a business if they have a bad mobile experience on the company’s website.

Make sure your website is optimized for the mobile experience so you’re not losing customers before they even visit you.

What does mobile-friendly mean for a website?

Proper Display: The information and content is readable and accessible despite different screen resolution, or the size of screen the website is viewed on.
Navigation: Website menus and navigation tools are accessible and easily used when displayed on a mobile or tablet device.
Image quality: Images aren’t blurry or distorted when displayed at a smaller resolution.
Website loading times: Fast site speed is maintained on mobile and tablet devices.

2.) Free Tools to Reach Customers Online

Google My Business

A term that restaurant marketers should be familiar with is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

Optimizing your business so it shows in the top listings of search results is a great way to drive traffic to your restaurant’s website. There are a few core strategies that you can use to improve your SEO for better search results.

One of those is Google My Business. With this free tool, you can set up a profile for your business and list important information like your phone number, address, and reviews from customers.

With a business listing in Google, the search engine will pull the information from your profile and showcase it right in Google search results.

It will even show your business in Google Maps, which is exactly what you want for local searches.

Social Media Needs Calls to Action

Instagram and Facebook are two of the best free resources that restaurants can use to attract customers.

This isn’t news to anyone. But one of the things restaurants need to include in their social media strategy is calls to action.

A call to action, or CTA, is a marketing term for a statement that directs people to take a specific action. For a software company selling an app, a common CTA is Sign Up Now!

For restaurants and bars, sharing photos of delicious dishes or inventive cocktails isn’t enough. You should be telling your customers to come visit you to try the items they see.

For a brunch restaurant, a call to action could be, Stop in Today for Our Bottomless Mimosa Brunch! That CTA could pair with a picture of a mimosa and eggs benedict.  

Directions like calls to action will help persuade people to take the actions you want them to.

Don’t forget to give people direct actions to take, like coming in for happy with your happy hour times listed, or suggesting they buy tickets for an upcoming event. It’s always important to pair your social media posts with calls to action.

In-House: Growing Profits with The Right Restaurant Software

The restaurant industry is ripe for innovation. That’s why there are so many new software companies creating platforms that help operators streamline their operations and improve their business.

Because there are so many tech options for restaurants, It can be overwhelming to consider which types of software you should adopt for your business.

When deciding on the right software it’s important to first think about your business and the areas where it struggles. This helps narrow down the type of software you need, and makes it easier to research the solutions that will work for you.

We’ll cover two of the most common high-cost areas that drain profits for bars and restaurants.

Inventory Control

When it comes to operating costs, food and liquor can account for over 50% of a restaurants costs. On the other hand, alcohol sales account for the highest profits, boasting profit margins of 80-85%.

For a restaurant looking to increase their earnings, the bar is a great place to start. One of the best ways to grow bar profits is with better inventory controls.

Thankfully, there are many software options for operators to use to manage their liquor inventory.

Inventory software will help bar managers speed up inventory counts, place orders with distributors, and analyze their beverage financials with inventory reporting. All of these features will benefit restaurants by saving time and labor costs, as well as providing deeper insights into their beverage program to help grow sales.

Improving your inventory system is the fastest way to grow profits in your restaurant. One inventory solution that you should consider, especially for price sensitive bar managers, is Backbar, a free bar inventory platform.

Scheduling

Another area of high operating costs in restaurants is labor, which can account for between 30-40% of costs for full service restaurants.

Proper labor management is crucial to keeping costs low. Using a scheduling tool for creating schedules, tracking and analyzing labor costs, and reducing the dollars you spend on labor is a smart decision.

These programs can work in conjunction with labor reports from point of sales systems to better understand the staffing levels you need for shifts and where you can optimize labor.

Apps like Hotschedules and 7shifts also help simplify scheduling for managers and offer crowd-sourcing features for staff input on staffing.

Key Points

For restaurants and bars, there is a seemingly endless flow of new technology, but by focusing on the areas that matter most, restaurant operators can improve their marketing and profit earnings.

  1. Websites are a cornerstone for creating new customers
  2. Think like a marketer and optimize your websites SEO
  3. Analyze your restaurant’s biggest problems to find the right technology for your business

About the author: Kyle Thacker

backbar chicago restaurant website design

Kyle has years of hospitality experience from managing bar programs in Chicago. He is now the Director of Marketing for Backbar, a software company that helps bar and restaurant operators simplify inventory and beverage management with the free Backbar inventory platform. getbackbar.com.