Does the Internet Accurately Portray Your Restaurant's Identity?

By Joe Welsh, Foodable Industry Expert

shutterstock_176544392.jpg

What does a consumer see when they search for your restaurant on the internet?

Many restaurant owners are so busy with running their business that they don’t have the time to think about how the internet has changed the marketing landscape and the impact it has on their business. Think about it, social media, review sites, and local search are tools that consumers use every day. The smartphone has made these tools available to them whether they are at home or not. Word of mouth marketing has now expanded well beyond speaking with your friends.

Many restaurant owners that I speak with still have the opinion that many of their customers do not use the internet at all. I ask a simple question, take a look at your restaurant customers and see who is using a smartphone or ask who owns one.  A recent study by Exact Target indicated that 85% of their survey respondents said mobile devices are a central part of everyday life. Just as important, on average respondents report spending 3.3 hours a day on their smartphones. As you look to the future for growth opportunities, tools such as online ordering, email marketing and online reservations are used often by millennials who are your future customers. Is your restaurant visible and are you communicating with them?

What Consumers See When They Google Your Restaurant 

But what is the impact it has on your business? Local search for restaurants is one the most used search terms on Google. How does your restaurant show up? Did you know that there are hundreds of search engines that Google looks at to bring up the results for your business? Most restaurants I look at have accurate information on only a small percentage of those search engines. Outside of search engines, what does your business look like on social media? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ are all ways for you to communicate with your guest. Advertising on social media is a cost effective tool to get your message out and many companies are shifting their marketing budgets to this kind of marketing to gain exposure. Review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor are also tools that consumers use as a guide to make decisions. What do consumer reviews say about your restaurant? Would you want to visit your restaurant based on what the reviews say?

Financial Payback

shutterstock_225001186.jpg

Is there a financial payback to local search visibility? Many of these tools have a direct payback to your business. Online ordering and reservations produce direct results in terms of revenue and both should be promoted on social media to drive success. Review sites also have a direct impact. A study done by Harvard Business School indicates that an improvement of a one star can yield as much as a 9 % increase in sales. A restaurant doing a million dollars a year in sales could see as much as a $90,000 revenue impact by going from three stars to four stars on Yelp. These two areas alone are direct examples of how local search visibility provides a ROI that can be measured. Often the cost to implement these programs is minimal in relation to the financial returns. While local search visibility improvement is a strategy for restaurants, the digital tactics call for an integrated marketing approach to maximize the return on investment. This approach has enabled the restaurant owners to shift their marketing budgets from tools such as print and radio adverting to programs that are measurable.

The speed of technology change is exploding for restaurant owners but the potential results can be a significant ROI. This does not change the fact that many restaurant owners do not have enough time in their day to do everything. Perhaps it is time to focus on restaurant marketing technology tools and content marketing as a tools to drive traffic and sales as a revenue generation center and not as a business expense for the future.