Importance of Online Presence for Restaurants


Gone are the days when snagging a spot on a bustling boulevard was enough to get diners clamoring for a seat at your restaurant. These days, even if your restaurant sits conveniently in the center of the action and your menu is tastier than a Michelin-starred chef’s dreams, it won’t make a lick of difference if you’re not making waves online.

Yes, in this digital era, having a robust and positive online presence is crucial for cooking up success in the restaurant business. With a wide array of digital channels and tools at their disposal, diners don’t just settle for what they see on the sidewalk – they now have a plethora of digital tools at their fingertips to scope out your website, peruse your menu, and check out your reviews before even stepping foot inside. 

But don’t just take our word for it; the data speaks for itself. 

A survey conducted by TouchBistro found that a staggering 84% of restaurantgoers always or often check out a restaurant menu ahead of time. In comparison, 79% consistently or constantly look at a restaurant’s website. That’s a giant leap from just a few years ago when less than 60% bothered to do their research, proving how powerful the trend for online presence has become in the food service industry.

If you’re still on the fence about dedicating some of your marketing budgets to creating a killer online presence for your restaurant, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll serve plenty of reasons why having an online presence is essential for restaurants and then give you the lowdown on creating a compelling Internet presence that’ll leave your customers drooling for more. 

So buckle up, and let’s explore how an online presence can bring a whole new dimension to your restaurant’s success.

What Is An Online Presence?

Before we talk about the importance of online presence for restaurants, let’s take a quick minute to define precisely what “online presence” means.

An online presence is your business’s digital imprint—how you appear to the world on the web. It includes all the websites, social media accounts, and other digital channels that potential customers can use to learn about a business, in this case, your restaurant. 

You can gauge how successful your presence is by how easily customers can find your restaurant when searching for relevant keywords or how many virtual ‘touchpoints’ a customer can interact with when wanting to know more about your brand, menu items, and services.

If you have a solid online presence, you’ll be very visible on the internet and social media, making your restaurant far more ‘discoverable’ to potential new diners.

Why do Restaurants Need to be Online?

You’ve probably already worked out the importance of having an online presence for your restaurant. But if not, allow us to break it down for you. Here are the many reasons why restaurants need an online presence: 

Share Your Brand’s Unique Story

Your restaurant has a story; an online presence gives you a platform to communicate it to your customers. Because when you share your story, you provide a flavor to your brand that runs more profound than the cuisine it produces. You’re giving your customers a reason to care about your business and the people behind it.

Maybe it’s about how your family’s passion for cooking inspired you to open your own business. Or, it could be the tale of how your restaurant is making a difference in your local community. Or, perhaps it’s the story of your journey to bring a unique flavor to your menu. 

No matter what your story is, through your website, social media profiles, and other online channels, you can bring that narrative to life and turn it into a digital experience that your customers can engage with. 

Makes Your Brand More Credible

Picture this: it’s a beautiful evening, and you’re searching for a great restaurant to try out. You pull out your phone and start searching for options. As you scroll, inspect, and read reviews, you come across a restaurant that looks like it could be the one. 

But then, you notice something fishy – it doesn’t have an official website or much of a social media footprint. Would you still feel comfortable trying out this restaurant? Probably not. You’ll likely think twice about spending your hard-earned money on a business that isn’t proactive about its digital presence today.

This is why having an online presence – and a good one–is critical for your restaurant’s success. It tells potential customers that you exist and shows that your restaurant is serious about its brand and has a professional reputation to uphold. This can be just the edge to help make your restaurant stand out from the millions of other restaurants in your area.

Increase Your Exposure with Google My Business:

Google: the all-knowing, all-seeing search engine giant that reigns supreme in the world of discovery platforms. With a staggering 63,000 searches every second, a jaw-dropping 5.6 billion searches per day, and a whopping 2 trillion searches worldwide each year, it’s safe to say that Google is the go-to for people looking for answers.

But Google isn’t just about answering people’s burning questions. It’s also helping customers find their way to the companies they seek. This is where Google My Business (GMB) comes in.

With a GMB profile, restaurants can showcase their business details on the local pack, increase their visibility in Google Maps and Search, respond to customer reviews, and access the latest insights about how customers interact with their business.

Let’s say you have restaurants in multiple locations. With a scheduler tool like OneUp, you can update multiple GMB listings simultaneously. This can be a massive boon in reaching more potential customers and convincing them to try your restaurant.

Drive Customer Loyalty Through Social Media

Hungry for some customer loyalty? The recipe for turning your one-time diners into raving fans is simple: add a heaping tablespoon of social media to your online marketing strategy! Social media platforms are more than just a place to post mouth-watering photos of your dishes. They’re also a powerful avenue for building customer loyalty and driving repeat business.

Building a vibrant and active social media presence lets you keep your diners in the loop on everything from new menu items to upcoming events. And when you take the time to respond to customer feedback, complaints, and queries, you show that you care about their dining experience and value them as a customer. These small interactions can go a long way in strengthening the bond between your restaurant and its customers.

With this approach, it won’t be long before your eatery begins cultivating a loyal following who will proudly broadcast their fulfilling encounters with family friends – even strangers – online. This will further amplify your existing word-of-mouth marketing efforts while increasing brand awareness to an even broader scale!

How do you build an online presence for your restaurant?

Now that we’ve whet your appetite by revealing the many advantages an online presence can bring to your eatery, the next step is to get your dining establishment sizzling on the digital front. Here are some tips to get you started on your journey of creating an unbeatable digital presence:

Get to Know the Best Practices

You don’t need a fancy certification to rock the online world, much like you don’t need a college degree to become a life coach. But just as one can’t give credible life advice without having a firm grasp on the best practices of the life coaching profession, you cannot expect to conquer the online world without truly understanding the ins and outs of digital marketing.

Take some time to educate yourself on the latest trends in digital marketing, such as SEO, content creation, social media, influencer marketing, and more. The internet is bursting with free online courses and classes that can help you get up to speed.

Additionally, take the time to research effective online marketing strategies that have worked for other successful restaurant brands. With some research, you’ll have a treasure trove of inspiration to draw from, so you can break free from that creative rut and start making waves. 

By putting in the time and effort to truly understand the digital marketing landscape, you can weave together some seriously effective strategies that will make your restaurant truly sparkle online.

Create a Spectacular Website

Your website is the central hub of your restaurant’s digital presence, and it should be carefully designed to reflect the unique flavors of your culinary offerings and brand personality.

Aim to create a website that is a feast for the eyes, with visuals and inviting images compatible with mobile devices. Use high-quality photos of your delicious creations and engaging copywriting to pull visitors in and make that online ordering button and the reservations tab so visible it practically begs to be clicked.

But keep a tight leash on your design. Too many images and too much text can quickly overwhelm visitors and make them click away. Please keep it clean and easy to follow with all the essential information about your restaurant that customers will want to know. 

And if you’re unsure where to start, look at The Oatmeal’s frank take on poor restaurant website design. Use this graphic as a cautionary tale of what not to do when designing your website for your business.

A website you can take a cue from is Maggiano’s Little Italy, which has an aesthetically pleasing layout that makes it easy to find their delectable menu options. It also features a responsive design with simple navigation, enabling customers to quickly find what they’re looking for regardless of their device. 

Embrace Social Media

Social media is not just a place to share pictures of your food and let customers know you exist. It’s become the go-to spot for getting the inside scoop on brands and products. Studies show that over half of all social media browsers use it to research products before taking the plunge and purchasing.

So, if you want your restaurant to thrive in this digital age, you must be active on social media. After all, 45% of U.S. diners tried a restaurant for the first time because of a social media post by the establishment. Many potential customers could be chowing down at your eatery, but only if you’re using social media to its full potential. 

Learn how to best use each platform according to its strong suits. For instance, you can showcase behind-the-scenes content on Facebook, use their ad platform to make your brand even more visible, and host events and giveaways. Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop frequently uses Facebook to hold sweepstakes and give away prizes, a terrific way to get followers involved and excited about your brand.

On Instagram, you can use stunning visual stories with high-quality images and videos to catch foodies’ attention near and far. Sweet Green’s Instagram is an excellent example of how to use social media with finesse. Their page is filled with mouth-watering images perfectly capturing their passion for fresh and healthy food and clever captions to engage followers.

On TikTok, you can use short videos to showcase your restaurant’s fun and creative side. The White Bull has nailed this strategy with funny, sometimes goofy, videos that often feature their staff members.

Whatever social networks you use, keep your posts interesting, informative, and entertaining. Also, make sure that your presence is consistent across the board. Doing so will create a recognizable presence for your restaurant and enable you to forge meaningful connections with customers. 

Actively Engage on Restaurant Review Sites

In today’s world of online everything, many people turn to the internet to find their ideal restaurant. And where do they go for this information? You guessed it: restaurant listing and review sites. 

If you want to bring in hungry customers and keep them coming back for seconds (and thirds and fourths…), you need to make it a point to ensure that your restaurant is listed on these sites. And don’t just stop there. Make an exhaustive profile for your restaurant, including photos, menu items, hours of operation, and more, to give customers all the essential info they could need. Once you set up a profile, go the extra mile to respond to customer reviews promptly and professionally to foster customer engagement.

Responding to reviews (even the less-than-glowing ones) shows that you care about your customers and are committed to providing them with the best possible experience. 94% of customers said that seeing a management response on TripAdvisor encouraged them to try a restaurant, even after reading a negative review.

By engaging with your customers on review sites, you open the door for constructive conversations that can help improve your service and ensure their next visit is even better. This shows that you are willing to listen to their criticism and might even encourage them to give your restaurant another chance.

Tools to Help Manage Your Digital Presence

The digital world offers oodles of tools that you can use to help you control your restaurant’s online presence more efficiently. Some of the most popular tools include:

Website Builders:

Thanks to website builder tools like Wix and Squarespace, you don’t have to be a tech wizard or a design expert to create a stunning website. These website builders come loaded with pre-made templates and easy-to-use drag-and-drop features that practically anyone can use to make their dream website.

Whether you serve a feast of fine dining or a fast-food frenzy, website builders can help showcase your restaurant’s unique flair and get noticed by foodies everywhere. You can also use them to add specialized features to your site, like online ordering, reservations, and loyalty programs. This way, you can make it easier for customers to patronize your establishment and generate more leads without spending a fortune.

Plus, website builder tools are often affordable, so you don’t have to break the bank to get a great-looking website. So don’t be intimidated if tech isn’t your strong suit. With minimal effort and expense, you can create something unique with a website builder. 

Social Media Scheduling Tools

If you’re serious about keeping up with the online crowd, you must be on your social media game. But the last thing you want to do is get bogged down in a time-sucking cycle of constantly checking and updating your accounts when you could be doing more productive things. That’s why social media scheduling tools exist.

These days, plenty of great tools allow you to schedule posts weeks in advance, so you don’t have to worry about posting in real time. Just choose the days and times you want your posts to go out, draft some great content, and let the scheduling tool take care of the rest.

Scheduling tools are a great way to streamline your social media management, but a word of caution: don’t let your social media accounts become overly robotic or automated. You’ll still need to check in with your accounts regularly and interact with customers, so you should still make time for real-time engagement.

QR Codes

Let’s face it: no matter how good your dining establishment is, the odds are low that people will take the time to seek out your social media page and hit that follow button. Unless, of course, you give them a nudge in the right direction! 

QR codes are invaluable for boosting your restaurant’s social media following. Print them out and stick them strategically around your restaurant, and voila! Customers can scan the code with their smartphones and be brought straight to your social media page, where they can ‘follow’ you and join your online family. 

By directing customers to your social media pages with QR codes, you can keep them updated on all the latest and greatest things happening at your restaurant. From new menu items to special events and promotions, your customers will be in the know and excited to come back for more. 

The best part? You’ll be building relationships that turn one-time customers into loyal fans. All you have to do is choose a reliable QR code maker, create easily scannable codes, and watch your followers (and customer loyalty) flourish. 

Brand Monitoring Tools

Want to make sure your online presence is always looking good? Then, you need to check out brand monitoring tools. These handy little helpers are like your own personal online detectives, keeping an eye out for any mention of your restaurant across the social media sphere. 

With a brand monitoring tool, you can set up keyword searches to be alerted whenever someone mentions something about your eatery. This way, you’ll know when someone is airing a grievance, and you can take the necessary steps to de-escalate the situation before it turns into a PR nightmare.

You can also use brand monitoring tools to monitor the positive buzz your brand generates online. After all, what restaurateur doesn’t like basking in the glory of a five-star review? The right tool can help you track all the compliments your restaurant receives and use that information to keep improving and evolving your menu and offerings.

Brand monitoring tools will also help you keep an eye on your competition. See what they’re up to, how they engage customers and their strategies. This data will give you the intel to guarantee your restaurant is always one step ahead. 

Other Platforms Most Online Marketing Agencies Use

To build a robust online presence, you need to take cues from the pros, which means peeking into the toolbox of digital agencies. Their entire livelihood revolves around making brands shine online, and they’ve got the insider knowledge to make it happen. Let’s dive into some of their go-to platforms:

  • Analytics Software. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to understanding your digital audience. Google Analytics and similar platforms offer a window into the souls of your website visitors, revealing what they love, what they skip, and how long they savor your content.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools. SEO tools are the secret sauce to getting your restaurant to appear as the top result when someone’s craving kicks in. Imagine a hungry soul typing “best pizza in town,” and your restaurant pops up first – that’s SEO at work.
  • Resource Management Platforms. These platforms allow you to allocate resources efficiently, ensuring the right person works on the right project at the right time. This means your campaigns are always on track, your team is utilized to their fullest potential, and your digital presence constantly evolves and improves.
  • Content Creation and Management Platforms. Content is the bread and butter of your online presence, and agencies use design and content management platforms to cook up eye-catching and satisfying content. 

Elevate Your Marketing Game With An Irresistible Online Presence

If you want your restaurant to be on everyone’s lips (and taste buds), you must build an online presence just as strong as your in-restaurant experience. With a compelling web presence, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience, stir up some online buzz, and become a must-try dining destination. So, go ahead and get crackin’ — create an inviting online space for your guests and show them why they should be lining up to try out your delicious offerings.

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