Whether it’s navigating a new city, managing bank accounts, shopping for clothes, or even finding love, the average American consumer turns to the internet for everything these days, and it’s no different when it comes to searching for local restaurants.
Online traffic is more important than ever because it can increase your digital presence and attract new customers. The stronger your digital presence, the more potential customers you can reach, making it easier for diners to find and visit your restaurant.
Luckily, there are a number of ways you can drive online traffic. Here are 5 of the most important to get you started.
It’s not enough to just have a website. You need to make sure your website is easy to find via search engines, easy for customers to navigate, and full of information that accurately represents everything your restaurant has to offer.
To make it easier for search engines and customers, you can post your business’s name, address, phone number, and hours on your website’s landing page, along with mouthwatering photos of your dishes.
Avoid overloading your website with long blocks of text, and make it easy for your customers to find exactly what they are looking for by spreading information across multiple pages. Include pages for your menu, online ordering, reservations policies, social media, and restaurant review profiles.
You can also think strategically about the content of your website. Using relevant keywords in your website’s title tags and meta description can help you quickly tell search engines and customers about your website and your business.
Additionally, you can leverage a restaurant blog to sneak in keywords that people are most likely to search for in your area. For example, an Italian restaurant in Chicago could write blog posts using keywords like “Italian restaurants in Chicago” or “best spaghetti in Chicago,” making it more likely that your restaurant will appear higher in an organic search return for those keywords.
Finally, you want to make sure your restaurant’s website is optimized for all screen sizes. More users search the web via smartphones than laptops or desktop computers, and search engines take this into account when providing returns, preferring websites that work well on all screen sizes.
Many of your customers may want to enjoy your food from the comfort of their own home. Offering online ordering through your website and online delivery through third-party delivery apps like Grubhub and DoorDash is more important than ever.
Online ordering via your website is the fastest and easiest way for your customers to order your food for pickup. Instead of the traditional phone call, third-party services and even your POS system can allow your customers to order from their smartphones with only a few clicks, and your servers won’t have to field phone class all night long, allowing them to provide top-notch service to your in-person diners.
Delivery apps also allow you to drive more online traffic. Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats share your menu with a ton of potential customers, and when you partner with one of these delivery apps their app does all of the ordering and payment processing for you. Of course, they charge a fee for their services, but if you aren’t using these apps you are likely losing business to your competition.
Speaking of service fees, delivery apps also allow your customers to place orders for pickup. They take a small take of your profits, whether they deliver your food or not. So, to avoid these fees and increase your profit margins on takeout orders, advertise and promote your website’s takeout ordering system.
When picking their next meal, potential customers can easily compare your restaurant to others in the area through review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google. Having good reviews, and having a lot of them, can drive online business from these sites to your restaurant. In fact, 74% of customers surveyed said positive online reviews and high ratings on third-party delivery sites influence their decisions when ordering food for off-premises consumption, according to HT's 2022 Customer Engagement Technology Study.
The best way to get more reviews is to ask for them. Many of your customers, especially your loyal regulars, will be happy to leave you reviews, especially if you educate them on their importance.
For others, you might need to do more than simply ask for a review. For some, you might need to incentivize it. Offering things like a free drink, a free appetizer, or a free dessert can be all a customer needs to get them to that review site and leave you five stars.
Once the feedback starts rolling in, you should respond to it with honest and genuine replies. This is easy for all of those singing your praises, but responding to less-than-stellar reviews goes a long way toward showing potential customers that you value their opinion and you are committed to providing the best possible experience.
Also, while we are talking about online review profiles, it’s important that all of your contact information and hours of operation are correct. Having uniformity and consistency sends positive signals to search engines, making your business more trustworthy to search algorithms. Something as simple as updating your contact information can help you rise above your competitors in search returns.
Finally, another effective way of driving traffic to your business is by running promotions and discounts online. Not only do buy one, get ones and limited-time discounts make for great social media content, they can be just the encouragement a potential guest needs when deciding between your restaurant or one of your local competitors.
There are so many different kinds of promotions and discounts you can run. If you don’t have experience with social media promotions and discounts, you should follow a few restaurants you admire and see how they do it. But more common ones include special event promotions like menu specials for couples on Valentine’s Day, beer specials during Oktoberfest, or family-style takeout options around the holidays.
You can also run specials on those traditionally slower Mondays and Tuesdays. Combining an event like an open mic night or a date night with special discounts on beverages, appetizers, or desserts can help you fill your tables any night of the week.
Social media is a powerful tool for attracting new customers to your restaurant. Creating profiles and posting regularly on popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram can help you expand your brand to new customers and drive business.
For the restaurant industry, the most popular social media platform is Instagram. Its visual and viral nature makes it perfect for creating and sharing beautiful and effective content. Also, in comparison to other social media platforms, it’s very simple to use. Frequent food photos, event posts, daily specials, and contests can make great content.
You will want to link your restaurant’s website in your social media bio, so your customers can navigate from your social media right to your website. You can also use Instagram stories, highlights, and reels to create compelling video-based content that shows off your menu, restaurant, food, and beverages.
Social media should be a core part of driving online traffic. It’s the fastest, easiest, and most cost effective way to get the word out about your website, your online ordering, your review profiles, and your promotions and discounts.
A good rule of thumb is three to four posts per week. This will keep your restaurant on the minds of your followers, but it won’t overwhelm and annoy them with constant updates. Plan on scheduling a little time each week to brainstorm and create new content, and don’t forget to advertise your social media on your website and in your restaurant with marketing materials like posters, flyers, and table tents.
If three to four posts per week sounds like a lot, it can be. That’s around 200 posts per year. Some restaurant owners struggle to find the time to create and post new content, especially if they don’t consider themselves social media experts. Luckily, you can find hundreds of free social media posts online. These templates are professionally designed, eye-catching, easy to customize, and easy to share, making filling out your social media and driving online traffic to your restaurant simpler than ever.
About the Author
Mark Plumlee is a copywriter who has helped restaurants and small businesses grow and define their brands.