Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Are You Using the Internet Effectively to Increase Turnover at your Restaurant?

As a restaurant owner or manager ask yourself these four simple questions.

Firstly if you type your restaurant’s name and location into do you see your web site prominently listed and above your competitors in your local area?

Secondly are your customers able to book reservations at your restaurant online?

Thirdly do you collect the first name, surname, email address and phone number of each and every one of your customers and contact them regularly with special offers and promotions?

Lastly can you calculate exactly how much your web site contributes to your business’s bottom line each month?

Food for thought?

Now think of yourself as a hotel owner.

Would you run a hotel in today’s business environment without promoting yourself aggressively online?

Would you be able to compete if you did not allow guests the opportunity to book rooms online?

Would you be missing any number of opportunities to promote and market your business online as a result of failing to collect personal details for future marketing promotions?

Could you survive if you could not calculate to the last penny how your online presence has contributed to the business in terms of bookings and revenues?

The internet has revolutionised the way in which the hotel industry operates but its hospitality bed fellow, the restaurant industry, has so far failed to fully embrace all of the opportunities that the internet has to offer in terms of revenue generation and cost control.

How many hotels that you know take and record bookings using a diary and a pencil over the phone. Now contrast that with the number of restaurants that utilise technology to effectively manage key business functions such as customer relationship management, online booking, and table management?

The UK is now a fully connected country. As of January 2006, there were 37,800,000 Internet users in the United Kingdom representing 62.9% of the total population.

On average Britons now spend around 164 minutes online every day - that is the equivalent of 41 days a year - as opposed to a mere 148 minutes watching television.

The internet is now the number one source of information for the population of the UK. So why are restaurants so reluctant to embrace new technologies and means of communicating and interacting with their customers?

Perhaps it is because restaurateurs like to think that their main forms of marketing and customer acquisition have not as yet been overtaken by the internet.

Many owner/managers list word of mouth advertising as the most effective form of marketing in the restaurant business.

This remains so but what they may not recognise is that this form of marketing has now moved from verbal communication to digital communication.

In London for example peer review sites such as,, and now act as the most powerful sources of recommendation when it comes to researching a new restaurant.

Increasingly new customers want to read and digest what their fellow diners have to say about your restaurant offering before they make a booking.

This booking is also pre-empted by a review of the restaurant web site.

Does your web site reflect positively on your business?

Are potential customers provided with the basics such as opening times, menus, wine lists, booking information, location details and accurate and up to date contact information?

Do you go that extra mile and provide 360 degree virtual tours of the dining space, the ability to book a table online, photographs of sample dishes or information on the head chef and his background.

Or is your web site out of date, inaccessible and a poor reflection of the true nature of your business?

Even if your web site is up to date and a proper reflection of the great service that you offer, can potential customers find it?

In August of 2005 Yahoo! claimed that it could now access over 20 billion items on the internet.

Ensuring that your web based presence is found easily and quickly by your customers is therefore an essential factor to consider when reflecting how much your web site is contributing to your business.

If you type in relevant search terms into Google, the UK’s most popular search engine is information related to your service returned.

Try it now take the town or place that you operate in and add it to word “restaurant” i.e. “fulham restaurant”. Now enter this phrase into and see what the results are.

Are you listed? Are your competitors listed?

A great web site is only an asset to your business if it can be found by potential new customers.

What needs to be done then?

The internet can be the most cost effective means of promoting and advertising your business available to you and can save you money and resources in the long term when combined with the ability to allow online bookings to be taken, to collect customer data that can be used for future promotions and to better manage your staff and floor space.

Like anything worth while it needs input in terms of time, money and a will to really harness the opportunities available.

Start with these six resolutions and see if they can make a real and significant difference to your business.

1) Make the next twelve months your “Year of Establishing My Restaurant on the Internet”.

Acknowledge that customers want to make bookings rather than enquiries online and that email marketing and promotion will return any investments made many times over.

Adjust marketing spending to take advantage of the 24/7 online booking presence that a readily found informative and well presented web site can provide and aim to market directly to your customers instead of using commission taking third parties.

Develop a real interest in your business and its online presence and investigate companies such as who specialise in assisting small and medium sized companies with attempts to make more money from the web via website optimisation, search engine marketing and email marketing.

2) Work with companies such as to investigate how online booking mechanisms can assist the business and improve yields. Merge your online booking channel with a diary management system and move away from paper-based booking systems that offer no method of booking optimisation or customer data capture.

3) Ensure that your restaurant adopts a policy of customer relationship management at all levels and uses permission based marketing to send timely offers targeted at only those customers where offers may be relevant.

4) Aim to reduce the payments that I make to third party channels and instead seek to retain as much value as possible by directing potential clients into booking directly with my business. Promote my business using loyalty schemes to encourage my customers to make repeat bookings. Acknowledge that bookings from your own web site are commission free and so always promote this channel first and foremost.

5) Recognise that the internet can provide a stream of customers to your restaurant web site and over the next twelve months strive to dominate the search engine listings that relate to your business and/or location. Examine search engine results to see what your competitors are doing and seek to differentiate your web site through a professional approach, regularly updated news and offers, and an inviting online presence that works well for both first time and returning visitors. Learn new techniques including use of pay-per-click advertising as other restaurants in your area may not be competing in this way. Alternatively use specialise internet marketers such as to improve your positioning and prominence.

6) Endeavor within the next twelve months to make your site as accessible and informative as possible so that potential new and returning customers can find relevant information about the business easily and quickly and book online once they have made a decision.

The internet, like no-other advertising and communications medium, rewards those who invest time and energies into harnessing the opportunities that it presents.

If your restaurant could benefit from an increase in bookings, revenue and yield examine whether your web presence is adding real value to your business and take positive action to beat the competition and effectively market yourself to new and existing customers.

internet marketing company that helps small and medium sized UK companies to profitably benefit from the marketing and advertising opportunities that exist on the web.