The Importance of an Online Presence

Modern-day dining requires a modern-day approach to marketing. The value of having an engaging online presence is monumental. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of online presence, cafés and restaurants are shooting themselves in the foot if they don’t have, and actively engage on, a website, social networking platforms, and online ordering. Having these three ingredients is essential, as the level of connectivity throughout society means that a disconnected venue quickly becomes forgotten. Nowadays, younger generations are almost always connected online in some way—cafés and restaurants looking to target this younger clientele need to be up to date on their ‘Holy Trinity’. A strong online presence through which customers can browse the menu, order online, or perhaps talk to someone about their concerns, is the best way to stand out from the crowd. Although maintaining an online presence may sound like an arduous task, there are many benefits that make it more than worth the effort.

Running a website for a restaurant or café is vital. For a start, having a website means that basic information can be found quickly and easily before a diner has left their home; this can be anything from ‘What time are they open?’ to ‘Where is the place?’ Utilising eye-catching website design is also an excellent way to express the restaurant’s story; if a restaurant has a unique story or take on dining, it is important to show the customers. An OpenTable survey found that 88 percent of diners (in America) made a reservation online before eating out. Furthermore, 87 percent found the restaurant of their choosing online, as well as 86 percent of customers using an online forum to check out a menu. There are vast amounts of people looking to eat out each night, and having a user-friendly and appealing website will help draw customers in.

A good example of a user-friendly and aesthetically appealing website. @burgerburgernz/www.burgerburger.co.nz

On top of having an aesthetic and informing website, it is crucial to understand and maximise search engine optimisation (SEO) opportunities. Relevant search phrases and keywords will help customers’ chance upon specific sites depending on their SEO.

Websites are also great for customer interaction through feedback forums and online sales. While social media may be a better space for informal communication, a website provides a formal space to discuss queries or concerns. Having a responsive website encourages customers to come forward with more suggestions and questions, which makes for an increased sense of customer loyalty.

Having a website is critical to unlocking fluid communication, unique appeal, and provides easy-to-find information to customers.

Online ordering is also an essential part of maintaining a modern restaurant or café. Having a comprehensive, yet user-friendly online ordering/delivery system will help satisfy customers who are looking to order food from afar. An online ordering system—while the logistics may be tricky to figure out—will increase the spread of customers a restaurant can serve. It also broadens the horizon to new demographics—younger generations are more likely to order online than older generations, allowing a window of opportunity to connect with younger consumers. Should logistical issues be too complicated, there are third-party companies like UberEats or MenuLog, which offer delivery services for a multitude of foodservice venues. While this may cost more in the long term compared to an in-house delivery service, it is vital for restaurants and cafés to be able to cater to those that are further away or don’t want to leave the house. Offering online ordering is an extension of the hard work put into the food that is being made in the kitchen, as well as the connection between provider and consumer. Failing to invest in delivery may be failing to invest in the future.

There is a growing need for a social media presence in the modern world of dining out. Social media is a tool that can be used to increase customer loyalty, foster communication, raise brand awareness and create unique exposure. On top of that, it is a way of targeting specific demographics within the intricate layers of advertising options available. Customer loyalty is important, and wooing loyal customers with social media posts is a good way of getting repeat business.

Social media, at its heart, is about communication. Social media offer opportunity to nurture the connection between customers and restaurants. It is often a space that people feel comfortable talking about how they honestly feel. Social media creates a viable and accessible way of talking and interacting with people that dine out. It also provides a good chance for customers to respond to their experience at a restaurant. This is often an important tool for other diners who are looking to dine at the same place. It is critical that online matters are dealt to swiftly, and efficiently; a bad review without action can blemish the reputation of a restaurant tremendously.

Social media is also an excellent tool for brand awareness. A brand who can display their soft side, or their funny side, in a transparent manner, are the companies that appeal to the modern consumer. Not only that, but having a social media presence means that there is a lot more chance for the spread of brand recognition. Spam aside, the more a restaurant posts, the more likely they are to attract some customers. For example, there is a Tachinomiya-style restaurant in Washington D.C., called Spoken English, whose Instagram account garnered some notoriety for its comical posts concerning their food. Various dishes are inserted into pictures or scenes from pop-culture with captions relating to the restaurant. Although this may be an obscure example, it is a mixture of key elements of the ‘Holy Trinity’ mentioned previously; Spoken English’s website is just as quirky as their colourful Instagram, information is clear and easy to find across all online platforms, and their social media posts are frequent and fun, but not overbearing.

  

A few examples of Spoken English’s eye-catching advertising. @dcspokenenglish/www.spokenenglishdc.com

An online presence adds a new dynamic to any restaurant. Maintaining the ‘Holy Trinity’ of online presence—a website, social networking platforms, and online ordering ensures that a restaurant is maximising the chance for customer loyalty, establishing efficient lines of communication, raising brand awareness, increasing the demographics of patrons, garnering exposure and telling the restaurants story. Nourishing these online forms of marketing may not be something an established business is used to, but it pays off and doesn’t require huge amounts of effort.