Why websites are the new sandwich boards

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The essentials for success in the hospitality industry have remained the same since the beginning: if you had good service, a quality product and a great location, you could pretty much guarantee steady business.

That’s not the complete equation anymore.

With the age of smart phones and the internet, venues are increasingly feeling the pressure to move to the online space to keep up, not just to maintain a presence but to actually conduct business online as well.

For example, customers can search for a specific type of restaurant (‘Burger places in Ponsonby); customer recommendations (‘Best coffee in Waitangi?’); or a certain product (‘organic fruit and vegetables’).                                                                                                                                

Whether it’s via search engines like Google, ratings sites like Zomato, delivery services like Menulog or Delivereasy, or one of the many online restaurant directories, customers are searching for your restaurant, maybe even as you read this. So – what will they find?

Restaurant Engine, which delivers turnkey web solutions for food businesses, highlights the importance of remaining competitive online: “If your user is looking for your address or your menu, or if they’re looking to order online and your website isn’t easy to view on a smartphone or tablet, they will most likely leave and find a site that is ‘responsive’ to their needs.”

Your website is no longer just a place to store menus and contact details. It is now your shopfront: it is as important - if not more so - than your bricks-and-mortar business. Think of your website like a neon sign out the front of your venue: the design, accessibility, and functionality of your site all affect your sales.

Here are some site features now expected by the new wave of ‘digital natives’ interacting with hospitality businesses online:

  1. Menus – 86% of diners check menus online before going to a restaurant, so make it easy for them. Don’t forget to update it frequently with specials and new additions.
  2. Integration with social media – Social media is crucial. If you don’t integrate it with your website, you are not using it to its full potential.
  3. Imagery – Young digital natives are far more likely to respond to imagery than text so make your website a rich visual experience.
  4. Online booking – This can be done through companies such as First Table, Restaurant Hub and Eveve, whereby you embed a widget (an application that enables a user to perform an action) on your site that allows customers to easily reserve a table. Check these
  5. Email signup – Collating a database of customers’ details will allow you to continue communicating with them, increasing your chance of return visits.

It’s like they say – you’ve got to be in it to win it, and websites are one of the most important marketing tools for your hospitality business. So make sure you invest your resources into setting up – and maintaining – the best possible website you can.

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