As a restaurant owner, you’re no stranger to the importance of promoting and marketing your business on all channels possible.
You have a steady flow of customers from maintaining a vibrant social media presence and from earning great reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, what more could you be doing?
It’s safe to say that many of your restaurant’s competitors have their own restaurant website up and running, begging the question: Should you invest in a restaurant website management solution, or are you throwing money down the drain by not managing your own restaurant website?
Let’s explore everything you need to know about restaurant website management, including deciding whether to do it yourself or to outsource the operation to a digital media or marketing agency.
Do Restaurants Need a Website?
In short, the answer is yes – every restaurant should have their own restaurant website. If you’re still in doubt, here are a few of the biggest reasons why you’ll want to consider investing in a restaurant website.
1) It Attracts New Customers & Creates Brand Awareness
Perhaps the most obvious reason why a restaurant website is beneficial is the fact that you’ll be attracting new customers to your business through search engine traffic.
Let’s say a customer is sat at home and searches ‘Restaurants in Boston’ online. If your restaurant doesn’t have a website, you’re not going to show up anywhere on Google's, Bing's, or Yahoo’s list.
Without the flow of potential customers visiting your site from search engines, you're limiting the ways new customers can discover your business to social media and people walking past your storefront. It's never a smart idea to put all your eggs in one basket, especially when trying to market and grow your business.
2) It Showcases Vital Restaurant Information
One of the most important reasons to have a website is to share essential information with potential and existing customers. This includes your restaurant’s hours of operation, your menu, and any other details you’d like to share.
When set up properly, customers can do simple searches like [your restaurant name] + “opening times” in their search engine of choice to learn about when you’re open. This is far quicker and easier than calling your restaurant, especially if a potential customer is interested in your restaurant outside of your normal business hours.
3) It Helps Grow Your Local Audience
Marketing your restaurant can potentially be your largest expenditure if not managed properly. Remember: By investing in a website, you’re making a long-term investment in a reliable promotional tool.
4) It Pushes You Ahead of Your Competition
If your competition has put all their eggs in the social media basket and doesn’t have their own website, investing in your own is a great way to capture all of the search engine traffic they’re missing out on. You’ll maximize sales opportunities and grow your customer base as a result, while they’re left in the dust.
Should You Build And Manage Your Restaurant Website?
Now that we’ve covered all the benefits a restaurant website can provide, it’s time to decide:
Is it worth it to run your own website, or should you outsource website management to a professional?
Here are four questions you should ask yourself to help find the answer.
1) Is Your Budget a Factor?
The first factor you’ll want to consider is the budget you have available for developing and maintaining a website.
If your marketing budget doesn’t include provisions for website management, or it’s not feasible for you to invest hundreds of dollars in hiring a digital marketing agency to build your website, you’ll have to do it yourself.
2) How Technically Experienced Are You In Website Development?
Honestly answer this question: Are you comfortable designing and building a website for your restaurant from scratch?
If you’re a beginner in web development, there can be a bit of a learning curve when building and designing a restaurant website. Luckily, many others across all industries are going the do-it-yourself route in creating a website for their business, which is why sites like WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, and GoDaddy exist.
These website builders are popular choices for beginners, but newbies are usually limited to using the default themes the sites has to offer. While there are thousands to choose from, it’s difficult to make them your own without the help of an experienced developer or a digital media company.
3) Do You Have Time to Keep Your Website's Content Up to Date?
Getting your site up and running is only half the work. Once it’s live, maintaining and updating the content on your site is a full time job.
Every time you change your menu, switch your hours of operation seasonally, host an event, or run a promotion, you’ll need to make sure it’s reflected on your website so customers can stay up to date.
If you don’t have have the time or skills necessary to keep your restaurant website updated, it’s going to cause more harm than good to run it yourself.
You can also try these resources to help you build specific content should you want to keep your website management in-house.
4) How Experienced Are You With SEO?
If you’re scratching your head wondering what SEO stands for, the answer is "not very experienced."
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a strategy digital marketing professionals use to format the content and structure of their websites so that when someone makes a search in Google their website will be one of the top results shown.
The higher your website shows in the results, the more traffic your website is likely to receive and the more customers you’ll get.
If this is the first time you’re learning that the order websites are shown on a search results page isn’t just by chance, you should probably look into hiring an SEO professional. If you have some basic insights into SEO, you can use tools like Essay Roo to make sure your site is optimized for the best possible performance in search.
Should You Hire A Third Party To Manage Your Restaurant Website?
There are many pros and cons to hiring a digital agency to run your website management responsibilities, especially if you don’t have the experience to develop and design the restaurant website yourself.
First thing's first: Do your research. Read reviews, check portfolios, send emails to agencies' former clients, and compare the services each company offers.
Here are four things you’ll want to consider if you’re considering hiring a third party to manage your restaurant website.
1) What Services Does The Company Offer?
What additional services does each company offer, besides general website management? Do they have an SEO team available to optimize and maintain your website after it has launched? Do they have a graphic designer to make creative assets for your site?
You’ll want a company that covers everything, so that if down the line you decide you need additional help in a specific area, you won’t have to start all over and look for another company to work with.
2) What Experience Does the Company Have?
Most, if not all, digital marketing and media companies have a portfolio of their past work available to view on their site, so check it out!
This is the best way for you, a potential client, to better understand their style, strategy, and what you can expect your restaurant website to look like if you choose to work with them.
3) Does the Company Have Good Reviews?
Be sure to check out the clients and testimonials pages on each agency’s site. Don’t be afraid to reach out to one or more of their clients to get a first hand take on what it was like to work with that specific agency or consultancy.
If the business doesn’t show reviews on their website, you can always find more information about them on company review sites like Yelp, Glassdoor, and Indeed. Remember: No reviews are sometimes worse than bad reviews.
4) How Flexible is the Company?
If you have a vision of what you want your restaurant website to look like, you’ll want a company that can satisfy your asks, while also making informed suggestions.
Some digital media agencies can be stuck in their ways and will only offer clients work that matches their brand. Avoid these companies at all costs as you’ll be restricted in what they'll be willing to do for you. You’re footing the bill after all, your needs should be met first and foremost.
So, What’ll It Be?
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when it comes to restaurant website management and whether you want to do it yourself, or hire a third party to help.
Don’t be scared of trying things out on your own first. If you’re using a platform like WordPress, there are plenty of online tutorials you can use and follow. If you get your feet wet and know this isn’t the path for you, start researching your options.
No matter what you decide, make sure you record all of your website management activities in your restaurant marketing plan.