In today’s device-driven world, when asked, “Where should we go for dinner?” our instant reaction is to grab our phones for some foodie R&D. The deciding factor may vary on any given day: what type of cuisine am I in the mood for, how close is it to my house, how much money am I willing to spend, can I order online or do I have to call, do they deliver?
What doesn’t vary, however, is how a great website experience can influence one’s decision. A remarkable dining experience means expectations are met from start to finish – both dining in and carrying out.
This was highlighted in an earlier episode of our ecommerce podcast, Beyond the Cart. During which, Lightburn partners Nora and Andy discussed how the pandemic has changed our expectations of restaurants and their web presence. “All of these restaurant [Point of Sale] options -- there's so many different ones. They're all different flows. It is jarring every time you're trying to go through one or another, and you don't know, do I pick my time here? When am I going to put in my order, my quantity, it's all over the place.”
If you’re a multi-location restaurant group (such as the Milwaukee-area staple Lowlands Group), you need to know which parts of the digital experience will help you stand out.
Here are the top 5 must-dos to create a scalable multi-location restaurant website
1. Deliver the basics (in a non-basic way)
If your restaurant group has a connected relationship between brand and store, it's important to match this strong presence on the web. Research what your unique customers’ priorities are when they search for you online, and be sure to keep that in the forefront. Prioritizing this step is crucial to crafting a beautiful, easy-to-use website that speaks to your brand.
It can be easy to get lost in sharing why a brand is different, cool, or interesting without supplying basic information. Weave the brand story throughout the website. It makes you unique, but it's likely not the deciding factor for a family looking to dine out. Be sure to showcase action items that impact your bottom-line, such as menus, special events, and related products.
What it boils down to: Lead with the basics: contact info for each location, menu, price, hours, online ordering, specials, reservations, and events.
2. Nail down website structure
Are you looking to expand your restaurant group’s footprint in the future?
A corporate site with a repeatable multi-site structure for each restaurant can capture the individual brand essence of the locations while keeping a unified content management system (CMS).
The corporate site allows customers to quickly visit the page and learn everything they need to know about all locations. This repeatable structure allows your operations and marketing teams reduce unnecessary web development overhead, while managing their individual activities.
3. Optimize for mobile
Think about how many people whip out their phone to look for a restaurant nearby, especially to look at a menu (see the stat in the next section).
A poor mobile user experience (UX) can result in loss of business if users get frustrated when they cannot place orders or make successful contact. Mobile optimization goes hand in hand with customer service. Today, customer service means delivering proactive, immediate, and helpful support to customers on the channel of their choice.
Not every application available to put on your website is optimized for mobile – so be mindful when selecting these features and test along the way.
Additionally, Google continues to focus on featured snippets and knowledge panels on search engine result pages (SERPs). Once Google’s machine algorithm learns information about your business, it takes time for it to re-learn – so it's important to continually ensure your information is as accurate as possible.
Taking active ownership of your business’ Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is one more step to making sure your brand is visible. A comprehensive digital marketing strategy can help tie all these pieces together by providing ongoing support.
“Customer service, it's so much more than just your customer service department. It really does bleed through into every department of your entire company."
– Nora Lahl, Episode 10, Beyond the Cart
4. Offer dynamic menus
An OpenTable survey found that 93% of people view menus online before dining out. Your digital menu should be as dynamic as possible to meet the needs of customers — this requires more than simply uploading a static image.
Consider taking the extra step to give the customer the ability to dynamically choose dietary preferences (i.e., gluten-free, vegetarian). Adding menu prices adds a level of transparency and trust that users appreciate and—let’s be honest—expect.
Don't underestimate the power of imagery — high-quality, professional photography sets the tone of your website and makes an impactful impression. Choose a few of your top menu items to feature.
Bonus: If your restaurant group’s community is engaged on your social media pages, use this user-generated content on your website, too!
5. Stay engaged with your diners
Once you’ve established your website, it's vital to use the data and information of how users behave on your website, how they found you, and how many of your customers are new or returning. The opportunities to engage with your user base are nearly limitless when you have access to these analytics and a partner that knows what to do with it.
Paid advertising, marketing automation, and email marketing tactics will help you stand out in a competitive market.
Lightburn is your agency partner in all things digital. If your multi-location restaurant group is looking to grow, it's always good to invest in user experience. Check out more of our work in the Food & Beverage industry. If you’re interested in enhancing your digital experience, contact us today to schedule a consultation.