There’s always a possibility that guests found your restaurant by being in the neighborhood, drawn to your lighted storefront signs. More likely than not, however, they first heard about your restaurant online: via the location tag on an Instagram post, through online reviews on your Yelp and TripAdvisor page, via the search engine on their iPhones, or by clicking on the Menu tab, Contact section, or a special deal on your restaurant’s Facebook page. What is certain, is, it’s important to convert potential diners scanning the web for restaurants into actual diners in your restaurant.
In today’s information-driven age, chances are that your diners are searching for your business online — well before they venture out into the real world and step through your entrance doors. According to a newly released local search report by ReviewTrackers:
- 67.7 percent of consumers say that at least half of their online searches result in a visit to a local business. These visits then eventually translate into sales, with at least half of local searches eventually leading to a purchase for 57.7 percent of consumers.
- 14 percent of local searchers say they’re “immediately” looking to visit a business.
- 53 percent of searchers typically visit a business within 48 hours of search
Whether you’re managing a small restaurant with minimal overhead or running a chain with dozens or even hundreds of locations around the country, your ability to manage both your search performance and online reputation can spell difference between winning guests over and driving them away.
Let’s Start with Search
One of the most effective ways to attract new diners is to target those who are already looking for restaurants like yours. This means maximizing your visibility and optimizing your presence on search engines. Here are some keys to success:
Claim Your Business Listings
Plant your restaurant’s flag on all your digital properties. We don’t mean just your website; claim your listings on business directories, online yellow pages, data aggregators, and social media and online review sites, too.
Ensure Complete, Correct, Consistent, and Up-to-Date Business Information
When building out your online presence, set yourself up for search success by submitting, at all times, the right business information (particularly your restaurant name, address, and phone number). Also, be sure to include your map location, service area, website URL, and hours of operation.
Not only is this meant to aid hungry diners and point them in the right direction; it also sends the necessary signals that search engines need to reward your restaurant with a high local search ranking.
- According to a report by the Local Search Association and YP.com, 37 percent of consumers will not consider a business with inconsistent information, and another 32 percent will not consider buying from a business with wrong contact information listed online.
Get Your Menus Organized
Ensure menu consistency using the right menu software platform, and post information about your offerings online in order to help diners find your restaurant and even plan their meal before they arrive.
Supercharge Your Social Media
Converting online traffic into store traffic also means taking control of your restaurant’s social media presence and engaging in meaningful conversations with your existing and potential customers in their preferred channels.
Promote Your Social Media Profiles
Invite people to connect with your restaurant and let them know they can find you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, what-have-you. By doing so, you create new opportunities for exponentially expanding your network, extending your brand’s reach, and growing your audience.
Monitor and Resolve Issues on Social
Show people that your business is always listening to customers. Provide social care and support.
- According to Nielsen, close to 50 percent of American consumers use social media to ask questions, report satisfaction, or make complaints.
Social media has transformed how businesses handle complaints and respond to guests’ needs and expectations. Take advantage by listening to the voice of the customer, locating their problems, and finding resolutions to these problems.
Manage Online Reviews and Guest Feedback
Beyond search engine results and social media, online traffic also extends to include user visits to online review sites where your restaurant is listed. Remember: online reviews (the amount, your star ratings on each site, what customers say within the review, etc.) significantly contribute to how customers perceive your business.
- More than 33 percent of diners will not choose to eat in a restaurant with less than a 4-star rating on online review sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor.
- 25 percent more people turn to consumer reviews on sites like OpenTable, Yelp, and TripAdvisor than those who rely on reviews by professional food critics. 60 percent read reviews before going out for a meal, a habit that takes precedence over getting directions to a restaurant, or looking at food photos.
Respond to Reviews
One of the tried-and-tested ways to increase conversion rates is to respond to online reviews and guest feedback: positive, negative, and neutral. Act quickly, stay professional, say sorry if you have to, and — no matter how unfair or invalid the criticism may seem — don’t ever lose your cool.
Not only does this demonstrate that your business is fully engaged (and always patient) with customers; it also strengthens your online reputation, reinforcing the highlights of a positive guest experience while minimizing any negative impact that a bad review or comment may have.
Encourage Customers to Share their Feedback
A restaurant that embraces guest feedback can more easily inspire trust, foster loyalty, and generate store traffic. So instead of focusing on promotional content or paid restaurant advertising as your investment priorities, let the voice of the guest work wonders for your brand reputation, sales, and revenue.
Collect feedback from your happiest customers and encourage them to share their experiences through online reviews. As for the unhappy customers, invite them to privately share with you details of what went wrong and which parts of their visit created dissatisfaction. The key is to keep guests engaged, so that eventually they can be powerful word-of-mouth catalysts for your restaurant.
At the heart of any strategy for converting web traffic into store traffic is the commitment to put customers first. Make it easy for them to find you on search engines. On social media channels, show that you’re a caring brand, responsive to their needs. And leverage online reviews in order to improve the guest experience.
In time, your reputation will precede you, and those who hear about your restaurant online will pay a visit, confident that their experience in-store will be five-star-worthy.
Megan is the associate editor at ReviewTrackers.
- What Restaurateurs Need to Know About Online Reviews - March 28, 2018
- How to Convert Web Traffic into Restaurant Traffic - August 9, 2017