For new customers and regulars, your website is an extension of your service and should function just as well.
You want a great experience for every diner who opens the door to your operation. The same is true for your website, especially your mobile site. Many first-time visitors discover your business on their mobile device.
New customer or regular, and no matter whether they’re using a tablet, phone or watch device, their experience should be as smooth as the service at your tables. Here are some ways to achieve that.
Connect quickly and easily
Because users hate to pinch, expand or scroll to find information they want, a responsive website—one that conforms to fit any screen—is a must.
“Anyone searching via a mobile device gets mobile sites in their search results first,” says Steven Chester, Digital Media Director at MediaEdge Communications Inc. in Toronto. “So with mobile use increasing, responsive sites are not just a want; they are a necessity.”
The numbers speak to this importance. Restaurants Canada’s 2016 The Discerning Diner report shows that 49% of customers use a smartphone or tablet to look up information about a restaurant.
Menu your menu
The most important and relevant information should be at the top of the page, advises Rick Evangelista, Senior Web Designer at MediaEdge. So if you want customers to see your menu first, make sure it’s easy to find and loads quickly. To avoid slow-loading pages, break the menu into clickable segments—starters, sandwiches, desserts, beverages, etc.—to make viewing more manageable.
Tame the text, focus on images
Choose words carefully and use a font that’s easy to read, Evangelista says. Make sure every word works as hard as possible, capitalizing on search-engine optimization words and phrases.
“Ensure your site has been submitted to Google Webmaster and offers some relevant content that Google will find and use to rank you higher on search lists,” he says.
Looking at sites built by your competition and avoiding repetition are also good practices, Evangelista notes. Unique copy helps your messages mean more and achieves the fresh approaches that Google searches crave. He also urges operators to use unique photography, alt-tagging images for Google recognition and compressing them for speedy loading.
Know the audience
Restaurants Canada confirms that millennials are the most active mobile audience. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 70% use a smartphone to look up restaurant locations, hours and directions, and 40% use them to order takeout.
But if you think only young people are using smartphones to connect with restaurants, you may be missing out. An emarketer.com article predicts that by 2018 more than 85% of Canadians ages 45-54 will be smartphone users, as will 64% of Canadians ages 55-64.
“There’s a bit of myth in believing that only the younger generations are using mobile devices,” Chester says.
Apps, social media and beyond
The cost of developing an app can be prohibitive for many operators, and the value of QR codes is in limbo, Evangelista says, but social media is fertile ground for connecting with customers.
While Restaurants Canada survey numbers show most table-service customers prefer emails over Twitter or Facebook messages when it comes to daily specials and special events, social media has a lot of traction with young smartphone users.
The same study, however, shows young Canadians use social media much more often than older Canadians to connect with restaurants; 48% of 18- to 34-year-olds have visited a restaurant’s social-media page, compared to 18% of those 50 or older.
“Every single space of your site should allow visitors to share within their social network,” Evangelista says. “Over time, this is a massive redirection to your site.”