A restaurant Internet marketing study: Behind the scenes

My company, Restaurant Sciences, has a research arm and we recently completed a survey of chain and independent restaurants to understand their internet usage.  The survey answers burning questions such as what percentage of restaurants have a main website, a mobile website or a various types of Social Media presence.

A portion of the survey results is featured in a Boston Globe article titled “Independent restaurants neglect web, mobile”.  The article is based on data from our study.  One of the insights highlighted by the Globe reviewer was that half the independent restaurants in the survey did not have a main website presence. The article goes on discuss how far independent restaurants have fallen in almost every aspect of online.

In fact, when the survey results were first tabulated everyone involved in the study was astounded at the results. We re-contacted all the independent restaurants that indicated they didn’t have a main website to confirm our findings, and in fact found that they indeed did not have a main website. The following is a summary of the most typical feedback we received from our telephone interviews:

•We don’t have a website, but you can find us on Facebook.
•Why do I need a website, I know everyone in town and they know me.
•I’m too busy serving my customers to be bothered with the Internet.
•I have no idea what our Internet address is.
•We are listed in the online Yellow Pages.
•We don’t have a website!

If your restaurant does not have a main website it makes it difficult for patrons to find you in a Google, Bing or Yahoo search.  And search engines do not do a good job of indexing Facebook pages, Yellow Page listings or Yelp reviews. Have you ever tried searching for a restaurant that doesn’t have a main website? It’s near impossible to find a phone number and address buried in the mountain of search results. There are many low cost options available to businesses these days for those that want a website.  Jen Ziskin (quoted in the Boston Globe article) co-owner of La Mora in Brookline, MA, had this to say “Independent restaurants don’t necessarily need the resources of the chains to build a good online presence.” At La Morra, Ziskin treats her webmaster to a good meal in exchange for web development work.

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Tags: Boston Globe, Independent Restaurants, Jon Rock, Restaurant Internet marketing study, Restaurant Sciences


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Comment by Jon Rock on May 8, 2012 at 2:17pm

Hey Lynn, Thank you for your feedback. I stopped by La Morra last week to eat dinner and meet the owner. My sense is that this owner has a very unique relationship with her webmaster which is not typical of most businesses, to your point. And this restaurant owner is already a power user of social media, which means the webmaster is probably only doing occasional updates of the site. I have seen several instances here in the Boston market where a restaurant did not maintain a good relationship with their web developer and this inevitably caused a string of headaches for the restaurant owner.

Comment by Lynn on May 8, 2012 at 7:19am

Nice article. I agree with 90% of this post. You very succintly give the reasons restaurants need a website to 'get found' online. Thank you. I will refer to this article when working with potential clients who own restaurants.

There is one thing that I believe is misleading however. That is the final remark that leads one to think that a website can be created for the price of a meal. Even a simple website requires a great amount of work and time. I have created sites for the price of several meals, but that was when the restauranteur was a very good friend and we were both just starting out. Most web developer's wouldn't be in business long if they 'traded' their work for a meal. If it's a good web developer with online/social media marketing expertise, then the goal would be to build a long-term relationship. Your website has the ability to be the largest precent of your promotional platform; you'll want someone who can help you maximize it's potential at every turn. My advice- Don't undercut them, or they won't be around long.




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