In the first of this two-part series, I delve fork-first into what should be on your success plate for your restaurant via the world wide web and which content accompaniments will have your customers coming back for more.

*It’s Like a Restaurant without Signage ~ Restaurateurs everywhere, you may offer fantastic platings and have a location that rivals cobblestone street cafes in France, but today’s savvy foodie eats with their eyes first…ON THE INTERNET. What about the power luncheon you’re boss asks your to book and you need that perfect location with a swank menu to ink the deal?  Or the family of 7 traveling from Virginia to Maine who needs an affordable, family friendly menu with ample seating?  In 2012, 90% of consumers first instinct is to Google everything – that’s even for the neighborhood coffee & biscotti café. One of the most successful ways for potential customers to know how fantastic your spot is- is if you have a website. This reigns true if you’re a small Mom & Pop coffee shop, a breakfast & lunch only establishment, or have won a “Best” culinary award for your fusion creations. Wherever you are and unknown vs. well-known, it is imperative you have a web presence to:
1. let the world know you exist and give them a visual perspective of your establishment and its offerings;
2. stay relevant & competitive with other restaurateurs within the same category or cuisine within your surrounding neighborhood/area;
3.  make the world aware of accolades you’ve received and watch them influence your prospective patrons; and last but most importantly
4. obtain new and possibly life-long, faithful patrons.
*A Sour Ingredient? ~ If you’re still not convinced a website is necessary, here’s an eye-opening scenario. If you don’t have a website you could be opening yourself up to reviews of your food and/or service via such sites like Yelp which allow visitors to say something influential about your establishment. And wait, here it comes…AND POST IT ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION. Whether flattering or not, you won’t have a voice and presence on the www to contradict it will you…Convinced now? I have disregarded many a YELPing, whinny patron’s review when the restaurant’s website reflects legitimate and noteworthy criticism and compliments.

*Wanna Really Start Cookin’? Add Some Social Media ~ Social Media is big business in every business arena around. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Stumble Upon…and even more to come. And the great thing about Social Media is that it’s free! Tweet about your most popular pizza made with all organic ingredients.  Create a Facebook page for your restaurant and get customers to Like it. Dish on Digg about this seasons new menu and why your patrons need to give it a test run.
Another great Social Media tool is blogs. Much like this one, blogs can be influential depending on the level of content writing, and what other mediums the blogger is using to expose your restaurant to the world. And if they have a decent following in the industry for which your business belongs to, that’s even more exposure in addition to your other online marketing tools. I’ve seen this at work with a recent client for which I blog and how their customers responded to it. The blog influenced someone to order a dish they never had before and now they are absolutely in love with it. AND they bragged to others about it and now that establishment has 3 new customers. Ahhh…the power of suggestion.
Check back next week when I add the remaining ingredients  for a stellar, set you apart from the competition restaurant website. And if you think you should toss this advice out with your table scraps, check out http://www.google.com/analytics/customers/case_study_cke.html  and see what CKE Restaurants founder Carl N. Karcher found behind the curtain about his restaurants web presence!

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