3 Reasons Why Some Restaurants Outperform Others
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the contributors are theirs.
For two years, restaurants have faced a relentlessly challenging environment fraught with uncertainty, significant operational change and supply chain disruptions – not to mention a labor shortages that cost 71% of restaurants $5,000 or more per month.
So how have restaurants survived, if not thrived, when the odds were stacked against them? The pandemic has brought to light two important factors that influence business performance: 1) the remarkable resilience of restaurateurs and staff and 2) their level of use of technology.
Whether they turned to online ordering or redesigned dining experiences, restaurants that were already more technological or quicker to adopt new technologies tended to bounce back faster and resist additional curveballs as Covid variants worked their way through the Greek alphabet.
Seemingly temporary solutions have become essential to operations, and the increased reliance on technology will continue as restaurants seek to increase customer numbers, efficiency, sales and profitability. A Popmenu study of 415 restaurant owners and operators in the United States, 51% plan to automate more online operations in 2022 and 41% plan to automate more on-site operations.
As restaurants take steps toward recovery and set the stage for post-pandemic growth, it’s critical that they continually assess their execution in three key areas that can affect whether they land on the top-performing side of a growing digital divide.
Related: This is what people want in a post-pandemic restaurant experience
Numeric Separator #1 – Online Menus
By far, the online menu is the most important and underutilized selling asset for a restaurant. A text or PDF experience won’t do a menu justice and will likely cost a restaurant business: 30% of US consumers said that if they visit a restaurant’s website on their mobile device – which is what most consumers do – and see a PDF menu, they will move on to another restaurant.
Offer an interactive menu with enticing photos, descriptions, and the ability to review dishes. Imagine visiting Amazon to buy a pair of shoes, and there are no pictures or written details. Chances are these shoes won’t end up in the basket. The same goes for ordering meals. According to Popmenu’s research of over 2 million online orders, dishes with photos receive twice as many orders and four times as many reviews.
Leverage the menu for search engine optimization (SEO). Each dish should be set up as a unique page and indexed for search engines. When a restaurant updates the menu, adds new dishes, or posts reviews, it automatically signals to search engines that there is new information to read. This helps the restaurant appear higher in search results and increase website traffic, and the interactive experience helps increase customer conversions.
Integration with Google Business Profile. Google owns the vast majority of search engine marketing share, and nearly half of all Google searches are locallike “restaurants nearby”.
By implementing an SEO-focused online menu and website, The Hampton Company, a coastal-inspired multi-site restaurant group in Illinois, Florida and Tennessee, saw a 63% increase in average monthly website sessions in three months (reaching over 285,000) and more than doubled the value of its organic traffic keywords to over $520,000. . Upscale Texas-based steakhouse, B&B Butchers & Restauranthas generated more than $450,000 in online orders since expanding digital capabilities during the pandemic.
Related: These 3 restaurant franchises have thrived during the pandemic. Here’s what to learn from their successes
Digital Divider #2 – Marketing…or lack thereof
Many restaurants lack dedicated marketing staff, and a lack of time and resources can hamper the ability to attract and re-engage customers. While marketing can seem complex and expensive, a big part of it is simply staying in front of customers with “craveable” assets. A lot can be automated – and at a reasonable price.
Send automated text messages flagged by guest behavior. When a customer places an order, likes a certain dish, or leaves a review, automatically send a follow-up message with a special promotion to encourage future business. Be sure to invite guests to become a VIP so they can receive exclusive offers, event invites, and other perks.
Stay social. 45% of consumers tried a restaurant because of a social media post by the establishment. Share information about new dishes, happy hours, quiz nights, wine tastings, guest experiences, and more by posting them at least twice a week, if not daily.
The Chori Man, known for its artisans making chorizo in Southern California, is very active on social media and other digital marketing channels. They engage their staff and customers in their story and leverage user-generated photos and content in addition to professional visuals. From 2020 to 2021, The Chori-Man attracted twice as many monthly visitors as the previous year and saw a 40% increase in his number of Instagram followers, which now exceeds 20,000.
Related: Food for thought: Restaurants are going digital to survive and thrive
Digital Divider #3 – Onsite Execution
Once seen as a barrier to building relationships with customers, technology is now being embraced as an enabler as restaurants manage security mandates and talent gaps. From QR-based contactless on-site dining to AI-enabled phone answering, restaurants are continually attracting customers even when they can’t be in front of them.
- Be available 24/7. Two in five consumers (42%) say, if they call to make a restaurant reservation and receive a voicemail, they immediately move on to another restaurant. Restaurants can now use AI technology to answer common questions as well as custom questions for their business. AI technology can also send the caller a link to the restaurant’s menu, send a link to make a reservation, and record voicemail messages via SMS so owners can instantly see priority messages.
- Use the waitlist as a marketing tool. With the new technology, customers automatically receive a link to the menu when they add themselves to a waitlist via a QR code or the restaurant’s website. After the meal, customers are prompted to submit a review and follow the restaurant, so continued engagement is automated.
The bridge over Laguna Beach in California uses automation to support its seaside dining experience, ensuring that customer requests are answered even if they cannot access the phone. In 30 days, the AI-powered technology answered 1,658 calls, covering everything from restaurant hours and location to reservations and order information.
Consumers have become accustomed to new ways of doing things during the pandemic with 75% expect restaurants to offer more digital experiences both online and on-site in the future. As the industry works toward a sustained recovery, restaurants that are leaning into technology to increase connections and convenience are poised to perform better.