Times are more challenging now than they've ever been for restaurateurs. With dinners being encouraged or forced to stay home, eat-in traffic was all but wiped away. Even after lifting restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants, consumers are hesitant to expose themselves to the possibility of contracting the new coronavirus. Not with thousands of new cases being reported across the country every day.
On top of the new challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown restaurant owners, the industry's fierce competition hasn't gone anywhere. If anything, competition has risen from recent quarters as order-in apps, which dinners are increasingly turning to, have introduced them to the offerings of your rivals.
To stay alive and compete in the post-COVID dispensation, you need to rejig the way you do business. It would help if you especially switched up how you reach out to prospective new customers through your website. Here are a few ideas you can try out:
1. Great Photos
As of 2017, more than 200 million photos were floating around on Instagram with the #food. Scientific research has proven that pictures of food can stimulate hunger in folks who were not even hungry. This should give you an idea of how much people appreciate a good food pic, and how easily that pic can drive them to place an order. As a restaurant proprietor, you, therefore, have to make sure your website is loaded with high-quality images of your offerings.
Even before you bring a photographer on board, you will need to have a clear idea of the kind of shots you want. You can browse some of your competitors' sites or utilize some ideas from popular "foodstagrammers." Knowing the type of photos you want will prevent you from overloading your pages with images that may not serve the intended purpose. Be sure that your pictures promote your brand or tell the story you want your target audience to relate with.
Hiring a professional photographer is a good idea as he or she will know how to capture and process images optimized for a website. They will also be able to recommend better ways to present food to showcase it more enticingly. If you can't afford the services of a pro specialized in food photography, you can reach out to a budding photographer. But you will need to be on hand to offer guidance.
2. Online Ordering
Incorporating online ordering makes sense as it will encourage a visually stimulated visitor to go ahead and satisfy the urge you have created. It's a win-win for you and your customers. More so in this day and time when sit-in dining is being discouraged. To minimize their costs and drive online sales, some restaurants have become ghost kitchens.
There are several ways to offer online ordering. One is to go through a third party, such as UberEats or GrubHub, specializing in this service, offering it to many other restaurants. Another is to have an online ordering add-on integrated into your site. A third-party online ordering app combined with a point-of-sale (POS) system is yet another option. Integrating with POS systems for restaurants will ensure that your inventory and accounting records are automatically updated when a sale is made.
Going through third-party apps offers you broader reach than your website may be able to give you. However, it does come at a price, literally. You will have to part with a percentage of each sale made through their site or app.
3. Make Navigation Easy
One of the keys to converting your website visits into actual sales is making the visitors' experience as seamless as possible. Your website's layout should make it easy for a visitor to move from browsing through your site to browsing your menu and finally to placing an order. They shouldn't have to look for buttons or information. Ensure nothing will break that journey from casual browsing to ordering. Any such breaks can be costly; an exasperated visitor can easily Google up rival eateries and take their order there.
4. Include the Basics
Making navigating your website a breeze for potential customers means that you have to do your homework thoroughly. If you don't, your site will not only be a nightmare to browse through; it will lack essential information. A visitor may search in vain for a number they can reach you on or directions to your nearest outlet.
5. Be Mobile-Ready
Most people accessing the Internet today are doing so from mobile devices. Few people will wait until they're stationed at their computer to browse; they'll do so through their phones. In recognition of this trend, Google recently announced that they would index mobile-first websites before sites built for desktop browsing. Therefore, your chances of being found on a Google search will be better if you are mobile-ready.
A Worthy Investment
Incorporating all these features into your website won't be cheap. Hiring a skilled developer to build your site and optimize it and a photographer for those stellar images may end up costing you thousands of dollars. In an age where consumers are looking to place their orders without the risk of getting infected by COVID-19, it is an investment worth making.