For Restaurant Owners, There May Be Nothing More Important Than Local Search

hungryNot a week goes by that I don’t see one of my friends/contacts on Twitter complaining about the state of restaurant websites.

Poor usability and hard-to-find information are usually the big problems — specifically, either the lack of a current menu or a menu that’s only available in PDF form. That’s a real problem because, according to a recent study, 80 percent of consumers want to see a menu before they eat at a restaurant, and 70 percent want to be able to read the menu on a mobile device. Menus are the number one thing that consumers want to find when they search for restaurants online.

Those stats come from a Constant Contact/Single Platform survey of 1,497 U.S. adult smartphone owners that was conducted in December 2012/January 2013.

In fact, beyond the menu availability issue, the study makes the case that there’s no more important marketing channel for restaurants than local search. Consider:

  • 81% of consumers surveyed have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app in the last 6 months
  • 92% of those surveyed have searched for a restaurant on the web in the last 6 months
  • 75% of consumers surveyed often choose a restaurant to dine at based on search results
  • 84% of consumers look at more than one restaurant before choosing where to dine

According to the survey, consumers are searching for new restaurants more than they are any other industry, including entertainment, retail outlets, hotels, and personal services.

Keep in mind, too, that restaurant searchers are often searching for immediate gratification — where should I eat now/tonight? That’s not always the case (I was recently researching restaurants for a meal a couple weeks away), but there was a study last year that said 64 percent of mobile restaurant searchers convert within an hour.

There was a separate study also last year that said less than half of independent restaurants have a website. Pardon the pun, but that’s a recipe for disaster.

If you’re a restaurant owner, give us a try — come out to one of our upcoming Local U workshops and let us help get you going in the right direction.

One Response to “For Restaurant Owners, There May Be Nothing More Important Than Local Search”

  1. Surprised to see this article. I don’t optimize for restaurants but I speak with a lot of restaurant operators in my market about web influences on their business. That is a purposefully broad description. It encompasses a lot of elements.

    In my region and from the owners with whom I speak a significant broadening of web access to the restaurants is in existence and being used by both searchers and the operators.

    Review sites and specifically review sites with some form of making reservations or providing a coupon/discount are in greater and greater usage. The sites often include menus, along with reviews, overall ratings, operating times, phone numbers, info about parking or access. In other words much of what a potential diner wants.

    This weekend I watched while a customer paid for her takeout dinner for several in part with a check from opentable. The check was her “reward” for generating XX number of reservations at various restaurants via opentable.

    The reward represented as many as 20 reservations or as few as two at extremely expensive restaurants at limited times (when the restaurants want to expand diners)

    In other words, the open table website or opentable app was used multiple times by this shopper/diner.

    Restaurants are a different breed from many businesses. There are very unique elements to this vertical industry. Review sites and large sites have an opportunity to dominate over the restaurants’ own sites. Its especially relevant as restaurant sites from my own long experience generally have weak optimization and weak “localization”.

    I’d tread lightly when it comes to web marketing for restaurants. Its an entirely different animal with many facets beyond simple search by name, by type, by location etc.

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