Sticking a Fork in Restaurant Web Sites

By Beacon Staff

This week, we continue my quest to examine Flathead Valley business websites on a market by market basis.

This week, we’re eating out. Yep, sticking a fork in restaurant websites.One thing stands out here, and that’s the chains. Most all of the chains have corporate-managed websites that are well done. Let’s look at the local restaurants instead.

What you can do is look to them to see what to consider when putting your web site together. Things like menus, a map to your location (please…), whether or not you do catering, what meals you serve (ie: do you serve breakfast and lunch only?)

One example was a restaurant between Columbia Falls and Kalispell that I happen to like. Their site is simple, isn’t much eye candy-wise, but it touched on the essentials for a 3 or 4 page restaurant website.

It talked about their location (included a graphical map), their phone number, their address, their catering info (could have been more complete), their hours, which credit cards they take and the facilities they offered. This site could have easily been completed in an afternoon. No, it’s not as fancy or as complete as it could be but it is what is absolutely necessary.

For example, it didn’t elaborate on the food, the special ingredients they fly in from wherever, their use of local game, vegetables, meats and seasonings, the romance of their fireplace area, the expertly trained staff, the menu, special occasion bookings, private dining rooms, banquet and special occasion services, their expert sommelier (Not sure if they have one), the chef and his/her training and experience, and so on (those are all hints, if I’m not being obvious enough). But…it achieved an important goal: to provide basic information needed to contact them and go there for a meal.

Many local restaurants had no site at all, including those that cater.

I’ve gotten some good feedback on this topic, including a great phone call from a reader in Kalispell whose input I will include in a later column on the subject.

One of the comments I received was that not all businesses need a website.

Sorry, but I have to disagree.

Even if all you do is put up a one page site with your location, hours and a map, that is far better than nothing. You wouldn’t likely open a business and not have a phone. You wouldn’t skip on printing menus in your restaurant. If you’re a consultant or service professional, you wouldn’t blow off printing business cards.

Not having even a one page website is equivalent to not having a phone or a business card.

Even if your business is busy and doesn’t need more work right now, you need a website. Everything has ups and downs. The time to dig the well is before you’re thirsty.

See all those kids running around with cell phones? They wouldn’t use the Yellow Pages unless you forced it on them. It won’t be long before they are your 18-35 demographic group. If you don’t have a website, to that group of people, you don’t exist.

Kids these days know that they can text “59937 mexican” to 466453 (ie: G-o-o-g-l-e on your dial pad) from their cell phone and get back a list of Mexican restaurants in Whitefish with their phone numbers. That feature isn’t limited to restaurants. Where do you think that data comes from? Yep, websites.

But it isn’t just the young whipper snappers (I knew I’d work that word in somehow) who use the web these days (ya think?). One of the phone calls I received about websites was from a self-proclaimed “older person”. She had some great feedback about what is important to make a site usable for people who aren’t 29 anymore. She doesn’t want to be ignored when she uses the web. Neither do the 18-35 or 25-55 groups.

What demographic can you afford to ignore? Most businesses can’t afford to ignore any of them, but there are exceptions.

Not having a website is ignoring at least one, maybe more – especially tourists. They research what they plan to do using the internet.

Do you want to be on their radar, or not?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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