01 February 2011
Internet avoidance could lead to future drop in covers and profits
Restaurateurs who don’t embrace the internet to promote their restaurant are potentially damaging their long term prospects by missing out on both customers and revenue, as Brits continue to flock online, according to research from Livebookings. Surprisingly, over a third (39%) of the restaurants surveyed don’t have a website and 25% don’t promote their site anywhere on the internet, meaning they’re invisible to the 53% of consumers who often research restaurants online before reserving a table.
Those that do promote their restaurant, are not necessarily doing so in the correct places. Brits have admitted that in most cases they will know when they want to eat but wont know where, so 66% will frequently use generic search terms such as “Italian in Soho” to locate somewhere suitable. Seventy one per cent also stated that using Google was their preferred method of searching for restaurants. However, only 42% of restaurants use search engine optimisation to improve their online rankings and 23% have never checked how easy their site is to find online.
Other popular methods for consumers searching online are review sites such as Time Out (25%) and voucher sites, such as Moneysupermarket.com (23%). As only 7% of restaurants are currently promoting their website on vouchers sites, this is somewhere that many are missing potential customers.
From research by Livebookings, the leading global online reservations and marketing service for restaurants, the consumers that do find the ideal restaurant online may still be disappointed. Only 44% include the bare minimum map and contact details on their site, although 81% of consumers expect it. And despite 68% of Brits now preferring to book tables online, only 18% of restaurants are offering the service.
In response to these findings, Livebookings will be running a new series of Academy events for restaurateurs, beginning with ‘Maximising Reservations – Same Restaurant, Higher Profits’ in February.
Miles Quest, from the British Hospitality Association says: “It’s clear from this research that the internet is playing an increasingly important role in how consumers are finding and booking restaurants. We urge restaurateurs across the UK to carefully consider how successful their online activity is and if it’s either non-existent or not performing strongly to act swiftly, as the numbers of diners searching online is only going to increase.”
Charles Dobosz, owner of The Grill on the Square Bar & Restaurant in Warrington, says; “We’ve been working with Livebookings since May 2010 and thanks to an online bookings interface linked to our website, we’ve increased our covers by 50%. Livebookings has also helped us develop partnerships with Onionring, lastminute.com and Bookatable.com. In the busy world we live in, live internet booking is the way forward and an essential tool for restaurants.”
Commenting on the findings, Olivia FitzGerald, Livebookings UK and Ireland Regional Director, says: “Restaurant owners and their employees are up against it on a daily basis, juggling multiple tasks.”
“Having an online presence which is easy to find, navigate and reserve through is a necessity as it keeps the restaurant covers ticking over and frees up staff to look after diners. To help restaurateurs looking for advice on boosting their website, we’re hosting a number of upcoming events on key topics, details of which can be found on our website, www.livebookings.co.uk.”
As well as getting new customers in, restaurateurs also need to be mindful of how to get those that have visited to come back. The increase in popularity of review sites such as Trip Advisor is shown with 21% of consumers saying this is their preferred method of feeding back, with filling in a form on the restaurant’s website being most common (34%). Comment cards are currently used most by restaurants (46%), only a fifth (20%) are monitoring online review sites and 20% don’t collect feedback at all.
The research also found that 45% of restaurants don’t send any emails to previous customers, despite 33% of diners being happy to hear from them once a month. A clear benefit of doing so is that 25% of consumers have visited a restaurant in the past month as a result of an email offer.