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The Digital Landscape: Restaurant owners invest in social media more than their website

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Social media is more important than a website for restaurant owners, according to new research

The new statistic emerged in a study by Vistaprint exploring 1,000 Canadians and 1,000 Canadian small business owners, which found that 72% of restaurant owners are using social media marketing, while just 52% have a website. 

The new research revealed a lot about restaurant owners’ marketing activity, as well as providing insight into consumer expectations for small businesses. 

Restaurant owners are time poor and cash-strapped

According to the research, budget and lack of knowledge are the top barriers to marketing in the food and beverage sector. This comes despite the fact that restaurant owners spend $2,110 per year on marketing ($443 more than the average spend across all industries).

In addition to budget restraints and a lack of marketing expertise, busy restaurateurs also noted lack of time as a barrier to their online efforts, spending an average of just 3.7 hours per week marketing their business. 

That said, there are plenty of ways for small business owners to optimize their time and budget to make a big impact on their marketing. As part of the research, Vistaprint also surveyed 1,000 Canadian consumers to find out more about their digital expectations of small businesses, which revealed some interesting insights about how restaurant owners should maximise their online presence. 

Laptop on table at a coffee shop with photos of food

Websites are necessary, but don’t need to be overly sophisticated

Despite social media being a great way to connect with customers, a website remains a hugely important part of your online presence. In fact, according to the survey, almost two-thirds (62%) of Canadian consumers expect a business of any size to have one. 

However, a small business’ website doesn’t need to be fancy – what it does need to be, is easy to use, and secure for sharing information online. When asked what they expected from a website, Canadian consumers named security and navigation as the most important elements.

“With so many Canadian consumers discovering small businesses online, there’s simply no reason not to have a presence on the web,” says Vistaprint Senior Director of Digital Products, Alfredo Ramos. “In working closely with small business owners, we’ve developed a suite of affordable and easy-to-use digital marketing services to provide businesses with the tools and know-how to look professional online.”

Websites help capture local search traffic

Vistaprint also asked Canadian consumers about their motivations for spending  cash with local businesses. The top reason came out as a desire to support the local economy (70%), followed by wanting to support local residents and families (66%). 

With the average Canadian consumer spending $108.87 supporting small businesses every month, and 69% stating that they regularly visit local food establishments, it’s a great time to ensure that your website is optimized for local search traffic. 

Michelle Levine, Organic Search Manager at Vistaprint, explains how businesses can optimize their websites for local search engine optimization (SEO). “Using the name of your town or neighborhood throughout your website is a great way to show Google where you’re based and boosts your chances of appearing in the search results when someone looks for restaurants in your area,” explains Levine. “Restaurant owners should also make sure their Google My Business listing is up to date and they’ve added all the relevant links to their website, menu and how to make a reservation.” 

Woman standing in front of restaurant with her phone

How to maximize your restaurant’s online presence

With Canadian restaurateurs up against tight budgets and lack of time, business owners can maximize their online presence in an effective and budget-friendly way by following these four top tips: 

Entice customers in with your website

Make sure your website is easy to navigate, directing customers exactly where they need to go to see your menu, reserve a table or find the location of your restaurant. Use localized keywords (mentions of the town or neighbourhood where your restaurant is) to boost your local SEO efforts and ensure it’s optimized for mobile.

Curate your social media presence

Focus on sharing visual content on social media channels; whether it’s new dishes you’re creating or pictures of your space. You can also encourage users to share their own images of food from your operation. This user-generated content not only spreads awareness for your brand, but provides you with a library of content that you can repost (with permission). Create “touchpoints” for consumers throughout your restaurant that promote your marketing strategy. For instance, ensure your social media handles are printed on menus, table top materials, and on your business cards

Optimize your Google My Business listing

Ensure that all the information on your Google My Business page is up-to-date, and most importantly, include all the available information – website links, a link to reserve a table, day and hours of operation, contact details and your menu. 

Get more reviews

Build up a bank of positive reviews by simply asking for them! Happy customers are generally more than willing to endorse your services online. Responding to reviews (both positive and negative!) shows that you are actively engaged with your customers as well as promoting a positive brand image online.
The most effective online marketing strategies are those that cover a range of channels. By diversifying your marketing, you’ll appeal to new audiences while looking professional and plugged in. 

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