The importance of the Internet in food services

Restaurants that are not online can have the best food in the world. Chances are you won’t go there even if you heard about them. FeedingTheAccelerator’s Heather Jonasson takes a look at the online ecosystem for our beloved restaurants.

Online is so much more for restaurants than what first meets the eye. Yes, I have this amazing little Italian restaurant next door that I give a ridiculous share of my monthly income, but I bet most prospective guests would never dare enter.

These days, if you don’t have a dedicated following and want to have a successful restaurant, you need to be connected to the Internet.

When choosing a restaurant for a nice dinner, celebration or just a great place to try on vacation, people look to Internet review sites to make their decision. Websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and UrbanSpoon make all the difference to many people when deciding where to eat.

But it doesn’t stop there. Restaurant websites are extremely important in terms of directions, ambiance, menus, opening hours, etc. Generally, if I can’t find a restaurant’s website, I move on to another that can give me the information I need.

Let’s start with the reservation system. Like many people, I don’t care to deal with strangers on the phone. If I want to call for a restaurant reservation, I often have to wait for their opening hours where I deal with an out-of-breath host who is grabbing the phone between seating a long line of people and I don’t trust that my information was taken correctly. With an Internet reservation system, I can see available times online and make my reservation straight into the computer without much bother. If I’m deciding between two restaurants and one does not have a reservation system on it’s webpage (or is not connected to a site that handles many reservations), I’ll choose the one that makes it easier for me.

Internet reviewers and social media posts are also a potential asset to both the customer and the restaurant. But they can go terribly wrong. Recently, my husband and I were planning a romantic Valentine’s dinner. I had heard of a new Italian restaurant and was planning to make reservations there. Luckily, after looking at pictures on the website, I realized this restaurant was more family-oriented rather than a quiet, romantic escape. The reviews I read were great, but if we had dined there, we would have been sorely disappointed.

For our Valentine’s meal, we were able to find a restaurant that had the ambiance we were looking for. Thanks to the Internet. (A place that we will frequent every Valentine’s day for the rest of our lives.)

Later on we took our entire family and enjoyed the first Italian option greatly. But then our expectations were leveled with the place.

Social media is very important for the restaurant industry as tools for recruiting and retention. Restaurants that have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are able to give direct information to their customers, such as special offers or just a reminder of a new dish they might enjoy, not to mention it saves a lot of trouble with handing out flyers, printing costs, etc. It’s also an easy way for people to spread the word about places they enjoy eating to other people in their communities.

The Internet is vital in retaining customers and loyalty in this age. This is the new way of advertising – personalized and information on demand. Tracking customer data and needs is the way to a successful business and the Internet is opening up opportunities for all restaurants, large and small. From top-notch three-star establishments to the funky food truck on the corner. If you don’t exist you don’t exist, but if you don’t exist online, chances are you won’t exist either in the real or virtual world a few years down the road.

 

Heather Jonasson

Heather is an authentic Texas girl, a severe foodie and amateur online restaurant reviewer. She is the twitter expert at FeedingThe Accelerator. You can follow her at @FeedAccelerator and @heatheraudrey