Keeping your restaurant in line with the times is important. Gone are the dated wall coverings, plush carpeting and gaudy decorations, replaced by sleek lines and colors in line with your restaurant’s energy and vibe. Now that your restaurant has cleaned out the old, it’s time to take a look at your online tools. A few online changes can make your restaurant’s digital appearance as beautiful as the restaurant itself.

1. Your Website

Gone are the days of a single-page Web site that was created with clip art and scattered copy that leaves users hunting for the basic information. Online visitors to your restaurant’s Website are looking for an organized site where they can find your menu, location, and hours, at the very least.

Your Website is the first place potential diners will think to look before visiting your restaurant. As in most situations, first impressions are key. Keeping your Website content up-to-date, installing available and needed updates for plug-ins and applications, and ensuring that your site is responsive and mobile-friendly are the basic ingredients for a good restaurant Website. Make sure that the site is maintained regularly and that all links are working.

There are a few components that some restaurants have found to be successful tools for growing their business:

  • Ordering online: Being able to order online and stop to pick up meals increases the chances that today’s busy diners will utilize your services. There are several different designs and layouts that make this possible; investigate the platform that works best for your restaurant and hire a designer to make sure everything works according to plan.
  • Online reservations: If online ordering and take-out doesn’t fit the ambiance of your restaurant, consider adding a platform to take reservations online, which could increase your customer base and bottom line.

2. Your Social Networking

If you haven’t created a page on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, or another social network, you are missing out on a large and growing marketing tool that could revolutionize your business. Your marketing plan should make it possible to target and reach customers where they are, and they are posting, tweeting, snapping and uploading pictures.

Use these platforms to interact with and engage your potential patrons. Don’t just tell your customers about your restaurant, show them. Use images and graphics to give them a tour of the restaurant, take them behind the scenes or into the kitchen, share how-to tips and videos and build a base of loyal fans and customers.

3. Your Online Review Sites

Are you on Yelp, Zagat, or other restaurant rating site? If you’re not, you should be. These sites are some of the first to come up when a potential customer searches for your restaurant. Monitoring reviews of your restaurant and responding to both positive and negative comments not only shows your customers that you are savvy to the Internet, but that you care about their opinions and their experiences.

Some customers choose to rate each specific meal, others opt to share about their entire visit, from the environment and service to the meal and pricing. Because of the Internet’s ease of information creation, many review sites allow customers to add their favorite restaurants themselves. Some will require a verification from the restaurant, but others do not, which is why it can be beneficial for restaurants to claim their listings and regularly check the sites.

4. Your Marketing

In addition to incorporating networking sites in your plan to modernize your restaurant online, creating a marketing plan that revolves around automation can not only help you take full advantage of new technology, but also save time and money.

Automating your marketing involves creating a plan to reach and connect with new and current customers. Available tools and platforms follow a programmed plan that sends a specific response based upon a particular action taken by a customer. This can include sending a welcome email when someone joins your mailing list, a coupon for customers who haven’t ordered within a set time period, or a congratulations email when someone places their first online order.

The benefit of automated marketing is that these are, as it says in the name, automated. You only need to write each email once; the system you choose will take care of the rest.

5. Your Rewards Program

One thing most customers love: rewards. You should, too. It’s a great way to show your regular customers some love for their support of your business. While some restaurants have found success with physical punch cards, others who have incorporated an online rewards program have found that they have saved on the time and financial investment involved in a physical rewards program. Automating and modernizing your rewards program can help you provide customers with timely, relevant rewards.