The pillars of success in the hospitality industry have remained the same since the beginning of time.
Good service, quality product, great location - these were the things that would guarantee a busy and fast-trading business.
Well, it's not everything.
The technical revolution that began with the invention of the Internet - and found pace with the creation of the smartphone - has meant that a lot of interaction with hospitality businesses is done online. This is where customers search for a specific type of restaurant ('Italian food in Bondi'), customer recommendations ('Best coffee in Carlton?'), or a certain product ('frozen organic meat').
Whether it's via search engines like Google, ratings sites like Zomato, delivery services like Menulog or Deliveroo, or one of the many online restaurant directories; customers are searching for your restaurant, maybe even as you read this. So - what will they find?
Restaurant Engine highlights the importance of remaining competitive online: "If your user is looking for your address or your menu or if they're looking to order online, and your website isn't easy to view on a smartphone or tablet," they point out, "they will most likely leave and find a site that is "responsive" to their needs." Your website is no longer just a place to store menus and contact details.
Your website is now your shopfront: it is as important, if not more so, than your bricks and mortar business. Think of a revamped website like a revamped neon sign out the front of your venue: the design, accessibility, and functionality of your business website all affect your sales.
Here are some hospitality-based features which are now expected by the new waves of 'digital natives', interacting with businesses online.
1. Online booking - This can be done through companies such as Dimmi, Bookarestaurant and Obee, whereby you embed a widget (an application that enables a user to perform an action) on your site that allows customers to easily reserve a table.
2. Menus - Your customers want to check out your menu, so make it easy for them. Update frequently with specials and new additions.
3. Imagery - For young digital natives browsing online, they are far more likely to respond to imagery than text.
4. Integration with social media - Social media is an important part of most hospitality businesses' marketing plans- if you don't integrate it with your website, you are not using it to its full potential.
5. Email signup - Collating a database of customer's details will allow you to continue communicating with them and increasing your chance of return visit.
A great website with in-built functionalities like ordering online, or online booking, are going to attract a larger audience thanks to their ease of service. Tellingly, The Sydney Morning Herald published an article in 2015 titled, 'Online Restaurant Bookings Explode'.
The article notes that already 30% of Australia's restaurants are using Dimmi (an online booking widget), with its founder Stevan Premutico expecting that "...within two to three years, online reservations will account for about 25 per cent of all restaurant reservations in Australia."
If you are still asking yourself if this is an area of your business worth investing in, the answer is YES: more Australians are eating out than ever, and almost all of them are finding you online.
In a recent article from Good Food online, they state that "...spending on food has increased 13 per cent over the past 20 years, while incomes have risen 36 per cent.'' This equals out to the average Aussie eating out around four times a month (or once a week!), spending almost $70/week at cafes, takeaway shops, and restaurants.
It's like they say - you've got to be in it, to win it. So make sure you invest your resources into setting up, and maintaining, the best possible website you can.