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This article is part of our Restaurant Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your restaurant business!

How many times have you ended up searching for the name of a nearby restaurant at the last minute, perhaps when you’re out with friends or in a city you don’t know? How about the address or the phone number of a pub you haven’t visited for a long time?

Probably a lot.

The data confirms it: Local restaurants are the most sought after category on mobile devices, accounting for 65 percent of the total searches.

With the spread of mobile technology, the way consumers choose which businesses to frequent has dramatically changed. According to a survey from 2012, people used to choose which restaurants to attend based on their personal habits, or based on the advice of those they trusted. The choice to visit a store or restaurant, while in some ways more planned out, was also much more vague.

Today, everything is less planned; it is much more instantaneous, context-driven, and related to the needs of the moment. Our actions are also more precise because through mobile you can find exactly what you are looking for, wherever you are.

This is an opportunity that consumers have immediately jumped on. Only three percent of people who own a smartphone do not use it for searching purposes, and according to Mediative, 53 percent of searches have local intent.

Nonetheless, many restaurants are still struggling to understand the importance of this mobile revolution, which not only affects the optimization of their site but is also a new way to establish a relationship with customers.

Just like new cuisine styles revolutionize the principles behind traditional cuisine and how to relate to food, mobile is not just a technical matter; it’s also a new way of seeing and using online communication, with new modalities for promotion and loyalty programs for customers. So, on that note, here are some of the best ways to make your restaurant’s mobile site as engaging as possible.

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6 tips for a winning mobile restaurant site:

1. The basic information should be easily available

When you go mobile, you’ll need an optimized website. With this in mind, take extra care that the main information about your restaurant appears on the opening screen: address, button to direct call, links to access the menu, and offers.

It is also useful to immediately communicate the distinctive value of the restaurant, whether it be the customer loyalty program, the multiplicity of payment methods, or the specialization of menus for certain categories of customers—like a gluten-free menu, vegan options, a children’s menu, and so on.

An excellent example is restaurant chain Arby’s:

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A great example of a successful mobile site: Arby’s has a mobile site that displays locations, their menu, and highlights the quality of their meat.

Besides adding buttons to locate and contact their restaurant locations, and check for offers, as well as view the menu, they also immediately direct customers’ attention to their strengths (the incredible meat) by dedicating a special button to it.

2. Feature great images of your food and your restaurant

When it comes to food, images play a fundamental role in enticing potential customers to become customers.

Images offer a visual preview of the specialties of the restaurant, and they give you an idea of its style. According to Open Table, what matters the most—for 56 percent of people who look for restaurants on apps—is the opportunity to see photos of the dishes and the location before they make a reservation.

For this purpose, you can use single images, or even better, a gallery composed of several photographs that show various aspects of your culinary offerings.

The important thing is to pay attention to the loading time, which should be only a few seconds. As mentioned earlier, people are in a hurry—especially when it comes to eating. If they are looking for a restaurant from their smartphone, they expect an immediate response. If a site does not load immediately or does not clearly show their information, 70 percent of customers will go to the competitor’s site.

3. Include coupons and promotions

Coupons and other promotions are tantalizing invitations for new customers and tempting opportunities for loyal ones.

Thanks to some features offered by mobile sites, you can now create digital coupons, which can be downloaded directly from the webpage.

Data confirms that coupons continue to play a decisive role in the choice of clients: According to research, 87 percent of people are more likely to choose a restaurant where they have received a promotion. Use your mobile site as an opportunity to share coupons or promotions with your customers, and you’ll be rewarded with returning visitors and new faces alike.

4. Add on email marketing

Creating a database with the clients’ contact information is vital to establishing an ongoing relationship with your customers.

The aim is to ensure that your name is the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they think of a restaurant. To accomplish this, take advantage of mobile-optimized text and email alerts to keep your restaurant at the front of your customers’ minds.

Email campaigns can be used to send special offers to customers, but also information that is less commercial, such as holiday greetings or notifications about a new seasonal menu, which can be previewed on the site.

5. Create an all-mobile loyalty program

Loyal customers are a major source of business for a restaurant: It is estimated that returning customers spend 67 percent more than new customers.

To increase their number, one of the most common tools is the traditional loyalty card. These cards are validated after a certain purchase, and they allow you to get something free—a discount, or a prize—once you have achieved a certain number of points or punches.

To keep up with the mobile revolution, the “restaurant of the future” must offer its customers a more advanced and efficient tool, like a digital loyalty card, that allows customers to accrue points directly on their smartphone. A mobile loyalty program keeps track of your customers’ progress, and it also solves the problem of loss or forgery, inevitable with traditional loyalty cards. Not only that, the convenience of a mobile loyalty program is sure to help you build a loyal customer base.

6. Offer mobile payment options

Did you know that 50 percent of people who go to restaurants prefer to make electronic payments?

Mobile technology has opened up new, interesting possibilities in terms of payment methods. For example, the mobile-wallet, a virtual wallet that is associated with the customer’s phone number and provides a method of payment which is quicker, safer, and more convenient for both the customer and the restaurat owner.

Once this is implemented by the restaurant, it would be a great idea to communicate this new method of payment through emails and in all promotional materials, without forgetting to create a specific button which should be clearly visible on the mobile site.

Starbucks has made excellent use of mobile wallet: When customers pass by one of the local chains, coupons saved on their mobile wallets will appear on their smartphone screen, encouraging them to take advantage immediately.

Why does your restaurant’s mobile site matter?

If you want to appeal to new customers and keep old ones coming back, a great mobile site for your restaurant is a must.

According to research by the National Restaurants Association, consumers prefer restaurants with a strong online presence, who have a website, and who implement web marketing activities via these channels. These restaurants are considered to be more reliable, and superior to the competitors who are not on the web.

By implementing all of the elements above, you’ll be able to create a mobile site for your restaurant that draws in new customers, and has old customers coming back again and again.

Interested in finding out more about staring a restaurant? Browse our free restaurant business plans.

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