How to take your restaurant business digital

Imagine you're working a busy shift and the work phone won't stop ringing. You know you have to answer it because there are customers at the other end of the line wanting to pay for your services and products, but you're stuck in the catch 22 situation of having to balance that need with actually producing the services and products they're paying for.

If you work for any type of food service business, this is a well-known reality for you – even now, during lockdown. Especially if you're one of those innovative companies that has pivoted to offer takeaway services. For you, this is an everyday situation but it’s one with a simple solution.

Giving your business a digital presence is the best possible way to make sure it thrives, now and in the future, in good times and bad. This looks different to different people; it might be that a swish website suits you best, or an active Twitter account. But don’t be intimidated - the food service industry doesn’t need a finger in every pie.

Create social media accounts on any platforms you don't already use. A lot of restaurants are missing out by not using Instagram, for example, when sharing photos of your delicious food can create a serious buzz for your business.

The trick to social media is to show what you do. You don’t need to tell people how delicious your food is when you could show that to them through photos, customer testimonials, or video content.

Refresh any existing web presence with a new logo, new messaging, anything – and make sure it's all branded in eye-pleasing ways. This doesn't even have to be expensive, or cost anything at all besides a little time.

A website that looks outdated, may put some customers off. It’s also important to make sure your information is up-to-date (with takeaway options, for example) so anyone who does look for you can find out what they need to know.

If you realise it’s time to go all out with your online presence, a website with a built-in booking feature could be the solution. The downside is that an all-singing, all-dancing website can be rather costly. However, it could help you take more bookings for takeaway orders.

An app is the next level in your digital transformation. Imagine a place where your customers could go to book a table or order a takeaway. This is a fantastic solution to a modern problem but there’s one downside; it can cost a lot of money to develop an app that works in the way you want it.

A budget option would be to go for an off-the-shelf app that you link your calendar to and slap your branding on. This is a good interim option but there’s very little customisation to make it work in the way you’d like.

Post-COVID, the use of a chatbot will mean that staff aren't being pulled away from greeting customers, taking orders, serving, or even cooking. The ring of the telephone is a disruption that halts efficiency and can leave in-person customers hanging.

On the other side of that, many modern customers don't want to have to make a phone call to book a table or arrange a takeaway. Although the pandemic has certainly caused an increase in people making phone calls, given the option, those with smartphones are more likely to use an online service.

Another issue with phone calls is that customers who are hearing-impaired or neuro-divergent might feel alienated from calling a food service business. This is often because they know there’s likely to be a lot of background noise on the other end of the line – something that can present a struggle for them, especially at peak times.

Of course, things are a little different right now, but if you’re able to remain open and offer takeaway services, the use of a chatbot still means less time spent on the phone, greater efficiency, and reduced stress for everyone involved. Plus, the benefits of having an active online presence – even for businesses that don't sell online – can't be overstated.

It's good for the company's image and it shows you're engaged and available, the irony being that a chatbot is a very hands-off tool and takes care of the responsiveness for you. Having a chatbot taking orders via your website or Facebook page is something that immediately puts you ahead of the competition, as customers naturally prioritise the businesses that make ordering easiest for them.

Maybe you don't think you need a web presence, because you got by on reputation alone before the pandemic. However, the old adage 'out of sight, out of mind' applies to restaurants too, and you still need to capture the customer's attention.

Going digital is very important in the modern world - you just need to consider what would best suit you. It could be that a simple chatbot is all you need. Chatt allows you to do what you do best while your virtual assistant tackles the menial – but essential – task of taking orders and helping you keep your business on the right track.

Why not try Chatt for yourself?