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According to a new study, Millennials have high standards when it comes to restaurant brands’ online presence. And if they don’t get the information they want, they take their business elsewhere.
A survey by local search and digital marketing firm Placeable found that 68 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 29 in the study) say they are likely to visit a different concept if a restaurant website they are searching does not contain information such as address, phone number, reviews, menu, and photos. Among the most important facts Millennials want from restaurant websites are location (91 percent say this information is “helpful”), operating hours (88 percent), reviews (53 percent), discounts and promotions (49 percent), phone number (43 percent), and photos (24 percent).
“One of the biggest things Millennials want is a seamless experience, whether online or in your restaurant,” says Christine Ferris, public relations and marketing manager for Smashburger. “They want something that is going to be easy and fast, and where they get the most information and the best experience possible.”
But, according to Placeable, many restaurants are not doing a great job giving Millennials that information. The company conducted a detailed data analysis on the online presence of several different types of businesses, including 220 restaurant chains, and found that only 18 percent of restaurants could compete on both a national and local level digitally. Melissa Risteff, vice president of marketing at Placeable, says the company examined the presence of business locators, local landing pages, SEO performance, website structure, and enriched content.
“On average, restaurants scored the lowest in depth and visibility,” she says. “They don’t spend a lot of time and energy maximizing their own websites and instead rely on third-party sites [such as review sites].”
Some brands are trying to change that. Smashburger provides numerous details about each of its restaurants, including photos and reviews, on the “Locations” tab on its website. “People can search by city, state, zip code, or country, and the location closest to you, based on the IP address of your computer, will show up,” Ferris says. Each restaurant listing includes the store’s address, phone number, and business hours broken down by day, along with a picture of the restaurant’s exterior, photos of signature burgers and other meals relevant to each location, and a link to Yelp reviews.
“Not a lot of restaurant [chains] have photos of each of their restaurants on their websites. Customers can visualize the outside of the restaurant,” Ferris says. It was also important for Smashburger, working with Placeable, to feature photos of food items only available in certain regions. For example, Colorado restaurants include photos of the Colorado Burger.
Like Smashburger, Wing Zone features photos of each of its food items on its website. “On Wingzone.com, we really want to showcase our foods and our flavors. People are going to gravitate toward what looks the most appetizing,” says Dan Corrigan, marketing manager for Wing Zone. Recognizing that value is very important to Millennials, the chain provides a list of specials and coupons on the “Online Ordering” tab on its website and on a separate tab in its app.
Of course, restaurant websites aren’t the only digital space Millennials turn to for information. Social media is another online space that operators must invest in to secure Millennial business, experts say.
“Twitter is more engaging, but Facebook is also a big one,” Corrigan says. “Sixty-three percent of our Facebook fan base is 18- to 34-year-olds.”
The importance of social media to Millennials cannot be stressed enough, says David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurant Consultants. “More than 50 percent of Millennials make their restaurant dining decisions through social media,” he says. “If you are not active in the social media scene, you are really missing out on being able to hit that demographic.”
Smashburger also provides a link to its Yelp reviews on its website, recognizing that reading restaurant reviews before visiting a new restaurant is extremely important to the Millennial demographic.
“Millennials are relying on word of mouth and other people’s reviews more than anything else,” Ferris says. While some restaurant brands are wary of working with Yelp and other review sites, Smashburger has invited Yelpers to dinners with its founder and encourages reviews—both positive and negative. “Yelp is the No. 1 site for reviews, and that is not going to change anytime soon. We take it as a vehicle to learn about their guest experience.”