Restaurants are terrible at running their websites and search engine optimization (SEO). Literally every single one. Not yours, you say? Hire us by purchasing an à la carte block of SEO consulting hours and we’ll research and create a strategy to give you enough SEO work to do to last you the next three+ months… No matter how big or small your restaurant.
There are a ton of restaurant SEO articles out there that simply list all the basic SEO tips for every type or small business and every type of website. Here, I’ve created a list of SEO tips for your restaurant that shift the thought process and think outside the box a little. As a former restaurant employee – working positions from dish washer all the way to front of the house (service) manager, a former owner of an in-home private dining company, and current marketing consultant for restaurants, these are some of the restaurant SEO strategies and tips that ACTUALLY benefit restaurants the most.
The restaurant business is tough. High overhead, long hours, and high staff turnover are only some of the reasons starting and running a restaurant is difficult. All of this coupled with the modern demands from diners for the restaurant to be literally everywhere online, deliver their food directly to their doorsteps, and demands to keep menu items reasonably priced while the cost to prepare menu items continues to rise steeply, all lead to a high failure rate in the industry – with some restaurant industry experts estimating up to 80% failure rate within five years of opening.
Luckily for most restaurant owners – nearly all restaurants are pretty terrible at managing their websites and online presences. By committing even more time – yeah, yeah, I know – your restaurant can easily take advantage of the online deficiencies of other nearby restaurants and other restaurants with similar styles of cuisine throughout your city or metro area.
Recently I couldn’t sleep, so I turned on a random episode of America’s Test Kitchen on the Pluto TV app. The episode featured a porchetta sandwich segment. Thinking to myself that it had been a long time since I’d had a good porchetta sandwich, I decided that I’d found my lunch for the day. My next task – find a great porchetta sandwich in the Kansas City area. I live in Olathe, KS – a large suburb at the southwest edge of the Kansas City metro area.
Naturally, I hit Google to find “the best porchetta sandwich in Kansas City.” Guess what I found? Nothing. Not a single search result that specifically mentioned a porchetta sandwich at a single restaurant in the KC area. Sad. The search results were SO thin that I am confident this article about restaurant SEO might actually end up ranking #1 in Google searches for “porchetta sandwich in Kansas City.”
I began the deep-dive and I found only two mentions of a porchetta sandwich in the Kansas City area. Both mentions of the porchetta sandwich were in in a Reddit thread, where another hungry diner asked the same question 3 years ago. The most frequently mentioned restaurant was closed and had since moved to a different location, changed name, and had drastically changed the concept of their menu. So… I visited the other restaurant’s website, but it took a lot of digging before I found the sandwich listed on their website. There was not a web or text-based restaurant menu. All I could find was a .jpg image of their physical in-restaurant menu with a date that was nearly two years old.
Since I was doing my search at 5:30am, I waited until 10am, when I knew front of the house employees would be arriving to work, and called to confirm they still offered this sandwich. They did. I wasn’t going to drive 30 minutes (in the rain) to find that the restaurant no longer offered this sandwich. Finally, I had found my lunch spot for the day.
It shouldn’t be this hard for an eager eater to find a bite… but unfortunately nearly every single restaurant does a bad job of actually helping diners find the meals they want to eat.
Take these SEO-focused tips to heart and implement them in your restaurant website and in your restaurant’s online presence and your restaurant is guaranteed to attract the customers who are most excited for your food and drinks.
SEO on Your Restaurant Website
Every item on your restaurant menu needs to have it’s own page on your website
This is the #1 problem with restaurant websites. If each menu item has a dedicated page on your website, you’re going to be way ahead of nearly every other restaurant. When a diner searches for a specific food (see above) your goodies will be top of search and top of mind. Now that each of your delicious entrees, sandwiches, appetizers, deserts, and speciality cocktails all have their own page on your website, it’s time to make each of these pages truly stand out.
Write a detailed description of each food and cocktail item
Yes, more detailed than the list of ingredients on your physical in-restaurant menu. Include the description from your physical in-restaurant menu as well, but go deeper and more detailed. Why is this item on your menu? Where did inspiration for this recipe come from? Have you partnered with unique and/or local ingredient providers? Talk about them and link to their website. Foodies love to know where your ingredients come from – especially when they’re local or if you’re the only restaurant in the area who imports a specific ingredient.
Add multiple photos to each menu items’ web page, with optimized image file names
When you snap a photo, your phone or camera likely gives it a generic name that includes the date and time. This naming convention is not useful for your website’s SEO. Instead, rename each photo that actually describes the food in the image. Using our porchetta sandwich example above, rename each photo with a different name for each photo, such as
- italian-porchetta-sandwich-brookside.jpg (Brookside is a Kansas City neighborhood)
- foodie-frank-loves-sandys-sandwich-shoppe-porchetta-sandwich.jpg (If this is a photo of a local food blogger eating the sandwich, for example)
Don’t forget to add photos of people actually eating your food. These photos don’t need to be super high quality or professional photo shoots. A good cell phone camera coupled with some basic food photography principles are more than enough and your diners will appreciate “real” photos.
Encourage diners to leave a review of the item right there on your website’s page and allow them to upload a photo
Text content within reviews add SEO value to the website and to each individual page on the website. There are a lot of review management platforms out there to assist in this process, or it can be as simple as turning on the “comments” section within your website’s content management system and allowing your customers to type away. Don’t worry, you can set it up so you can approve reviews first, if you like.
Awards, press, notable blog posts, cool social media posts
If your menu items get press or mentioned by notable local food bloggers, mention this on each item’s page and include a quote from the article or blog and link to the original article. If you’ve been a guest on a local morning or midday news program to prepare this food, embed the video and discuss the experience. If someone has taken a great photo and shared some nice words on Instagram, embed the Instagram post on the web page of the menu item.
Share the recipe for some of your restaurant’s menu items
WTF?!?! Yep. That’s right. People are always looking for recipes. Share the recipe for SOME of your restaurant’s menu items right there on the item’s web page. No, your diners aren’t just going to make it at home instead. They’re going to TRY to make it at home – then they’re going to come back to you for more good eats when they want the best version of the recipe. This does a lot of things for you – It shares some of your processes with your customers, which they’ll absolutely love! It will help your restaurant rank for that menu item via the recipe,as well – maybe an out-of-towner finds your recipe, then makes a point to try the “real thing” the next time they’re in town.
Include a SEO-friendly downloadable restaurant menu
You probably already have this on your website, but make sure it is a text-based readable .pdf file. Also, rename your .pdf file to be your restaurant’s name, with the word menu in the file name, similar to the images above. Search engines can read the text in a .pdf, but they’re not quite good enough yet to read all the text within an image. Make it easy for search engines. Stop saving your restaurant menu as a .jpg or .png. It’s nearly worthless. Your printing company should be able to easily supply you with this version of your restaurant’s menu.
Share everything that makes your restaurant special
This is a big area that restaurants miss – and miss badly. Every restaurant has multiple things that make it unique, yet nearly all completely ignore creating a simple page on their website to share these unique aspects.
Does your restaurant have a patio? Do you allow dogs on your patio?
Dog owners are ALWAYS looking for bars and restaurants that are dog friendly. Many young couples choose to have dogs instead of having children. Young single people? Yeah, they love their dogs too. Nearly 3/4 of single women without kids say they prefer pets to children – and they spend a lot of money on their pooches and business who cater to their pooches. If your restaurant has a patio and you do not cater to this demographic, you’re missing out. This has been a trend for more than a decade. Create a page on your website telling the world about your patio and inviting dogs owners to bring their pooches. Bonus tip – Create a simple “dog food menu,” partner with a local pet store or dog treat bakery to give dog treats to every pooch who visits, and always bring a bowl of water to every pooch without being asked.
Is your restaurant a “sports bar?”
Be honest. Do you have all the big time sports packages? NFL Sunday Ticket? MLB Extra Innings? NBA League Pass? Do you show every single local sports teams’ games with the audio ON? Guess how many “sports bars” actually have a page on their website for each of these sports features – nearly none. There’s nothing worse than having to call all around town to find a “sports bar” that actually has the audio on for the local MLS team’s playoff game – a problem I recently experienced myself. Does your sports bar have a big fan base of a non-local team? That’s a good opportunity to host get-togethers for fans of not-in-town teams – and create a page about the “fan club” on your website.
Does your restaurant use locally sourced ingredients?
Whether you source directly or through a distributor, create a page about every single local farm, ranch, or food producer you get your ingredients from. More than 80% of consumers say they would spend more money to support local businesses – so champion your local partners. Tell your diners why these are your partners and what ingredients you source from them.
Honestly, what is a search engine?
There are way more types of search engines than you think…
Part of the problem with the general term SEO is that it’s gotten SO over-simplified in the public small business consciousness that it’s often way too over-simplified for most people. Search engine optimization is simply optimizing your business to be found by the people who are actively searching for your business and products (or services, educational or entertainment offerings) through a platform that allows them to search.
Far too often, this general business concept begins and ends with “Google” for small business owners. This mindset is much too small and narrow. Your business needs to be optimized to be found wherever your (potential) customers are searching for your delicious eats. Think of all the places you’ve done a search for a restaurant yourself – those are all the places your restaurant needs to be optimized. So, any place that someone can, would, or does search for your food and/or restaurant is a search engine and should be SEOified, right?
Simply, you can utilize ANY place where customers are searching for anything related to your restaurant to capture their attention, trust, and business.
Everyone uses food delivery apps
Get on all of them. Yes. Seriously. There are a lot of them, but your restaurant needs to be on every single one of them. Stop it with the “food delivery apps cost too much” mindset. Here is a simple solution – adjust your food items’ pricing per each app to make sure your margins hit the numbers you need. The idea here is not that you will definitely get a sale every single time someone searches for “porchetta sandwich” within the apps, simply that you have a presence within each of these apps’ listings and search functions. There are many third party services to help you sync all of your pricing automatically, so making one change (on your website, for example) can push updates throughout all of these platforms.
Nearly 40% of US residents have ordered food delivery though an app. You’re a fool to not use them.
Create a delivery page on your website, link to each of your profiles and let your customers know that the food is cheaper if they come pick it up directly from you. Bonus tip – Tell customers that they can get your food delivered anywhere they are if they hire a TaskRabbit, even if it’s outside all the other apps’ delivery radius.
Social media is a popular place to find food
Restaurants and food are common searches on Facebook and Instagram, particularly. Make sure your business profile is complete with links back to your menu and fill out all of your business details on Facebook. Now, here’s the easy trick – EVERYTHING has a “hashtag holiday” nowadays. Do a quick Google search to find these holidays that fit within the style of your cuisine or specific menu items. Then, login to your favorite social media scheduling tool and schedule posts for every single one of your menu items for these holidays. Make sure to include a photo and a description and/or review of the item and invite your customers to come buy that porchetta sandwich on:
- On February 13th for National Italian Food Day
- On March 7th for National Pork Day
- In October for Italian-American Heritage Month
- On November 3rd for National Sandwich Day
You get the idea. Now, since you’ve written a nice description of your grub and posted it to various social media networks, the next time someone is looking for a “porchetta sandwich” on Facebook, they will know where to go (these posts will also show up in traditional search engines, like Google)
Accept reservations at your restaurant
You don’t take reservations? Why not? Who cares if your restaurant is “not that type of restaurant,” your potential customers don’t care. If they want to make a reservation, let them. More than 80% of all restaurants accept reservations nowadays. It doesn’t take much to manage. Restaurant reservation apps and websites are places where diners are searching for places to eat. Don’t neglect these resources or these diners. Diners who want to make reservations are generally diners who spend the most money and dine out most regularly.
Get reviews for your restaurant – everywhere
Various platforms put varying amounts of weight on reviews, but diners do put a lot of weight on reviews. There are a lot of great review management platforms out there to help you collect these reviews. Your POS (point of sale) system may even already have one built in. When this is the case you can setup your marketing automation system to email/text customers every 3rd or 4th time they dine with you and ask for a review. At very least, include a note at the bottom of the receipt asking for a review and include a URL and/or QR code. Our favorite strategy is to use 1 review URL for your business (such as restaurant.com/review) and then use a 301 redirection to send that URL to the platform where you are wanting to collect reviews. When you get a handful, change the redirection to a different review platform or change it each week or month. This can even be setup to change automatically.
- Google Business Profile
- …and more
All the traditional small business SEO stuff
At this point, I could continue on for another 10,000+ words and stuff this article full of all the same SEO tips that you’ve already found in every other blog post during your Google search. Just follow those tips and dig deeper into these specific topics, making sure to fully optimize as well as you can.
- Fast and mobile friendly website. People are definitely on their phone when searching for places to eat. Your website MUST display properly, load quickly, and be easy to navigate from a phone.
- Add your restaurant into every directory and business listing website you can find. Make sure your business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, website URL, and other info are all consistent throughout these listings.
- Hours of operation. This is important, especially for your Google Business Profile and Google Maps listing. If a diner is searching on Google Maps and your restaurant says it’s closed, a potential customer may never find you. Also, make sure to update holiday hours as they approach. Google will email you to confirm for all major holidays. Do not ignore this.
- Restaurant schema markup. Although not explicitly SEO, schema markup helps explain to search engines what your website/web page is about and how it is structured. This can also be used by many integrations and automations to help more efficiently run your restaurant and website.
SEO your restaurant website now
Get to it. These restaurant SEO tips are better than any others out there because I’ve shared them with love. I love dining out. I have a fondness for restaurateurs, cooks, servers, and bartenders. My SEO tips for your restaurant are more in-depth and more specific and practical to restaurants. Take them to heart and start implementing them now. I know you’re busy and I’m happy to help if you need it. Buy an à la carte block of SEO consulting hours or schedule a consultation and let’s discuss ongoing SEO service package options for your restaurant.