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Web, smart phones push first-time visits

Deals are a good way to capture a new audience from the web.

Online marketing influences only a small percentage of restaurant visits—6 percent—according to NPD Group research. But cyber marketing is an effective way to bring in new guests. Consider that of that 6 percent, about a quarter were first-time visitors to a restaurant, more than twice the overall incidence of first timers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, casual-dining restaurants benefit most from online marketing, NPD figures suggest. While the casual-dining segment accounts for about 1 out of every 10 restaurant visits, online marketing drives about 1 in 6 visits.  
The best way to lure web/smartphone users to a restaurant, according to NPD figures, appears to be a deal or special offer. Some 37 percent of consumers say deals pushed them through the door. Other items that factored into their decision include:
• Menu details: 30 percent
• General information: 27 percent
• Recommendations/reviews: 14 percent
• Restaurant location: 13 percent
• Loyalty program: 12 percent
• Online preordering capability: 10 percent
• Nutritional information: 10 percent
• All others: 20 percent
These are among results from NPD's CREST report, which tracks consumers of more than 400,000 visits to restaurants each year. 
With the explosion in smartphone usage, casual restaurant operators would do well to review their online marketing efforts to make them more phone-friendly and take steps such as creating a separate mobile website, pumping up Yelp listings and supplying mobile-friendly menus. For more on the subject, check out Sara Petersen's helpful tips.
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