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Traditionally, a restaurant operator grew revenue by expanding an existing location or adding new units. And over the past decade the addition of food trucks has delivered appreciable sales bumps without brick-and-mortar investments.
Yet, increasingly, operators are seeing good returns from the even lower cost brand and sales building alternative of adding a retail component to their website. In an expanding digital world nothing spreads the word about a restaurant like a dynamic internet portal through which operators can sell their wares to customers who may never set foot in their restaurants.
Whether it’s shelf-stable or frozen food — like Lou Malnati’s Chicago-style pizza, Gates Bar-B-Q Sauce and Legal Sea Foods prepared lobster — or branded apparel and gift cards, an online retail store can provide operators with new options for exposure 24/7 to larger audiences and new sales outside their four walls.
Consider these steps when envisioning your retail web store:
Begin with an easy-to-use, flexible web platform. Chances are your existing website might not allow for the addition of a retail component. And even if it does, it may not be easy to add items; change prices, selection or photographs; or update descriptions — especially when done by existing restaurant staff. Squarespace makes this easy with multiple templates into which you can build an online store with little hassle.
With the technical hurdles already behind you, there’s no need to hire a programmer. It’s as simple as choosing a template which best represents your restaurant and adding your own images and text.
Sell what’s unique to your restaurants. Sure, branded T-shirts, hats, glassware and the like are always popular items, not to mention some of the most effective and simple marketing tools, yet experts say to consider selling food items for which your restaurant is known. Easy to ship items such as bottled sauces, packaged coffee, shelf-stable dried, candied or preserved items are all great ways to share a taste of your brand with customers.
Eager to sell processed foods? It can become a significant sales builder, but also a food safety challenge. Therefore, it’s wise to check with all proper regulatory bodies as well as packaging firms before making that leap.
Boost sales opportunities with add-ons. Ideally, online customers will revisit your site many times. To increase the odds that will happen, reach out to your customers with add-on opportunities. Invite them to receive newsletters updating them on new products and encourage them to follow your brand on social media. Fans of a brand tend to like more than one product offered so give them lots of chances to buy more by reminding them in engaging, creative and non-intrusive ways.
Write a blog about your company. Some of the most successful retail websites engage customers by telling their stories: how the company started; who prepares the food; who on staff is an advanced sommelier; what charities the restaurant supports; where the company will open a new restaurant next, etc. Those stories deliver the “warm and fuzzy” details that create a brand halo with which customers want to identify, and they generate excitement that attracts new devotees.
Use that same blog to engage customers who can visit your restaurants by informing them of new specials from the kitchen or the bar, or upcoming events. Though the internet is a global tool, it’s still incredibly effective for reaching out to those next door.
No SEO unless you know SEO. Search engine optimization, aka SEO, is essential not only in getting shoppers to your site, but also by helping them find what they want from your online store. Squarespace does this highly technical work for you by advising you on keyword strategies which will attract buyers’ and search engines’ attention.
Connect your sales site to social media. Word of mouth is still important in sales, but in a day when some generations use digital communication more than their own voices, moving your brand message through social media is vitally important. Reaching out to potential customers through platforms like Instagram and Facebook can turn them into brand advocates who provide your restaurant with free and positive exposure.
Keep web sales information in the cloud, not on your cluttered desk. What restaurant operator hasn’t misplaced hard copies of invoices, sales receipts and essential accounting information? Avoid that 100 percent of the time when you use Squarespace for your online retail sales. Print what you like and keep the rest in the cloud for when you need it. Your crucial data is always available 24/7 and not stuffed away in a random file folder.
Ready to build or renovate your restaurant website? Try Squarespace free for 14 days and risk free. When you’re ready to subscribe, be sure to use the code “HOSPITALITY” for 10 percent off your first website or domain purchase.