If you’ve been in business for any period of time, you’ve made some mistakes. I’ve made more than my fair share. I’ve taken my lumps, learned from it, swallowed some pride and moved on. Having worked over the years to help such Lehigh Valley institutions as Grille 3501, The Farmhouse and Glasbern, I was asked recently by a new local restaurant what we would do to help their business.
A quick review of their website from my iPad gave me the first answer. The website was done all in Flash – a programming language that was very popular about 10 years ago that doesn’t render on most smart phones or tablets, is very costly to update and usually invisible to search engines. For some reason, the restaurant industry loves Flash and has notoriously bad websites. And don’t just take my word for it. When you are done reading this blog, check out this article from earlier this month in the Boston Globe, “When Bad Websites Happen To Good Restaurants.” It is absolutely spot on.
I spoke with the general manager about evolving habits of how people consume and act on marketing information. I painted the picture of their ideal customer. Let’s call him Andrew. He’s stuck at a stoplight, wondering where to go for dinner that night. He recently saw a print ad and heard a radio spot for this fine establishment, so he quickly punches in the URL. With rapid page load time from the restaurant’s mobile enabled site, he gets one-click access to the phone number, hits the call button, books a table and is good to go before the light turns green.
Not with this website. I punched in their URL and guess what? Because it was all in Flash, an absolutely blank page appeared. Nothing. Nada. White out. I explained why this was bad for business. We then went to the GM’s desktop computer to fire up the site and it was so painfully slow to load that most people would have abandoned the search. Flash can be extremely slow to load.
When the site finally loaded, we went to the menus which featured the Fall specials. It was March. Flash sites are notoriously difficult to update. We went to the special events section. It hadn’t been updated in four months, yet there was a great band playing in two days. I then explained how having the right type of website is key to support all the other efforts we would do on their behalf – Pay Per Click (PPC), print advertising, customer database marketing, public relations, radio advertising and social media marketing. The GM wholeheartedly agreed.
But then I quickly learned that the website was off the table – not because of budgets, but because the owner spent a lot of time working on it and “really liked it.” I think what the owner really should like – and latch on to and not let go – is having a full dining room. The website – what should be the epicenter of marketing efforts, the restaurant’s 24/7 advertisement to the world, is a huge liability. Time to cut his losses.