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As an online consultant, I find restauranteurs to be one of the most skeptical client types when it comes to understanding the benefits of having an effective online presence.

There are many reasons a restaurant owner may be skeptical of how much a website can benefit their brick-and-mortar business; their competition may not have a website, they’ve never had one before so their clients find them in other ways, they have a tight-knit and loyal customer base, they are already listed on third party websites on the internet, they prefer more traditional (expensive) forms of advertising –or maybe they do not know it, but they’re simply afraid of success.

Being popular comes with its own level of scrutiny –and anyone who’s seen the movie Spanglish; you know the fears that come with being revered.

However, the truth is that having a website is an imperative for any restauranteur. But don’t take my word on it. Keep reading and decide for yourself!

Why a Website is Important for any Restaurant or Hospitality Business

Right off the top, I’m going for the heart of the most common rebuttal I hear in the business; “I’m already listed on Yelp (or XYZ foodie website)”.

The truth is that Yelp or any of these other third party restaurant website portals are not your friend. They’re not even putting your best interests first.

Here’s why:

Middle Man, or the “Bait and Switch”

A third party social media website or restaurant portal is not a channel to reach more customers; it’s a middle man that will quite often have the potential to lure customers away from your business as much as they can bring them through your door.

When a website visitor finds your listing they are also bombarded with “related” restaurants in their area. Even if they look specifically for your business by entering your restaurant name into a search engine they will find that listing and then be presented other competing businesses all on the same page!

Third Party Restaurant Portals can be “Gamed”

Third party websites were once a godsend for businesses, providing social proof of the quality of a particular restaurant. Now internet marketers have caught onto this trend and will use tactics that can bring a business to the top of the listings for the highest bidder. No longer is it about food quality and panache –it’s all about faking it until you make it. Fake good reviews can bury bad reviews, after all. Any online system can be gamed, hacked, or manipulated to deceive.

And if someone makes it personal and posts a bad review to hurt your business, good luck removing their comments. Yet if that comment “lived” on your own website, you would be able to moderate it without permission of a third party. Permission! Why let some Silicon Valley company be the gatekeeper to your customer’s experience?

They Retain Customer Data

All those customers who are converted from online to offline –your customers—are providing valuable contact details to third party websites and those websites are not sharing that information with you. Some sites will even allow a customer to book a reservation without sharing their details with you; only a name, a time, and a date.

They’re Bullies

A third party website can outrank you on search engines and they know it. And in many cases they will bury you if you don’t pay the piper. Don’t believe me? Look into “Billion Dollar Bully”; a documentary about Yelp’s corrupt, extortive business practices.

Oh, and not playing along, not registering on a website like this doesn’t matter. They list you anyway –well, they get their users to. The first user to “check in” at your location creates a profile for your business.

So, why is a Website Important for a Restaurant?

Simple. A website is an asset. Instead of increasing online traffic and giving away all your priceless customer data to a third party bully, your own website will afford you more control, more access to your own customers, and present your business in a way that you choose.

Restaurant theme WordPress are much nicer than the gaudy templates sites like yelp employ, and they’re much more effective at displaying what’s important to your business.

A website that you own puts you back in the driver’s seat and it doesn’t need to be a hassle, either. There are plenty of WordPress themes out there that are specifically designed just for restauranteurs.

WordPress on its own does not come with dynamic editable menus, reservation booking, hours of operation, and other important features that restaurants need. A good restaurant theme for WordPress will convert the platform into something tailored just the way you like it and need it to be.

The key here is not to fear the third party listing sites that keep your customers at ransom –it’s to provide another option for your die-hard loyal customers, your fans. A website is a way for them to reach out to you directly, and provides options that your customers crave.

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