Any restaurant’s online strategy tends to take a backseat when things get busy. Between managing staff, designing new menu items and balancing the books, managing your web presence isn’t always a top priority.

Unfortunately, a restaurant website with bugs or out-of-date content is simply bad for business. While you’re busy in the offline world, issues with your online presence could be turning potential customers away.

This post will cover a few time-saving tips and tricks to reduce the time (and cost) of managing your restaurant's website, without sacrificing quality or sales.

Choose a do-it-yourself platform

Spending thousands on a high-end web design is no longer necessary for independent restaurants. Instead of spending time planning your strategy with a web designer, put those resources into creating a really great site from an existing template.

Once your site is up and running, don’t hire a web designer to make every little change for you. This drains time, energy and money on tasks you could handle yourself. Set up your site with an easy-to-use content management system, like WordPress, so you can make changes on your own.

There are some really great tools available to make your site look like it’s constantly maintained by a pro. Restaurant Engine combines WordPress-powered features with a platform that’s specific to the restaurant industry.

Auto-sync your site with social networks

Regularly updated content is a key component of any online strategy. Updates keep customers engaged online, building a relationship with patrons. Recent content also lets first-time visitors know that you’re an active business that engages with its customers.
 
Syncing your social networks to your website really simplifies things. Start by connecting your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles to your official website. This automatically and effortlessly shows every social media update you make right on your official page.

Add review widgets

Customer ratings and reviews are huge in online restaurant marketing. How huge? Recent research by two Berkeley economists found an extra half-star rating could boost restaurant’s chances of selling out during prime dining times by as much as 34 percent.

When someone willingly signs on to give your restaurant their blessing, it’s the highest form of flattery. And the more recent, the better. A five-star review from yesterday shows that you’re keeping up the good work. Customers who see this can expect to walk in today and get the same level of quality.

Adding reviews to your website can be done in real-time with some of the top rating/review sites. Yelp and Tripadvisor have options to add widgets here and here. For both sites you’ll need to sign up as a business first, but it’s worth the 20 minutes or less!

Schedule blog posts

Blogging is a fantastic way to engage with your customers on a new level. The best thing about blogging for restaurants is you can incorporate regular content into your site without interfering with the overall theme. One restaurant, Mama’s Boy, works WordPress posts into the “News” tab of its website. Posts can be short or long, text or images. They can be quotes from recent press reviews, or focused on other businesses or events in your area.

To avoid falling behind on your blog during busy times, try scheduling your posts over a long stretch. Take a couple of hours one quiet Monday to come up with some interesting topics for the next month. You can preschedule these types of posts for the busiest times:

• Share tips and secrets from the kitchen.

• Feature a new staff member.

• Write about an upcoming community event.

• Provide a short history of your signature menu item.

Once you get the ideas going, preplanning post topics is easier than you think. Try interspersing scheduled articles with spontaneous posts to mix things up.

More and more potential customers are discovering new places to eat out online. Your site should always show your best side, but you shouldn't have to spend hours each week maintaining it. Try using a do-it-yourself web platform, syncing your site with social networks, and prescheduling blog posts to put your restaurant’s website on autopilot.

Brian Casel is the founder of Restaurant Engine, a website design solution for restaurants. Get your free Restaurant Website Checklist available on the Restaurant Engine Blog. Email Brian at brian@restaurantengine.com.