The Covid-19 Pandemic has forced restaurants and retailers to shift their business model very quickly. In a matter of days, businesses started offering curbside pick-up, online ordering, in-store pickup, and delivery (to name a few).
Unfortunately, some businesses were not ready to respond to this need with the available technology or knowledge to effectively communicate their new business models to customers.
It is especially important now, and going forward, to offer both in-store and online shopping, ordering and pickup options. Communicating these new options to customers online can seem like a daunting task, but I am here today to lay out some simple steps to help. Covered topics include:
1. Updating Websites | Creating a Website
2. Creating a PDF Menu & Sharing
3. Creating an Online Store
5. Photo Tips
1. Updating Website | Creating a Website
An updated website presence is very important especially when your customers might not know if you are open or what special services you are offering. Facebook updates, while helpful, can be confusing on their own without a website to back it up. Facebook posts get lost over time and customers may get frustrated trying to find that one post that had your menu options from last week.
a. Setting up a website – If you do not have a website presence, now is the time to do it. There are many website builders that make it very simple to create a website as well as allowing you to easily make quick changes and updates. There are also freelancers and designers that will utilize website builders in creating your website for you resulting in a lower price and providing you the ability to easily make quick changes and updates on your own. No matter what route you use, make sure you can make necessary changes yourself without relying on someone else to do it.
Website Builders we like that also have online store options: Wix, Squarespace, Square (for use with Square POS systems), and Weebly. Pricing ranges from $10.00 per month to $40.00 per month. The higher the plan the more services you get. Ecommerce sites start at $25.00 per month.
b. Website updates – Besides adding an e-commerce page for online orders (which I will go through below) you should add sections, popups, or updates to the front page to update customers on things that are going on with your business. Are you offering options for pick-up and delivery? Do you have a special limited take out menu? Do you have your regular menu in PDF form for easy printing? These things should be communicated and updated often. Facebook updates are great but having these updates on your website will ensure customers will find it when they are looking. What are customers asking you repeatedly via email and phone? These things should be on your website for easy access.
NOTE: If you cannot easily make changes or access your website, this is a good time to upgrade to a new website where even if just in emergencies, you can quickly make changes. When In doubt, your customers will seek answers from your website first.
2. Create a PDF Menu
I have tried to decipher one too many photos of dirty, crooked, and blurry menus linked to websites and Facebook and other social sites. There are many easy tools and templates to help you easily create a menu in pdf form. The templates allow you to change photos, logos, and colors so you can match your brand and image. You can link pdf documents to Facebook and to your website easily and pdf is a universal format that almost anyone can open.
Menu Template Platforms
Canva.com. Canva has a free and premium membership. There are many options for free menu templates.
AdobeSpark.com – Adobe Spark has a free and premium membership. There are many options for free menu templates
3. Create Online ordering | e-Commerce
If you have a website, but do not offer online ordering it might be time to investigate the logistics of doing it for convenience. It is not only convenient for your customer; it also frees up an employee from constantly answering the phone. There are logistics you want to run through before making this leap. Things to consider might include:
1. Inventory control – the ability to block menu items when things suddenly sell out. What system will you have in place.
2. Notifications – What system is going to work best for your restaurant so that you never miss an order.
Many website builders, including Wix and Squarespace, offer e-commerce shops within their platform for a small upgrade fee per month. If you already have a website, it might be easiest to use an online ordering system to create your shop and link it to your regular website. You might want to check with the POS system that you use to see if there is an option that is compatible. If you use Square as your POS, they have a free and user-friendly solution.
The Iowa SBDC just co-sponsored a webinar going through the Square system and how to set up. The taped version will be available soon and will be linked here.
4. Photo Tips
There are many stock photo options but it is important to use your own photos of your menu items. If there is one area that you invest money in, the photos of your menu items would be it. Investing in an experienced food photographer could really make a difference in the competitive world of online ordering. When they can’t come to your restaurant and feel the ambiance and smell the food, the photos need to be enticing and mouthwatering.
If you prefer to take the photos of your menu items yourself, here are some tips presented by ToastPOS.
If you want to work through these issues with an advisor, the Iowa SBDC is a free resource. Set up a meeting today and we can walk through different options with you. We are all working through this and will take appointments via phone, zoom, skype, etc.
About The SBDC and the Author The Iowa SBDC provides no-cost technical service and advice for Iowa Small Businesses and individuals looking to start a business. The 15 centers throughout Iowa are run by small business experts and counselors who have the experience and expertise to confidently help on a number of topics
Sue Pitts, Regional Director for the Iowa Western SBDC in Council Bluffs has been in the position since 2004. Sue has become the state expert in Digital Marketing and Website Content. She teaches small businesses on these topics on the local level as well as at regional, state, and national conferences.