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How restaurants are locking horns for customers online


Looks like everything is going online! Even a meal out is turning into an online experience with one-in-two Australians turning to the internet for reviews and advice before making a decision on where to dine, according to new research.

Almost a third of diners now use a web search engine to search for details on a restaurant, and another quarter use an online food guide to make clearer choices on where to eat.

How do restaurants sell themselves online?

According to John Hart, CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia, “In this day and age, restaurants fight to attract diners in the online space, as well as in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk.”

“The internet is the new front line in attracting and maintaining loyal customers. The boom in smart phones and portable tablet devices means diners have an excess of restaurants to choose from, and it comes complete with reviews, directions on how to get there, and the ability to make a fast and easy booking,” Mr Hart added.

According to the research, Australians are dining out an average of two or three times a month, and the majority (63%) say their dining decision is influenced by the reviews of other diners.

Unsurprisingly, the research found Generation Y is more likely to use an online dining review (60%) compared to Generation X (52%), when selecting a restaurant or eatery. The Baby Boomers, as expected, trail in at 36%.

The research, conducted by Galaxy Research on behalf of American Express, also found that restaurateurs don’t just have to rely on good reviews to bring in customers. According to the survey, 57% of diners say a restaurant’s own website has at least some influence on where they dine.

The survey found 42% of Australians prefer that restaurants provide them with information on special events, meal specials and menu changes via the restaurants website, with another 25% wanting restaurants to use Facebook to communicate with them.

Yes, some people do want the night’s special their inbox. So, restaurateurs are no longer just fighting to attract customers from the footpath, they are logging on to social media to sell their wares there too.

Is the web really THAT important to restaurants?

Geoff Begg, General Manager of Global Merchant Services, Australia at American Express said, “Diners are hungry for restaurants to use the online space to communicate with them and it is those restaurants that make an effort to interact with their customers long before they enter the restaurant that are winning the battle.”

“Only one-in-ten casual diners indicate they prefer to make a restaurant booking online and 30% say they rarely or never make a booking. However, 16% of those who dine at least once a week say they prefer to book online,” he said.

Mr Hart added, “More frequent diners are the ones embracing the ability to book online, review a restaurant and share their experience, but that also means there is an abundance of more casual diners just waiting to embrace technology and combine their dining experience with the internet.”

“With so many diners already on the net, restaurants can benefit from growing their online presence and making it easy for customers to book online.”

Well, who knows? At this rate, you might soon be able to order and download a plate of fries and a cheese burger straight off your laptop!

About the Survey

The survey was conducted online by Galaxy Research. Fieldwork commenced on Wednesday 18 April and was completed on Friday 20 April 2012. The study was conducted among 607 Australians aged 18-64 years. Following the completion of interviewing, the data was weighted by age and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates.

About American Express

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.

Image by S Baker [Sarah Baker]