It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete techno-geek or a Luddite these days; one way or another the wonders of the Web will ensnare you. But are restaurants struggling to keep up with our insatiable thirst for up-to-the-second information? Let’s face it, pretty much everyone lives some part of their lives online, be it checking emails, checking out Facebook or checking in on Twitter, and we’re no slouches when it comes to choosing where to eat out. 53% of us research places to eat online before booking, which shows that if the restaurant isn’t represented in cyberspace, we ain’t interested. In fact – and it’s hard to believe – but apparently over a third of restaurants still don’t have a website and a quarter don’t promote themselves online at all, indicating some places are seemingly, incredibly, content to rest on their bay leaves while the competition picks up the roaming punter.
And there’s the thing. Customers are getting more and more sophisticated and they’re on the move too. They want their smartphones to tell them where their friends are, where’s cool [funky/groovy/sick... choose your era] to hang out and where’s open for the late night/Scandianvian tapas/pre-cinema chow. And restaurants can get in on the action — they could create their own apps and maps, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts to keep regulars updated or get involved with location websites and hook in new customers with special offers; the cyber-world really is their virtual oyster and yet many still prefer to rely on a perhaps decreasing circle of regulars and on you turning up on the off-chance on a Tuesday night.
Where do you stand? Most customers are happy to receive regular monthly emails from their favourite restaurant, but how far do you want the relationship to go? Would you tweet your favourite chef or friend them on Facebook or do you prefer an air of mystery to your dining choice? Do you look up restaurants online before you go [even to sneak-peek the menu and look like a swot] or do you prefer to speak to a ‘real person’ and book over the telephone? Do you trust online reservations?