This may sound dramatic, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all. Those restaurants that refuse to adapt to the way people are currently searching for places to dine can expect to die a slow and painful death. They will soon be bypassed by competitors that nimbly embrace the realities of the new online marketplace.
If you need to see statistics on the trends regarding how Americans currently find and choose new restaurants, please see this eye-opening article from Matt McGee on what your prospective customers want and expect from you in the digital age. These thoughts on mobile-friendly restaurant websites may also help you to better understand your market.
I spoke with a local restaurateur in the tourist-dependent Aspen area a few months ago who stated he didn’t really need to worry about the internet. He argued that his eatery was busy all the time during the ski season because local concierges recommended his place to their guests. I guess if you are in a similar situation, you, too, can stick your head in the sand and ignore the internet. However, I’m not convinced that his is a sustainable, long-term strategy. I travel quite frequently and use my smartphone to find and choose places to eat rather than asking hotel personnel. Many of the people I know do the same.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal talked about how internet-savvy pizza chains are crushing pizza restaurants that have not enabled online ordering. One local pizza place owner in Cleveland laments that she cannot afford to provide that service even though her business has declined by 20% over the past 2 years. How can she afford not to change? She sounds like another restaurateur with her head in the sand to me.
Some people just don’t like change. They want to do the same old things in the same old ways, even when the old ways don’t work any more. Complaining about circumstances or affordability doesn’t do any good. If you need help, get it before your restaurant becomes extinct. Just like the dinosaurs, you must adapt or die.