Pleased To Wheat You


When it comes to building sales in a restaurant, nothing beats solid execution. By that, I mean delivering a quality product with great service and atmosphere is the best way forward. There are a lot of ideas managers and owners come up with to grow sales. I see it all the time. Businesses will use coupons, advertising, internet ad networks, etc. Some of those can be great and useful. But what good does it do to spend money on creating traffic if your operation is weak? It’s like paying for bad reviews.

If sales are down or not growing, look inside your four walls for the solution first. Ask:

  • Is your service top notch?
  • Are you serving a quality product in a timely manner?
  • Is hospitality a culture for your entire staff?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no” , “sometimes”, “I think so” or “mostly”; do not spend any money on bringing in new guests.  All that does is create expensive and poor reviews on Yelp and other social media sites. Instead, I truly recommend honing your operation towards service excellence.

If the answer to the questions above is “yes”! Here are a few other things to try before you spend your cold hard cash.

  1. Learn Customer Names And use them. Treat your guests like solid gold every time.
  2. First Time Guests Have your servers point out newcomers and do anything to “wow” them. Possibly give them something for free. Or at least acknowledge them and introduce yourself. Let them know you are hospitable and that you care.
  3. Server Contests Before you raise menu prices try some up-selling.  Give the server with the highest guest check average or most desserts/appetizers sold a spiff of some sort.
  4. Clean And Safe Everything your guests touch or come into contact with needs to be clean and crisp. This includes but is not limited to the bathroom, parking lot, table tops, and condiments. Safety is self explanatory.
  5. Create A Loss Leader I watched a small, out of the way, seafood shack ignite their sales by offering a dollar beer night.  I’m not suggesting to do exactly that. But you get the idea.

If you are doing everything above, NICE JOB!!  And now you are in a better place to profit from new traffic.

Good Luck and Good Hospitality!


Google Screenshot

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and get a website for your restaurant and don’t know where to start. Or you had a web designer create one for you and it’s hard to update and he/she never responds to your requests? Here’s how to make those problems go away.

We are going to go through four steps to do this. You don’t have to these in one go. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend doing it in one sitting.

One tiny bit of technical of info before we get started. We are going to be using WordPress. (That’s the name of the software package). WordPress originated as a blogging platform, but now can be used to create an entire website without having to be a website designer. It’s the #1 blogging software in the world with millions of users and it’s free. There are companies that specialize in just hosting WordPress sites, designers that sell WordPress templates to use, and others that provide plugins for extra functionality. You don’t have to remember all that, just that we are using WordPress, it doesn’t require vast technical skills, and there’s an ecosystem around it that we will leverage.

Let’s get started.

1. Pick a WordPress Theme
Theme doesn’t mean an artistic theme. Rather it’s a term for a template that your website will use. There are a number of restaurant themes available, so you don’t have to be designer. All you have to do is pick one that you would like to use. They have a one time cost of around $14 – $75.

Quick tip: Look for a theme that is “responsive”. This is techy word meaning that it works on mobile phone, tablets, and desktops. A lot of your visitors will come from mobile phones, so you want a site that is usable for them.

Here’s a list of places to find themes:

(Disclaimer: I don’t have a reseller or affiliate relationship with any of these sites.)

If you don’t like these, just Google “premium restaurant wordpress themes” or “restaurant wordpress themes” for more options.

2. Pick a WordPress Hosting Company
Next we pick a WordPress hosting company. This company is where your website will live or in techy speak where it is hosted.

Below are companies that specialize in WordPress hosting. Generally, it’s the only thing they do, so they are really good at it and they can help you with using WordPress. They do the heavy lifting of installing WordPress and the other software needed for it. (Database & Web Server).

(Disclaimer: I don’t have a reseller or affiliate relationship with any of these sites.)

Follow the steps given by the hosting company to create your initial empty WordPress site.

Now upload the theme you picked in step 1. The WordPress hosting company will help you walk through this. Also the WordPress Documentation can help if you get stuck.

At first your site might be Don’t worry, we will fix this in step 4. (CompanyThatHostsYourSite isn’t literal. It’s one of the wordpress hosting companies from above. YourRestaurantName isn’t literal either. It’s the name of your restaurant.)

3. Fill in Your Info
Now we put in the information for your restaurant.

Login to your WordPress site (Your WordPress hosting company will have a tutorial on this & the WordPress Documentation can help too.) and fill out the information for your restaurant.

The most important pieces are hours, address with a link to google maps, specials, menu, parking information, and phone number.

The cool thing about this is that don’t need a web designer to update or change the info.

4. Pick Your Domain
So your domain is the name for your web address. e.g. “” without the quotes.

If you already have a domain, the WordPress hosting company can help walk you through how to transfer it to them.

If you don’t have a domain, first you need to find one that is available and then purchase it. They cost $5-$15 annually. I recommend using a .com address since it’s what most people expect.

Quick tip, all the companies below will try to sell you more than just domains. Resist the urge and just get the domain and not the hosting or email or rust undercoating or anything else they try to get you to buy. If there is something you need, you can always go back and buy it later.

Second quick tip. Most of the companies below have discounts. Just google “coupon code” plus the name of the company to find them. Usually you will enter these into the shopping card when buying.

All of the following sites provide tools to see if the domain is available and the ability to purchase the domain.

(Disclaimer: I use GoDaddy for domains. I don’t have a reseller or affiliate relationship with any of these sites.)

After purchasing the domain, the WordPress hosting company you picked in step 2 will help you set it up to work with their hosting service.

One last bit, make sure that all the review and local listing sites have your new web address. ie. Login to Yelp, UrbanSpoon, YellowPages, etc… and update them.

Hopefully that will help you setup your own restaurant website. Feel free to put any questions or feedback in the comments. Don’t forget about the WordPress Documentation if you get stuck. Thanks!



Photo credits: Google website screenshot by Spencer E Holtaway Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License

Last month I explained how TripAdvisor and similar review sites dramatically changed the travel and restaurant business. The power of information has shifted from producers to consumers. The take away for restaurants is that every sale becomes a relationship sale since potential customers will draw on the experience of other customers.

So how do you manage TripAdvisor and other review sites?

My thanks to Marco, the owner of the fantastic Marco G in Rome, Italy for sharing his experiences and providing some of these tips. His amazing restaurant has been ranked #1 in Rome on TripAdvisor and is frequently in the top 25 for Rome. Here’s the Marco G TripAdvisor Listing. TripAdvisor drives new traffic to his restaurant in part because of his high rankings.

Basic Tips

  1. Claim your restaurant
    Go to the websites for TripAdvisor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, CitySearch, Zagat, Google Local Reviews, Yellow Pages, Super Pages and your local alternative paper review page and claim ownership of your restaurant. How do you know which sites to go to? The same way consumers will. Go to and search on your restaurant name and city name and “reviews”. e.g. Marco G Rome Reviews.
  2. Join the conversation
    Check your reviews and respond. Starting out, just pick a day of a week to do reviews and add it to your weekly schedule. Yes, you are already busy, but these are customers who are talking directly to the rest of the world. About your restaurant! In other words, a customer is telling another potential customer about your restaurant and you get to add your two cents to that conversation. Shouldn’t you make the time for that?
  3. Be authentic
    Be yourself and human. Respond as if you are the manager/owner working the floor and a customer flagged you to tell you about your restaurant.
  4. Use the feedback
    Reviews are a free way to get feedback on your restaurant. They are like comment cards, but instead they are public. Use the feedback from them in the same way.

Advanced Tips

  1. Rankings
    Don’t chase your ranking/stars. Some days you will be up and some days you will be down. Obsessing about why you went up a notch or went down will drive you nuts.
  2. Top rating and reservations
    If do you become a top twenty-five rated restaurant in a market, don’t take reservations six months out. This one didn’t originally make sense to me, but according to Marco if you become highly ranked, people will reserve a spot at your restaurant for a few months out when they “plan” to visit. Often their travel plans fall through or your rankings dip, so they don’t show.
  3. Respond to negative reviews
    Respond to every review, especially negative ones. If a potential consumer sees a negative review that isn’t responded to, it is implied that it’s true.
  4. It depends
    How do you respond to negative reviews? Imagine you are on the floor and a customer tells you the food, service, decor, or something else is horrible. How do you respond? It depends. You have to use your judgment. In the same way that some customers try to get free meals by putting hair in their food, there is the SOB around the corner that wants to bash your restaurant. Fortunately, most consumers aren’t stupid and will read between the lines of what a reviewer is saying. If the reviewer has an agenda it often shows through. Moreover, potential consumers will take into consideration the sum of all the positive and negative reviews, so don’t take any one review personally.

This list should be enough to get you started with managing your review site listings. If you have other great suggestions please share them in the comments.


Photo credits: TripAdvisor Logo & TripAdvisor name © 2012 TripAdvisor LLC. Screenshot of TripAdvisor website used under Fair Use commentary and education.

Birthday Cake

A few days back was my 40th birthday. Besides the usual birthday party swag and Facebook friend wishes, my bank and few other businesses emailed me birthday cards. But I didn’t get any restaurant birthday coupons. Restaurants missed an opportunity to re-engage me and bring my friends in as new customers.

When I lived in Bozeman Montana, I used to get a birthday coupon every year from The Garage Soup Shack & Mesquite Grill ( It offered a free meal valid for my birth month. It’s a great deal for both me and the restaurant. I get a free meal and “remember” The Garage. The restaurant is introduced to new diners by the birthday boy.

Why don’t more restaurants do this? Is it because restauranteurs don’t know how to get started? Let’s fix that.

Four steps to birthday marketing:

  1. Get the birthday either from a comment card/birthday card signup at each table. Sign ups from an email newsletter work too, but they often do not include a physical address which can be problematic for sending postcards.
  2. Print the postcards: If you have graphic design expertise or access to graphic designers, visit (not an affiliate link). 500 cards run about $127 ($.254 each) If you don’t have access to a graphic designer use the stock “food and beverage” designs from (not an affiliate link). 100 cards run about $25 ($.250 each)
  3. Address, sign, & attach postage to the cards: Have this done as sidework by the staff. Signing by real people is more genuine and authentic than a printed signature and makes the guest feel like it’s a personal invitation. Postage runs about $160 for 500 (.$32 each).
  4. Mail the cards a week before the birthday.

So for less than 60 cents and the cost & labor of the free meal, you bring in birthday celebrants and their guests year round.


Photo credits: Birthday Cake by Will Clayton Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License