Here’s What Diners Do Online Before They Eat Out. Are You Prepared?

Clearly the Internet has transformed the way people discover anything and everything, including where to eat out. Our recent survey of over 6,000 US diners confirms just how dependent we are on the web for restaurant research and selection.

We asked our survey respondents how often if at all they do various things online prior to eating out. Here are their most common actions.

Here’s What Diners Do Online Before They Eat Out. Are you Prepared?

In full disclosure, our survey takers had all used OpenTable at least once in the last 12 months, so perhaps it’s not surprising that ‘make a reservation’ topped the charts, with 88 percent saying they ‘always’ or ‘frequently’ use technology to book prior to dining out. Also, seven out of eight diners routinely turn to technology to discover dining destinations.

Here are three more notable findings and their implications for restaurants everywhere:

1. Your menu matters

A whopping 86 percent regularly check out menus online before they dine out. How often do you update your online menu, where do you update it, and how well does it reflect what your guests might expect when they arrive? Either commit to keeping your menu fresh, or post a sample version that’s timeless.

2. Everyone’s a critic

People are 25 percent more likely to consult reviews from other diners (as 60 percent typically do) than professional critics (48 percent). While this doesn’t herald the death of the restaurant critic, it does mean you should be more aware of diner reviews than ever. Listen to all of them. Respond to the good as well as the bad. Look for patterns in the feedback and adjust your operations accordingly.

3. Pictures paint a thousand words – and drive a lot of visits

Almost 60 percent of respondents always or frequently check out images of their destination before they go. If you can, splurge on a photographer to do a quick shoot. Use natural lighting if possible. Get an assortment of shots of the food, the interior, and the exterior. And once they’re ready, share your photos everywhere you can across your site, OpenTable profile, social media and more.

For more on what consumers really want from technology before, during and after the dining experience, download our free “Technology and Dining Out 2015” report today.

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