There was a time when opening a restaurant meant finding a good location, working with a good chef, picking out the decor, printing some menus, and then opening your doors to the public.

Today, that’s just the beginning of the struggle for attention and business that determines whether a restaurant thrives or fails. Picky diners use their phones and computers to analyze every single photo, rating, and review before deciding where they’ll eat, and it’s up to owners to make sure their restaurant stands out from the crowd online.

But the vast majority of restaurant owners still don’t prioritize or don’t know how to build their online presence. That’s a fatal mistake: the most crucial step in a diner’s decision process is convincing them to choose your restaurant over others based on what they find out about you online.

Of course, you probably don’t have money to throw at web developers or social media influencers. Luckily, you don’t have to, because there are plenty of free or low-cost steps you can take to clean up and enhance your restaurant’s online presence.

Here, we’ve gathered the top 4 steps in terms of effectiveness.

Google My Business

Why you should care?

Google is the top way customers find your business online, so you need to be sure when they do they see what you want them to see.

How much does it cost?

Google offers a suite of free tools for business owners to manage their search listings, called Google My Business, that lets you control what customers see when they search for you.

How do you use it?

Google My Business lets you update your website, phone number, menu details, text messaging options, and more. The changes show up within a matter of minutes on Google Search and Google Maps for all the world to see.


Why should you care?

Ah, Yelp. Along with Google, this is one of the most popular ways customers discover you online. While you can’t control the reviews customers leave, you can respond to them as well as just keeping general information like hours & menus up to date.

How much does it cost?

Yelp does offer free account management tools to update information about your business. (They also offer paid advertising options, but we can’t offer any opinion on whether or not that’s worthwhile.)

How do you use it?

As with Google My Business, you can update your website, phone number, menu details, and so on. Just be aware that Yelp has a tendency to “correct” entries to their advantage, e.g. instead of listing your website they may list an Eat24 menu for your restaurant so that they can take a cut of the orders.


Why should you care?

Food photography is a cultural phenomenon and Instagram is where it lives. If you’re going to choose just one social media outlet, it’s got to be Instagram. It’s the best way to draw a young and trendy clientele and to generate buzz and word-of-mouth.

How much does it cost?

Instagram itself is free, the main cost you could potentially incur is photography. But most places don’t need professional photos, especially if you’re building a brand around authenticity.

How do you use it?

You don’t really need anything more than a decent cameraphone. Every week or two, have your chefs prepare a few dishes with extra attention to appearance, snap a photo, and post. Spacing out the posts over time can help make your account look even more active. Just don’t use too many filters or hashtags, or else you might look like you’re trying too hard.


Why should you care?

More people visit your website than you think, and they will judge your restaurant based on its appearance and attention to detail. This is your opportunity to really showcase your restaurant, so spend the time to make it inviting and and also make it easy for customers to purchase from you while you have their attention.

How much does it cost?

Some hosting providers like Weebly offer free hosting options, while many others offer extremely reasonably priced options for under $20 / month, like SquareSpace, Wix, and GoDaddy. These all provide easy drag-and-drop tools for the average user. If you’re more adventurous or tech-savvy, you can “roll your own” using free software like Wordpress. You’ll also want to purchase a good domain name for your restaurant that’s easy to remember, which will cost roughly $10-$30 a year.

How do you use it?

Design your website to showcase your brand, making sure that colors and typeface you use match the ones you use in-store. This is your best opportunity to tell the story of your restaurant and why it’s different than others.

Your website is also a great opportunity to convert visitors into paying customers by offering ordering options. The Texthood can help you with online and text ordering, making your diners’ experience more convenient and freeing your staff from taking phone orders.


To be honest, each of these topics deserves a full post unto itself. We’ll be doing that in the weeks to come, but we wanted to give the highlights now so you can get started right away.

Have questions or think that we missed something that you think is crucial to a restaurant’s online presence? Let us know using the contact information below and we’ll try to address it in future posts!