Jett Hayes

Realism and Authority

The Importance of a Polished Digital Presence

Jett Hayes

I Like Food.

When I judge a city I live in, visit, or even just pass through, the dining experience I had in it is always a major point. I’ve found myself lucky enough to have a partner who shares my passion, and we have been mistaken several times for food critics because of the amount we order (if you aren’t ordering multiple entrees yet, you’re doing it wrong).


Getting customers in the door is a major concern of most businesses – it’s far easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new one. For restaurants, this is especially important – new and regular customers on a steady basis is the only real metric of a restaurants success. While return business is primarily in response to the in-house customer experience, new customers judge far more than the food.


While researching this topic, I found a trove of relevant info. If you’re in the business, I recommend checking it out.

This section felt the most relevant today: They conducted a study on diners (younger than 65), and found that prior to eating:

Why does it matter, though?

When we’re travelling, we usually end up using a combo of Yelp, Google, and the businesses’ website to determine our next meal. We actively seek out unique, fun, and/or healthy options – search engines are usually fairly helpful in finding these. 

What stops us from eating at places?

  • Poor Quality
  • Limited Info
  • Poor Ratings

Let’s talk about the amount of control a business has over these three perceptions, and how they affect foot traffic. For continuity I’ll stick with to the restaurant theme, but these insights are relevant to most industries. 



This one is huge. I want to eat somewhere cool, or good. What’s its angle? Super fresh? Fancy Schmancy? Great view? Mom-and-Pop? The personality, the shtick, is everything. How do I judge this? Images and Videos, primarily. Usually on the website first, then on reviews if there aren’t many. This is how we weed out the lowest hanging fruit.

The takeaway: Images will be posted of your business by customers (most quickly by displeased ones). By failing to proactively manage your businesses online presence, you attract fewer customers.

Limited Info

Most people like to know what they’re eating, the prices, the seating situation, the hours, etc. I’ve often passed over places due to being unable to find a menu (either a current one, or one at all), not being sure how late their kitchen is open, or being unsure of the hours, and not wanting to bother risking it being closed. Often, I’m craving a specific item, be it fried pickles, dessert, or something else; Websites with their menus accessible catch my eye first, especially if I’m after something specific.

Key takeaway: Your website is the first, and sometimes only stop for customers. Make sure it is usable, up to date, and has as much relevant info for customers.




This one is unavoidable, especially in food service. An excellent rating can save a business with no website, but even a perfect site will have trouble helping a 1 star restaurant. But that’s only on the extremes! Think of your competitors. If I’m after a specific type of food, theres two restaurants in the area with similar ratings and menu selections, I’m far more likely to pick the one with a usable, intuitive website that shows off their food, has an accessible menu, and tells a story.

The takeaway? While it can’t fully overpower awful reviews, a great online presence greatly influences a customers decision.  

Some Examples

This is liberty bar, in San Antonio, TX. Super cute, high quality food, good environment in a historic building – I recommend it. 

It’s visually assaulting. The colors are bold, to say the least, with poor visual hierarchy, confusing layout, and incomprehensible graphics. It’s also poorly optimized for mobile users. Had I not gotten multiple recommendations, I wouldn’t have eaten here. 

Image sourced from Liberty Bar's Site
Image Sourced from OpenTable

 Box Street All day is the opposite: While the food is a fairly generic, it’s been a hit in San Antonio. 


The marketing. Check out this site, their social media, their building. It’s been designed to sell, to photograph, to entice. 

Can you imagine spending $13 on a single pancake? Here, people do it without question, crowds line up in the streets to do so.

Does you website sell?

It’s easy to let your digital presence fall by the wayside – but it’s an integral piece of operating a successful business.