Most consumers use the internet to find local services and connect with brands in this digital era. According to Social Media Today, nearly half of all Google searches are for local information. In addition, the same source reports one-third of consumers search for local businesses online at least once a week. Whether big or small, every company needs a strong online presence to generate leads and stay competitive. Nowadays, you can no longer rely on banners, flyers, or newspaper ads to drive business. Traditional advertising channels still work to some extent, but there are better, more effective ways to reach your target audience. One option is to set up a custom website for your restaurant or pub. This website would allow you to build and grow your digital presence, leading to more consumers and sales. Plus, you can optimize your site for the search engines and add actionable features, such as a digital menu and “Book Now” buttons. Alternatively, you may use an all-in-all solution for restaurant businesses. These platforms or software programs typically include a website builder and additional features designed to streamline accounting, customer service, online reservations, etc. Not sure what to choose? Let’s look at the pros and cons of having a custom restaurant website and how this option compares to restaurant management software. Why Should Your Restaurant Have a Website? Setting up a website is one of the most basic things to promote your business online. Yet, nearly one-third of small businesses in the U.S. don’t have a site. A custom website can act as an extension of your brand, making it easier for customers to find your restaurant online. In addition, it serves as a platform where you can provide basic information about your venue, such as its location, opening hours, and promotional offers. Another advantage of having a restaurant website is adding customer reviews and testimonials. A staggering 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Therefore, posting reviews on your site can help increase brand awareness and drive sales. Social Media Today says 72% of consumers who search for local products or services online visit a store within five miles. If your website is optimized for the search engines, it will show up on the first page of Google, which can translate into more customers and greater visibility for your business. But that’s not all. A custom restaurant website can also help with the following: Share recipes, cooking tips, and industry-related news to engage your audience Create a professional image for your restaurant business Build a loyal clientele Boost your search engine rankings Cross-sell products and services, such as catering and meal deliveries Post photos, videos, and other visuals Spread the word about upcoming events, deals, and promotions Build an email list to keep in touch with your customers For example, you can add an email signup form on your website to connect directly with customers. Later, you may reward their loyalty with exclusive deals, access to private events, vouchers, and other perks. Potential Drawbacks of Custom Websites Building and running a website comes with its share of challenges. First, you need to consider the costs involved in domain registration, hosting, website design, and maintenance. Expect to pay anywhere between $2,000 and $9,000 for a small business website with eight to 16 pages, depending on its complexity. A cheaper option is to build the website yourself, but it requires some technical knowledge. Alternatively, you can ask a friend or employee to help you out. Start with a basic site and add new features along the way. Also, note that custom websites require ongoing maintenance. You need to publish content regularly, check for 404 errors and broken links, remove spam comments, run backups, etc. Plus, it’s important to constantly optimize your code and take the steps needed to mitigate security risks. You may also want to use Google Analytics or other web analytics services to see where your traffic is coming from, why visitors leave your website, and how long they spend on your site. This data can prove invaluable, but you’ll need some technical know-how to access and analyze it. Another challenge of building a custom website lies in finding the right developer to do the job. If you go that route, make sure you have a tool in place to measure the productivity of your developers to see whether or not they’re staying on task. The last thing you want is to pay extra for wasted time. Last but not least, it’s important to make sure your site works well across multiple devices. About 82% of consumers use mobile devices to find local businesses and 84% search for restaurants or other food services from their smartphones and tablets. So if your website isn’t responsive, you may lose customers. Should You Opt for an All-In-One Solution? A custom website is designed solely for you, and therefore, it has all the features you need to manage your restaurant business online. Plus, it leaves room for growth. Unfortunately, this functionality comes at a price. The more complex you want your website to be, the higher the cost. For example, a custom restaurant website that allows customers to make reservations online, order food, and leave reviews can run into thousands of dollars. Plus, you may have to pay ongoing fees for upgrades, maintenance, security patches, etc. Moreover, setting up a custom website can take weeks or months. There are instances where you simply cannot afford to wait that long to get things moving. One way to address these challenges is to opt for an all-in-one solution like Popmenu. Such platforms have built-in features that make it easier to build a website, upload your menu, take orders online, and process payments. These all-in-one marketing tools eliminate the need for website plug-ins and add-ons, such as analytics software. After registration, you’ll gain access to a centralized platform with built-in analytics, website templates, and other services, including: Direct online ordering Table booking systems Website hosting and maintenance Website builders Digital marketing tools, such as social media buttons SMS marketing tools Built-in email signup forms QR code menus Automated offers Loyalty programs Customer feedback systems Up-selling and cross-selling tools Marketing automation Some platforms also enable users to create branded mobile apps with just a few clicks. On top of that, they can integrate seamlessly with your POS system, allowing you to accept and process payments online. A major advantage is paying a flat fee and avoiding hidden costs. For example, Popmenu offers three membership plans starting at $99 per month. Plus, most platforms offer a free trial, so you can test them before committing to a monthly or annual membership. Users may set up waiting lists, create unlimited web pages, or even add chatbots to their websites, depending on the platform. There’s also the option to display different menus (e.g., vegan and gluten-free menus) to different customers or allow your guests to split the bill when paying online. Are There Any Drawbacks? Like most technologies, restaurant management systems have their limitations. An all-in-one solution puts everything at your fingertips, but it may also pose certain challenges, such as: Downtime and technical glitches Data security and compliance issues Out-of-sync data Limited flexibility Increasingly higher fees All-in-one platforms can be scaled up or down as your business needs change. The problem is they offer limited flexibility. When you have a custom website, you can always add new features and make changes on the go. On the other hand, an all-in-one platform has standard features and leaves little room for customization. Some providers may also charge extra for additional features, such as the ability to sell digital gift cards or set up a reward system. Others may charge a percentage of each transaction or increase their fees out of the blue. As far as security is concerned, custom websites and restaurant management systems are subject to data breaches and cyber-attacks. However, the latter option is often more secure than a small business website, depending on the service provider. With a custom website, you’re responsible for the security of customer data. Under certain circumstances, companies may be held liable for data loss due to a third-party vendor breach, but that’s not as common. Should You Build a Custom Restaurant Website or Choose an All-In-One Solution? A custom restaurant website gives you more flexibility and more options than an all-in-all platform, but these perks come at a price. Unless you are a web developer, you must rely on others to set up, manage, and update your site as needed. All-in-one solutions, by comparison, are more accessible and cost-effective. Plus, many service providers use the latest technology to secure your data and streamline the customer experience. The downside is you’ll have less flexibility in web design and customization. Either option can be a great choice for restaurant businesses, regardless of their size or target audience. Choose an all-in-one solution for a hassle-free experience or set up a custom restaurant website for increased flexibility. Consider your budget, technical know-how, long-term goals, and the services you want to offer and how they fit into your marketing strategy.