Facebook is arguably the most important player on the web today for restaurants — those spending time on Facebook are enjoying kickass customer engagement.
It isn’t even enough that you have a Facebook page anymore. Savvy restaurateurs have begun expanding their presence to include branded welcome pages, embedded videos, menus, yelp reviews, blog feeds, reservations, photo galleries, promotions, discussions, contests, games and more.
Facebook pages can even be optimized for search, and are indexed by search engines.
Fact is, restaurant Facebook pages are beginning to look and operate a heck of a lot like full-functioning, interactive, branded websites. The difference is, they’re inside a website where your customers already hang out all day long. You don’t need to “drive traffic” with a Facebook page, your customers are already there — all you have to do is join the party.
All of that said, it begs the question: “Does my restaurant even need a website anymore?”
Yes, you still do, and here are six reasons — all beginning with control!
1. Control over the interface design
Your website can be designed with a very clear call to action: place an order, make a reservation, subscribe to our blog. It can be designed to quickly and easily point to the information that customer is looking for: phone number, directions, hours of operation, menu specials, and event schedules. Example: Is your primary business goal to increase to-go orders? Your website design can make to-go orders a priority by making it the most prominent, focal point of the design.
Your Facebook can’t be designed.Your Facebook page can be modified, but you can not design the interface to help you meet your unique business goals. On Facebook, you are at the mercy of their interface, and you will always have to work within those constraints. If the Facebook team decides to do another redesign, you will have to adapt to their rules. It’s their playing field, and you’re just a player, and will always be required to play by their rules.
2. Control over your name, and your brand
Well, you really don’t lose control over your name, but once you choose a name for your Facebook page, the name of that page can never be changed. Whereas on your own site, you can make changes.
For instance, let’s say the name of your restaurant is Eat at Joe’s, but you decide to add a partner and change the name of your restaurant to Eat at Joe & Jane’s. On your website, you can simply change the name. If you want to purchase an updated domain name, you simply put a re-direct on the old domain, and move your site; the navigation for your customer is seamless and your search results and ranking are unaffected.
On Facebook, to update the name of your restaurant, you would have to take down the old page, put up a new page, and ask your Facebook fans to re-like you. Importantly, you would be starting all over again in search results.
3. Control over search optimization
And speaking of search, while Facebook pages are indexed by Google and a lot can be done to optimize your page, you stand an even better chance of appearing top in search if you also have a search-optimized website where your chosen keywords are driving the traffic.
Why is this important? The more control you have over search results, the better you can manage your online reputation and convert hungry Googlers to customers.
4. Control your e-commerce revenue stream
If you have restaurant merchandise using e-commerce software on your site, then adding a Facebook store front probably makes sense with the same caveat regarding Facebook and control: if Facebook decides that something about your store or the e-commerce app that you are using is unacceptable to them, then your store could be restricted or “put out of business”.
Facebook is consistently inconsistent. For instance, unexpectedly shutting down their own virtual gift shop effective August 1, 2010. And, has a pattern of buying companies and then shutting them down at will.
If the fee arrangement between Facebook and the e-commerce sites changes, you could be caught in the crossfire.
We believe it just makes sense to keep your own website that you control open for business.
5. Control change
Facebook changes. There is nothing wrong with site re-designs or new definitions, except when the decisions are made by someone else and negatively affect your customer’s experience. Then, what Facebook calls a “site improvement” may be anything but as it pertains to your business.
On “your” restaurant’s Facebook page, Facebook is the ultimate decision maker on design, access, privacy and just about everything.
There are definite advantages to using Facebook as a channel, even a primary channel in some cases — just keep a direct connection between you and your customers open in case the Facebook channel changes frequency.
6. Control control
Recently, we were trying to make some changes to our own Serving Social Facebook page and couldn’t get the “edit” link to work. This is a critical step to making any custom changes or modifications on a Facebook business page.
After doing various web searches for Facebook site issues and not finding much, we started looking for a Facebook announcement. Buried deep within the Community Help Center in a category called, “Known Issues and Bugs,” we found information on site maintenance and this feature …
Not from Facebook. But from users.
Facebook had not made an official announcement regarding site maintenance nor did we know if the “user” information was even accurate. The edit function returned later in the evening, just as mysteriously as it had disappeared.
We didn’t know when we would have access to our page, and if you are running a business, time is money.
All websites face technical issues from time to time: servers go down, server upgrades cause software conflict, human error. But, having a web designer/developer to call upon or a reliable web host that provides responsive support means you have a lot more control over troubleshooting technical issues.
So, in the age of Facebook (and don’t get us wrong, we LOVE Facebook for restaurants!), does your restaurant even need a website? We say yes. What say you?