KEY POINTS:
* Generic templates and free sites offered by third party operators make it harder to stand out from the crowd
* Your website promotes not only your food but your commitment to quality and service
* You should strive to avoid the common problems of foodservice websites
* Always ask: is this information of interest to my target audience?

Your website is an essential marketing tool that can entice customers to give your pizza, pasta and other menu offerings a go. But in today’s increasingly cluttered cyberspace — with so many similar-looking websites from all manner of foodservice businesses — it’s getting harder to stand out from the crowd.
Part of the problem is that many foodservice establishments take the easy option of going for a generic website design, either taking advantage of the common templates available from sites like wordpress.com, or saving money by choosing the free website option available when you sign up with third-party online ordering operations like menulog.com.
But even if you go for a ‘basic’ (ie free template-based) site, there are a number of ways you can ensure your website stands out from the competition and achieves cut-through with consumers.
Remember that the quality of your website will be seen by existing and potential customers as a reflection not only of your food offering but your professionalism and commitment to quality and service.
Here are some common problems with foodservice websites which you should strive to avoid:
* Hard to find information. Your customers want more than just a menu to download. Foodservice websites often don’t include important info like whether they’re open on public holidays or which credit cards they’ll accept — or if they do, you have to hunt for it.
* Poor quality or ‘generic’ food shots. Bad food photography is the kiss of death for your business. On the other hand, using library food shots (as is often done in those free websites from online ordering companies) makes your food look just the same as numerous other pizza/pasta meals — with no point of differentiation.
* Poor written expression. While the food should always be the centrepiece of your website, remember that the key purpose of your website is to communicate with your customers — and the key to good communication is clarity. This is especially so when describing menu items or specifying special dietary items.
* Out of date information and links. Too many businesses put their website up and then forget to update it. Links to Facebook pages, twitter feeds, instagram accounts etc that are no longer valid or haven’t been updated in ages can give the impression that you’re no longer in business. Links that don’t work are just frustrating. So check your site regularly to make sure everything’s in order.
Remember your most important consideration in adding content to the website should always be: is this of interest to my target audience?
Information which could be included under this category:
* Announcing additions to the menu or your latest specials.
* Listing local business or Restaurant & Catering awards that your business has won - emphasising your commitment to quality and service.
* Mention of your participation in community events and fundraising activities — setting out your business credentials as a solid corporate citizen.
The same problems crop up again and again with many websites
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