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One of the big challenges for hospitality businesses in the 21st century is establishing an online presence, while keeping costs down. Where once, managing a hospitality business was all about managing your bricks-and-mortar premises, today your skills have to naturally evolve to be able to effectively manage an online presence too.

Much of your advertising, marketing and customer service occurs online today – it’s where your customers check your opening hours and menu, order online, book a table, and now quite often order and pay at table.

But with more and more apps serving these functions more efficiently, business-owned websites could become increasingly obsolete.

Running a useful website can be tricky

When digital marketing started, websites were a necessity – not to mention they were worth the trouble. They often served as the only viable means for customers to find out about you online. Now, however, the high level of website over-saturation can make creating a visible website significantly more difficult.

You need to invest time and money into ensuring your website is even picked up by search engines. Your website needs to stand out with a quality design, useful and up-to-date content, and efficient navigation.

And more often than not, you’ll need to establish social media pages that channel your customers to your website. Which begs the question – given the cost and effort, do you really need the website in the first place?

Platforms for new customers

Unless your website performs exceptionally well on search engines, it can be tough to gain visibility and new customers through your website alone. Oftentimes, people have to know what your restaurant, café or bar is called to be able to search for the corresponding website online.

That’s where platforms like Yelp may be more useful. They can recommend users to your restaurant or bar, provide them information about your venue, and direct them to your website (if necessary!) … All with minimal effort on your part.

Other apps, such as Menulog or OpenTable can replace many of the additional functions of your website by providing such services as online ordering or online booking.

Thanks to a rise in these services, many hospitality businesses opt to forgo a website in favour of these platforms instead.

Updating customers

Websites are not the best means to provide updated information about your venue – it implies your customers are regularly checking online for new information, but people don’t usually visit websites on a daily basis.

Social media is a far more useful tool to promote the latest events at and information about your premises. Your targeted customers are already checking into Facebook, Instagram and Twitter regularly. So they’re much more likely to catch the latest news from your business when they log in.

It is suprising how many new venues only partially set up their social media accounts. The key is to fill them with as much information as possible; address, opening hours, cuisine and a bio on what you stand for. In lieu of a traditional website, you need to ensure your socials are filled with up to date content, events, and specials to really give potential patrons an idea of what to expect.

There are numerous instances where business owners rely solely on social networks to drive their traffic and engagement rather than having a website – and find it a much more successful approach.

Building a relationship

Since social networks have made it easier to communicate with your customers, using multiple platforms, like Facebook, X, Instagram or any review site, can be a more efficient means of communication than a website.

So instead of investing their efforts and resources into maintaining a whole website, many hospitality businesses are finding themselves better off managing multiple media platforms that enable them to engage daily with their patrons.

Websites still have their place

Despite these drawbacks, websites still have their purpose, since they are capable of solidifying your online presence.

The whole point is not to invest too much funds into design and optimisation. You should aim for a decent website with easy navigation to provide the basic online services for your venue.

But these days, it may be pointless to rely solely on a website. Social media and online platforms will become an increasingly relevant way for users to discover you.

Find out more about marketing for your hospitality business on the Impos blog today.