Website woes, dining habits and future gazing

by Eshé Brown

This week I share my website woes, future predictions, as well as new research on Brighton dining habits…

A few weeks back OpenTable – an online restaurant booking tool – invited me to an exclusive industry dinner at The Salt Room’s beautiful private dining space.

The Salt Room private dining room

The Salt Room private dining room

– Photo credit: www.saltroom-restaurant.co.uk –

The purpose of the event was to share new data on Brighton specific dining habits, as well as discussing our thoughts and experiences working in the industry.

Being someone who loves to give my opinion – even when it’s not asked for – I had a lot to say that night. In fact, I think I probably chewed the poor guy at OpenTable’s ears off with all my ideas!

Brighton dining habits

According to OpenTable’s release, their customer data shows:

  • The most popular way to dine in Brighton is dinner for two people at 7pm – Tip: Offer a pre-theatre menu to encourage customers to come in before the 7pm rush
  • Reservations from desktops are made on average 14 days before a visit, whilst on mobile it’s 13
  • 53% of online reservations are made by diners visiting from outside Brighton with bookings coming from London, West Sussex, Kent, Surrey and East Sussex
  • International diners are come from across the pond from New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando/Florida. Tip: If you own a restaurant, consider international PR opportunities, not just local ones
  • 53% of all OpenTable reservations in Brighton originate on a desktop rather than via mobile. Tip: Ensure you have a mobile-friendly website and design for mobile first (more specifics on this below)
  • Bookings for breakfast, brunch and afternoon tea across the UK have grown in popularity in the last two years – but in Brighton specifically, dinner is the most popular meal people reserve a table for.

Restaurant website woes

One of these findings “53% of all OpenTable reservations in the city originate on a desktop rather than via mobile” seemed strange to me because I know that most folk who come to my blog do so via a mobile device. I also know that Google searches on mobiles surpassed ones made on desktops way back in 2015.

With more people using mobile devices (including tablets) to go online, research and buy products and services, mobile should be the primary screen a website is designed for.

But in my experience, this is not the case. They are beautifully designed for desktop and then re-worked to be mobile-friendly. This means booking a restaurant or finding out details about it on mobile isn’t as easy as it can be, because the way we use a website on a mobile is very different. The screen is a lot smaller for starters!

Think about it. How many times have you gone to look at a menu on a website to only to discover it’s an A4 landscape PDF that’s a real struggle to read on your 9:16 vertical phone screen?

But what’s the alternative? Well, the best option is a responsive website with a layout that adapts depending on the device its viewed on. It’s far better for SEO (which helps your visibility in Google) and it’s better for your users’ experience.

Now, depending on how your website was built in the first place it may be easier for you to update your menu with a PDF. But if you’re just starting out, I would seriously consider getting a responsive website that you can easily update when you need to. It’ll pay off in the long run.

Good design is not just about making something look pretty, it’s about ensuring good communication and ease of use. If you must have a PDF menu, brief your designer to create a vertical design with a font size that can be read on a mobile phone screen, don’t just upload the same design you have printed in your restaurant.

Taking all of the above into account and going back to the OpenTable data, although someone may start their journey looking for a restaurant on a mobile phone, I think when they try to book via this method it’s often very painful (or worse fails). The result is the user is forced to call up or book on a desktop computer. This is entirely unnecessary and takes up valuable time for both sides.

But what do you think? Have I got that totally wrong? Have you found booking a restaurant or reading a PDF menu on a mobile easy? Tell me in the comments at the end of this post.The Salt Room - Tables

Future gazing

And what does the future hold? Well, as someone who usually discovers new restaurants via social media, I think someone really ought to design a plugin for Instagram/Facebook that allows you to book without leaving the page – I’ll give that one to you for free OpenTable.

Finally, on the day of this event, Instagram announced that the function to shop from within the app was rolling out in BETA in the US, so my guess is booking experiences via both these platforms will be the next step.

Private dining at The Salt Room

Up to 16 guests can fit in The Salt Room’s private dining space, which is cornered off from the main dining area by thick floor-length curtains. If you’re a party of 8 or more can book the space (for lunch or dinner), at no extra cost if you pre-order the £45pp, 3-course group dining menu.

There are two additional 3-course menus priced at a lower £35pp (here) or higher £55pp (here) and with slightly different dishes as options.

It’s a great space for a big party, very reasonably priced and crucially, there are no really long waits for everyone to get their food at the same time. Pre-booking is the way to go!

*Disclosure: OpenTable hosted the industry dinner and therefore the meal was provided on a complimentary basis. All words and thoughts on the experience are, however, my own and entirely honest.


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6 comments

Doug McLean April 24, 2019 - 10:37 AM

Interesting thoughts on website usage. Mobile (including tablet) accounts for about 80% of the website traffic, and online orders we see at thesussexyeoman.com

Reply
Eshé Brown April 24, 2019 - 12:04 PM

That’s exactly what I suspected! I wonder how many other food retailers have similar splits like this. Hopefully these observations will help other inde businesses market themselves better 🙂

Reply
LW April 24, 2019 - 11:14 AM

Better still, it would be great if the menu was just displayed on the website, instead of being a PDF which you have to download!

Reply
Eshé Brown April 24, 2019 - 12:02 PM

Hi Lucy, that’s exactly my point. Put the menu on the web page and make the page responsive! 🙂

Reply
Philip Plummer April 25, 2019 - 11:32 AM

I am really old fashioned and like to speak to someone when booking and ensure and queries are cleared.Good to establish who you are dealing with…..

Reply
Eshé Brown April 25, 2019 - 2:20 PM

I’m old fashioned too like that 🙂
But a lot of people prefer to be able to do things online so if you have a website and half or more of your visitors come from a mobile, it’s important for it to work in that format.

Reply

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