How important is your restaurant's website? If you ask Mike Friedman, interactive marketing manager at Darden's Red Lobster brand, it is very important. While restaurant websites are an underutilized resource for many restaurant companies, leaders such as Darden are achieving significant success through intelligent and consistent online strategies. Selling the brand and providing nutritional data is only the beginning for Red Lobster's website. The 650-unit chain has also attained significant success with online sales of gift cards and seafood. Red Lobster is already taking its website to the next level with careful analytics, measuring not just who has visited the site, but what paths guests are taking to purchases, and where site visitors are lost before making a final purchase. Friedman confides that Red Lobster will experiment with various webpage designs to determine which is optimal.
For Red Lobster, the site has also developed into an essential component of its Overboard Club loyalty program. "We never proscribed to the theory that the best place to capture data is in the restaurant," explains Friedman. "We believe that brand advocates and brand fanatics will visit your website and if the content is deep enough, robust enough and updated frequently, they will join the club."