Home » Digital Discovery: How Restaurants Can Attract Customers Through Virtual Visits

Digital Discovery: How Restaurants Can Attract Customers Through Virtual Visits

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The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way customers discover new restaurants, with digital discovery playing a crucial role in driving traffic and attracting guests, as reported by FSR. BentoBox recently surveyed 2,000 Americans to understand the evolving landscape of restaurant discovery, revealing that virtual visits have become an integral part of the journey.

Online research has emerged as a powerful tool, nearly matching the influence of personal recommendations from friends and family. The study found that customers now frequently visit a restaurant’s website and engage in online research before deciding to dine out. In fact, 86% of respondents stated that they use online research to discover new restaurants.

When it comes to specific online channels, reservation platforms were the least popular, with only 46% of diners stating that they never use them. On the other hand, food delivery platforms and review sites were more commonly used, with 22% and 13% of diners respectively.

The study also revealed the most popular review sites for online restaurant discovery, with Google Maps taking the lead at 40%, followed by Yelp (27%), Facebook Reviews (19%), and TripAdvisor (12%).

When it comes to attracting customers through websites, the survey found that 75% of respondents would be more likely to choose a restaurant with a high-quality website. Search engines, online map searches, review platforms, and social media pages were identified as the primary channels for finding restaurant websites.

To target different customer demographics, it’s essential to understand their preferred social media platforms for restaurant discovery. Gen Z customers favor TikTok (43%), while Millennials gravitate towards Instagram (52%), and Gen X and Baby Boomers lean towards Facebook (63% and 54% respectively).

In terms of marketing strategies, restaurants should prioritize their website quality, as frequent customers strongly agreed that they always look at a fine-dining restaurant’s website before deciding to visit. Additionally, providing a budget-friendly menu appeals to Gen Z and Gen X customers, while high spenders prioritize well-rated restaurants.

For restaurants, this change in customer behavior presents both opportunities and challenges. By focusing on the quality of their website and providing an appealing online presence, independent restaurants can attract customers who value a superior digital experience. Additionally, highlighting the quality and value of their offerings through social media platforms can engage and captivate younger demographics.

The restaurant industry has witnessed a significant transformation in customer discovery, with virtual visits and online research becoming the norm. Independent retailers should embrace this trend by investing in high-quality websites and leveraging social media platforms to reach their target audience. By adapting to these digital shifts, restaurants can inspire traffic and effectively engage with guests in a competitive market.


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift toward digital discovery in the restaurant industry. Customers now frequently visit restaurant websites and engage in online research before dining out. Online channels such as search engines, review platforms, and social media play a crucial role in attracting customers. Independent retailers should prioritize the quality of their websites and leverage social media platforms to engage with their target audience. By adapting to the digital landscape, restaurants can inspire traffic and effectively reach guests in a competitive market.

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