Online restaurant bookings have doubled, and mobile bookings have trebled in the UK in just one year.
That is one of the key findings of a new survey by online restaurant bookings service Livebookings.
Its European Dining Index showed that UK restaurants received more than £126m of new business through online channels. The organisation said it delivered 4,673,369 dined covers to UK restaurants in first 24 weeks of 2012, 50% of which were booked by new customers who had found the restaurant while browsing online.
But it warned that around a third of UK restaurants still didn't have a website, and estimated that the average restaurant that wasn't online was losing more than £31,000 in revenue each year.
Colin Tenwick, chief executive of Livebookings, said: "Restaurants not making use of online, mobile and social bookings is almost tantamount to adopting a no children policy; they shut themselves off to roughly the same amount of potential business. A significant proportion of customers looking for a restaurant start their search online or on mobile. Almost all other consumer-facing sectors, including retail and travel, have radically changed their marketing strategies to respond to that, and now it's time for all UK restaurants to do the same."
The Livebookings European Dining Index, based on interviews with 250 UK restaurants and supported by industry data, found that 92% considered technology to be important or essential to achieving their business goals.
But it also found that adoption of the online and mobile marketing tools available had remained low. It claimed only 7% of UK restaurants had used e-mail marketing, while only 1% used it regularly.
The biannual index of UK restaurants also found that staff costs, rent and rates, and food costs were the current three biggest expenditures facing hospitality businesses. Food, beverage and energy costs were also named as the three factors that have most increased restaurants' overheads in the past six months. Meanwhile, demand for discounts, recessionary pressures and increasing VAT were said to be the biggest causes for changes to menu prices over the same period.
Tenwick said: "From this data, we can see that the priorities of many restaurants haven't changed significantly since the 1950s! Staff, rent and the price of raw materials are still the major concerns, and restaurants simply don't have the time or leeway to stand back and consider longer-term trends or changes that could help their businesses to survive the double-dip recession."
By Neil Gerrard
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