Restaurants and food outlets are among the businesses that stand to benefit most from the boom in mobile search, as dining out is often an impulse decision made while on-the-go.

In a recent survey of nearly 1,500 smartphone users by SinglePlatform, 81% of consumers reported that they searched for a restaurant in the past six months using a mobile app, while 92% did so through the mobile web.

Furthermore, three-quarters of the consumers who searched for a restaurant with a mobile phone chose a restaurant based on search results.

Off the back of these findings, here are seven ways in which restaurants can take advantage of mobile…

Optimise for local search

Local search is really the golden opportunity for restaurants due to the reasons already described. But further to that, a recent study found that 43% of all Google searches have local intent.

This means using Google+ Local to create a listing (via a Google+ page) which will appear next to relevant, especially local, search results.

                      

Econsultancy editor-in-chief Graham Charlton discussed the benefits of Google+ Local in a previous blog post, but essentially it’s better for SEO, makes the listing more prominent and allows businesses to include additional information, images and reviews.

Get a mobile site

In order for restaurants to cater for mobile users they really need to have a mobile optimised site, yet it’s surprising to see how many still rely on desktop sites.

What’s worse is that these businesses are often throwing money away on mobile search, then linking people to an unusable site.

Even a simple mobile optimised landing page with the business address and a click-to-call button is better than nothing.

Click-to-call

Once a potential customer has managed to find a restaurant site then it’s likely they’ll want to make a booking, as Google’s Mobile Movement Study shows that 61% of mobile users call after a local business search.

As they already have a phone in their hand then a big, colourful ‘click-to-call’ button is an excellent addition to any mobile landing page.

I’ve previously looked at good and bad examples of click-to-call CTAs – such as Hix (good) and Burger & Lobster (bad)…

                      

Ability to book a table

Not everyone wants to call the restaurant to make a booking, so it’s useful to give the option of making a reservation using their mobile.

One way of doing this is by integrating the mobile site with Toptable, which has a decent mobile booking system. It allows customers to choose the date, time and number of diners, and also has a user-friendly interface.

                      

The sign in form lets the process down slightly, but it’s still a good way of allowing people to make a booking using mobile.

Mobile friendly menu

Before people visit a restaurant it’s very likely they’ll want to know what kind of food is on offer. Therefore restaurants need to make it easy to access their menu.

This doesn’t mean that users should be forced to download a PDF of the menu, as this is both annoying and difficult to read.

Instead just allow people to read the options on a mobile site. This isn’t too difficult, yet it’s surprisingly hard to find restaurants that make a decent fist of it.

These are two of the better examples I found from Hix and Randa.

                    

Consider getting a mobile app

Admittedly Domino’s is a takeaway rather than a restaurant, but I still think it’s worth flagging up its awesome array of mobile apps.

In the UK the company currently achieves roughly 15% of total sales through mobile, and we’ve previously favourably compared how it deals with mobile next to rival chain Pizza Hut.

The apps make it incredibly easy to order a pizza, which in turn encourages repeat custom. Pizza Express also has a decent mobile app, which brings me to my next point…

Allow people to pay using an app

Personally I’m not totally convinced by this idea as it doesn’t seem any more convenient than simply paying using your bank card, but it is still a way that restaurants can use mobile so it made the list.

One of the functions of Pizza Express’ mobile app is that it allows users to pay for their meal in the restaurant using PayPal or a bank card.

                      

Each bill has a 12-digit code on the bottom that customers can enter into the app then make a payment through their phone.

It’s a great way for Pizza Express to capture customer data, though I fail to see what the customer stands to gain at the moment other than the potential for targeted offers.