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Sunday, May 26, 2024

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How Searchers Find The Perfect Family Restaurant

Last month I took a look at consumer search behavior for restaurants. This was a high-level analysis, and I mentioned in closing that I would contrast those findings to a model that has consumers searching for a particular type of restaurant—in this case family restaurants. Since this is essentially part two of the analysis, you may want to review How Consumers Search For A Perfect Meal. To quickly summarize the previous analysis, the restaurant search behavior model looked like this:

Family Restaurant ONE

In comparison, the following model is the family restaurant hierarchy of categories displayed more or less in descending order by search volume with brand having the most traffic and games having the least.

Family Restaurant TWO

Family Group Vs. Restaurant Group

To simplify this analysis I will refer to last months’ analysis as the “restaurant group” and this month’s analysis will be referred to as the “family group,” or “family.”

When you compare the family and restaurant taxonomy you find they both have eleven distinct high-level categories of search behavior, with about 70% of the categories in common. When you contrast individual categories you find that the traffic can differ dramatically as in the case of brand. When you review the tables below you can see that searching by brand is very important to family searches, whereas this is less so in the restaurant group–by a ten to one margin (12.7M vs. 1.2M searches). The same is true for searches for a type of restaurant.

Family Restaurant THREE

Comparing the two taxonomies head-to-head, we find that consumers in the family category are much more focused in the questions that they ask. People are executing far fewer of those vague informational searches found in the restaurant category by a fifty to one margin (1.3M vs. 66.6M searches).

Search Priority

When you examine the top four or five categories in each group by volume, you see different priorities for each demographic. For the family group, we see that brand is the dominant category, while location is the most common category for the restaurant group. When you look at the top three categories for each you can see discreet primary themes for what is important for each of these groups. These themes provide focus (information architecture) for UI designers and web copy editors. For example, in order of importance:

In the family group the company’s brand name, the type of restaurant it is and its location are the primary concern of searchers.

In the restaurant group brand plays a minor role. Its location, the type of restaurant it is and quality are the primary concerns.

Clearly, these two groups have different priorities, and this should be reflected in your website design.

Quality vs. Value

When you compare the quality and value categories we see that both groups are certainly interested in a quality eating experience, but the ratio between quality and value are very different. For example:

  • For the family group there are 1.4M quality-based searches, and 58K value-based searches (roughly a nine to one ratio).
  • For the restaurant group you find there are 1.8M quality-based searches and 500K value-based searches (almost a four to one ratio).

The difference between the two groups is that value and quality are less important factors to the family searcher—their need for service and content are greater priorities, while this is less so for the more broadly-based restaurant group.

In the next table you can compare the search volume data for the common categories for both groups.

Family Restaurant FOUR

Group Differences

In the next table, when you compare the categories that are different (not in common), you find that the family traffic is much more focused and valuable. They are looking for services, they clearly indicate that they want to transact for specific information and they specify their content requirements (games). The restaurant categories are higher-level informational queries, with the exception of tools which are off-topic.

Family Restaurant FIVE


Several of the high-level categories have a number of sub-categories. In particular the type, content, quality, service and value categories have very specific search behavior themes that provide opportunities to experiment with custom landing pages. In the following tables you can review and compare all the sub-categories sorted in descending order by volume.

Family Restaurant SIX

Type sub-categories. Both groups show a lot of depth and variability in the type category. The family group is more complicated, with parents being interested in themes (e.g., birthday party restaurant) and time (e.g., breakfast). These sub-categories provide an excellent content outline for a custom-designed landing page.

Family Restaurant SEVEN

Content. When it comes to searching for content the family group comes out on top by a two to one margin in terms of search volume. Menus are very important to the family group, and they search for them by a nearly ten to one margin over the restaurant group. The content focus for the restaurant group is reviews.

Family Restaurant EIGHT

Quality and value. When you examine the search behavior by quality and value you see both groups using the same terminology, but in differing volumes. In this comparison, the family group clearly values the quality of the experience over saving a buck. I would have expected to see more value-based searches in the family group, but that was not the case.

Family Restaurant NINE

Family Categories In More Detail

Brand. Families search for restaurants by brand 12.7 million times a month, while the restaurant group searches for a brand name 1.2 million times. This suggests a conservative (I know what we want to eat) approach to finding restaurants for families. I think these searchers are not much interested in trying new restaurants when they have kids in tow.

Business. As a family restaurant business owner, these searches are of no value to you. The traffic is for products, services, franchises and for sale opportunities. The good news is that there are 492K searches here vs. 1 million in the restaurant group.

Content. The family group is mostly interested in menus (1.3 million searches) with requests for restaurant guides coming in second at 219K searches. The restaurant group’s top priority is reviews. The search for reviews is almost non-existent in the family group.

Games. There is not a lot of traffic here (30K searches a month), but parents are looking for those distractions to keep the kids busy while waiting for their food to come. The most common two word phrase in this group is “family games.

Information. The family group has orders of magnitude fewer searches compared to the vague informational type queries. They came in at 1.3 million searches a month while the restaurant group conducted a whopping 66 million. You do find some families looking for restaurants using terms that are ambiguous such as “new” or “list of.”

Location. Location is third in total search volume with 4.3 million searches across 235 unique search phrases. This represents 30% of the entire family restaurant data set. Location-based SEO will be an important factor to pay attention to when developing landing pages and ad campaigns.

In the restaurant data set (13.5 million location-based searches) searchers did not specify any other attributes, such as food type, content or quality. In the family data set 29% of the search phrases included references to a type of restaurant in location-based searches.

Quality. Though the terminology (best, top, fine) being used is more or less the same between the two groups, we do see the family group executing fewer quality-based searches (1.4M vs. 1.8M searches). The family group has an additional quality sub-category where they are searching for restaurants that are fun. You find none of this traffic in the restaurant group.

Service. When families look for services, they are looking for takeout, catering or delivery. Pizza is the most popular food for delivery by a ten to one margin over Chinese food (500K vs. 49K).

When it comes to take out food, families specify their needs in three ways. They search using the terms:

  • Takeaway – 392,000
  • To go – 9,000
  • Take out – 8,100

Transaction. In the family group consumers are using transactional terms in two specific ways. They want to find a family restaurant but, they have not specified a location. They are primarily using the terms find and locator as in the following keyword examples:

  • Fast food restaurant locator
  • Find restaurants by zip code

There are 95K of these searches done each month, where the consumers do not specify a specific location in the keyword phrase.

Type. The family group searches for a type of restaurant 9 million times a month, while the restaurant group conducts 4.2 million type searches a month. The family group has the most complex category of behavior with seven sub-categories. These include:

  • Type (general) 1.1 M – e.g. family friendly
  • Type by a quality 81K – e.g. organic, kosher
  • Type by style 2.5 M – e.g., bistro, cafe
  • Type by time of meal 1.3 M – e.g., breakfast, brunch
  • Type by theme 161K – e.g., birthday, theatre
  • Type by food 2.3 M – e.g., BBQ, chicken
  • Type by nationality 1.4 M – e.g., Hawaiian, Italian

When you look at the term usage in the type sub-categories you see some interesting patterns. For example, you see the following two-word combinations used to modify search strings. Clearly, kid friendly is the phrase of choice when writing page copy.

  • Kid friendly – 53,160
  • Family friendly – 33,000
  • Child friendly – 11,646

Value. When it comes to value, family searchers are not concerned with expense in the way you see in other behavior models. Most of the value-based traffic (158K searches) is associated with finding coupons and special offers. Though this behavior is associated with reducing expense, it is still at the bottom of the list in terms of search volume. In fact, there is minimal traffic associated with the terms cheap, affordable and discounts. This holds true for the restaurant group as well.

Consumers will freely use the term cheap in very large numbers when searching for products and services such as airline tickets and car insurance—but they tend to shun “cheap” when it comes to food. You also don’t find consumers searching for a cheap doctor or lawyer.

Term Density

When you look at term density in the two groups you find that both are concerned with quality (demonstrated by the high usage of the term best). An appetite for Chinese and Mexican food is well represented in both groups, and it’s no surprise that pizza is the most commonly used secondary term in family restaurant searches.

In the family group, one set of terms reflects a desire to provide their families with restaurant food at home (menu, delivery, takeaway and catering). However, I think the term menu reflects two agendas; certainly ordering for delivery or takeout makes sense, but I think parents also want to review the specific food offerings before they bundle up the kids and show up at your restaurant.

These lists of terms are valuable in that they detail the most common secondary words that are being used to modify search queries. In general, the top 25 terms will appear in over 50% of the search traffic. This implies that they should be used in web page and ad copy where it makes sense.

Family Restaurant TEN

Key Insights For Family Restaurant Owners

So, what does this analysis do for you as a family restaurant owner? Let’s list some of the most important items to think about.

  • At the highest level, families are interested in brand, type and location. These themes should underpin your website information architecture and ad copy.
  • Families are much more interested in quality than value by a ten to one margin. Though value plays a lesser role in this group, you do find 135K searches a month for coupons.
  • 30% of brand searches are compound queries, where they are looking for a type of restaurant by location. This should be reflected in your ad copy.
  • If you are a family restaurant you really need to be in the takeout business as well.
  • Easy access to digital menus is a must—the word menu is the second most common search term in the family group. Question: is your menu easily accessible from the home page, or is it buried three levels deep in a PDF file?
  • Families have more demands when they are looking for a type of restaurant—theme, time and quality are additional requirements. For example, will you accommodate a birthday party when you take the reservation? If yes, is this service mentioned at your website?
  • If you are a family restaurant, do your customers know this? Does your website mention that your establishment is “kid friendly?”
  • Last but not least, you have the option to provide potential customers with several distinct ways to find your restaurant. Statistically, large numbers of families search by brand and by food type. Brand probably does not present any new opportunity, but the pattern for searching for restaurants by food type presents a custom landing page opportunity.

Finally, your brand may be national, but all restaurants are local. If you have not claimed your business in Google, Yahoo and Bing’s local search services, you should do so. You will not automatically get added to these local search indexes. There are local search requirements for being included. Make sure you understand what they are.

The data used in this analysis was extracted from AdWords.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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