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Mobile devices are approaching half the traffic coming to restaurant websites — a sign that small businesses need to get smart about mobile website design.

According to Goro Harumi, the founder of LetsEat, a website builder for restaurants, the average percentage of traffic to restaurant sites has risen from 3 percent fours years ago to 43 percent today. On weekends, the number approaches 50%.

Percentage of traffic to restaurant websites that is mobile, 2009-2013.

Above: Percentage of traffic to restaurant websites that is mobile, 2009-2013.

Image Credit: LetsEat.at

“2014 could be the first year many business owners opt to skip desktop website designs and go 100% mobile,” Harumi said.

That’s because the expense of hiring designers is high — particularly relative to the budget of a small business. If half your customers are already accessing your site using Android devices or iPhones, and that number is only rising, you might as well save half your design costs and optimize for mobile from the start.

Harumi has been tracking the traffic to restaurant websites his platform hosts since 2009, a data set that now spans 14,000 restaurants. That gives him a broad perspective on the trends facing this niche market.

Interestingly, mobile usage varies by city, and the most mobile city is not what you’d expect: Harumi’s data set shows that the Chicago area leads other metro regions, with 48 percent of restaurant customers using mobile devices. In San Francisco, which is a tech hub in other ways, only 41 percent of customers use mobile.

Mobile traffic to web sites varies by metro region.

Above: Mobile traffic to web sites varies by metro region.

Image Credit: LetsEat.at

As restaurant customers go, so too may the customers of other businesses. Business owners: Get ready.

Hat tip: LetsEat blog

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