Your new restaurant is about to open. The staff has been hired, the menu designed, the equipment delivered, and provisions ordered. Your customers are the people who are going to keep you in business. How are you going to attract them, and more importantly, keep them coming back?
Besides the great food and vibe you’ll be offering, you have to keep them informed as to why you are the go-to spot for the high days, the holidays, and the every-days.
Briefly, you can do this consistently and easily by creating a restaurant website design that is easily accessible, interactive, navigable, and readable.
To avoid buying a generic restaurant website design that will simply melt into thousands of others, you will need to decide what message you want to get across to your paying public.
Think about what attracts you to a restaurant based on their website. Then, make a list of your top five or 10 restaurant website design examples and analyze what makes them attractive to you as a potential customer.
Forget for a minute that you are also in the business, look at it purely from a patron’s point of view, and you will find that those sites that drew you in followed all three concepts of successful design; they were:
Let’s discuss these concepts in detail and learn how to practically apply them to create your optimal restaurant website design.
Get the tools and guidance you need to find new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more.
Your restaurant website design should be vibrant and exciting: you want to attract people who will appreciate your food and the ambiance you create. You should include images of the decor, table distancing, artwork, and overall “look” that will engage customers and let them know what sort of experience they can expect from you.
Your main aim is to inspire customers to not only return time and again but also recommend you to their families, friends, and colleagues.
Your website should reflect menu changes that inspire diners to visit for seasonal specials and special occasions such as Valentine’s day (February 14), St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), Earth Day (April 22), and regular religious or secular holidays.
You will want to draw attention to those special occasions by offering something your patrons will remember, such as holiday-centric menu items, limited-time available dishes, specialty drinks, discount coupons, or free birthday/anniversary desserts.
Let people know when your restaurant came into being. Inspire them by including an “About Us” page that includes the backstory of your restaurant. If it’s a family business handed down through generations, invite them to “come and join the family” by dining with you.
If it’s your own brand-new initiative, sketch an outline of your inspiration and future plans. People love to know other people’s success stories, and yours may kickstart someone else to begin a venture they have been hesitant to leap into.
Your website should be clear on the type of food you are offering.
For example, if you are a steakhouse, include an introduction on how the meat is sourced. Your customers may be much more aware of environmental issues today and will appreciate knowing that their prime rib comes from a sustainable supply.
If you buy your eggs from a nearby farmer who hand-raises poultry, or buy your wine from a local vintner, specify that you support local producers of organic foodstuff.
The content that ideally won’t change includes your physical and email addresses, phone number, and website URL. So, these should be prominently displayed on the front page. It’s a good idea to have that information embedded so that it follows the user on every page. If your contact information is easily visible, it’s much more likely to keep foot traffic on your page.
Include a map link to your location with Google My Business. Giving customers all the information they need (e.g., your phone number, directions, a message facility, and link to your website) will help them make a reservation.
If you are a little off the beaten track, turn that into a positive element by describing the location as “quiet” and emphasize that the dining experience will be undisturbed by noisy elements such as traffic or a nearby club.
People searching online for a restaurant fall into two groups: they either know exactly what they are looking for (a steakhouse, Chinese food, fine dining, etc.) or they want something new. Either way, you need to let them know what you have to offer. So, make sure your website includes the following:
People are visiting your site because they want a meal, either immediately or for a special occasion. So, the menu forms a vital component of your restaurant.
It should be broken down into easily readable sections, like starters, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. Include a separate section for drinks, either alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Provide a short description of each dish, but not an essay. The server can provide more detail at the table.
On your menu, especially, you must ensure that your content is 100% relevant and up to date. And, it goes without saying that prices must be accurate.
Restaurant traffic statistics show that a menu, set either to the extreme left or right is more readable. Also, use a legible font and colors that are easy to read.
Most of the people who access your website may be mobile users. So, your menu should be mobile-responsive, meaning that it’s appearance should automatically adjust such that it looks proportionate on a cell phone.
If you are offering specials during the week or early-bird meals with a discount, make sure that these are highlighted and emphasize that they may be subject to change or withdrawn at any time. If they are changed or withdrawn, add a brightly colored box at the top of your site that says so.
If your menu contains products that may aggravate allergies, like nuts or shellfish, add a warning to this effect. You don’t want to deal with medical emergencies because a customer who has a shellfish allergy inadvertently ate shrimp in a soup.
Clear, in-focus photos or videos are a must on any restaurant website. This is one area in which you should consider hiring a professional. They know the tricks of lighting and bringing out the best side of food shots. An advertised plate must bear more than a passing resemblance to the plate that arrives at the table.
With your photos, remember to follow WYSIWIG — What You See Is What You Get — so that your patrons know that what they order is what they will receive. For example, if you intend on serving bread-and-butter pudding topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, don’t have a photo of the dish topped with whipped cream.
Sometimes people need to be persuaded to try something new. For some, an untried restaurant is a potential risk. In which case, you need to let them know that yours is one they should not hesitate to visit.
You may want to implement a loyalty program and highlight it as part of your restaurant website design. Your loyalty program can include anything you like. Perhaps customers will get a free meal or portion of a meal (e.g., an appetizer or dessert) on the house for every so many meals purchased. Users could click on a button on the website to claim this when they book their next visit.
If you supply meals on delivery, add a link to services, like Uber Eats, that cover the area. Again, you may want to offer an incentive or reward for a minimum number of orders placed, such as a loyalty card.
Whatever incentives you have offered, honor them, but make sure the correct information is on your website.
Once your customers have come and gone, you want to stay top of mind by staying in touch with them. And while there are many ways to stay in touch with your patrons outside of your restaurant, social media is the most powerful and far-reaching and email marketing is the most cost-effective and efficient.
Being seen on social media helps with brand awareness — making your restaurant familiar even if they haven’t visited yet. So, make sure that part of your restaurant website design includes links to the social media channels that you’re active on. Two of the best social media platforms for restaurants are:
Facebook has 2.8 billion users, and around 65% of them access the medium on a daily basis — you simply cannot afford to ignore Facebook’s reach.
Besides using Facebook to refer people back to your website, you can also use Facebook to inform potential new customers about your restaurant and answer questions that people may have about your menu or specials.
A picture really is worth a thousand words and well-presented professional photos can be a huge motivator to visit a particular restaurant. Posting high-quality images of your dishes on Instagram is the perfect way to make them salivate and unable to resist actually tasting them.
With one billion active users on Instagram, using their video app IGTV to showcase a mini-movie of your restaurant will also have an enormous reach.
Email marketing is a cost-effective and efficient way to entice foot traffic to your restaurant and a sign-up form is an absolute must for your restaurant website design. Whether you choose to have your sign-up form as part of your Contact page, or as a pop-up form, to get people to sign up for your email campaigns, offer them something in exchange. Perhaps a discount or a free appetizer with purchase on their next visit.
People remember and respond to the “personal touch” and will be more likely to support you when you personalize your emails.
To make things more personal, you could include a basic questionnaire requesting personal information (age group, birth date, meal preferences, etc.). This makes it easy to send out birthday greeting emails, or offer discounts on favorite dishes that meet special dietary needs.
A database of emails is potentially a gold mine but must never be abused. Keep emails short and to the point, and don’t send them out too often. A monthly update will be sufficient to keep your name top of mind and people won’t feel spammed.
In the background
Setting up a restaurant website takes much more than what you see at face value. Monitoring the number of hits and analyzing traffic to your site will give you a working idea of your strong and weak points. You can hone in on where you should increase your attention to attract the best SEO results.
As you set up your restaurant website design, think about what you may need to include in the background to make sure you can collect good data — such as tracking codes for things like Google Analytics.
Google Analytics tracks user data in a number of useful areas. It’s a powerful, free tool that in its own words will let you “understand your site and app users to better check the performance of your marketing, content, products, and more.”
You will have both strengths and weaknesses on your site, and these tools will pinpoint yours in both areas.
Be clever at grouping similar objects together, including:
- call to action buttons
Buy a domain name that is the same as your restaurant’s name. This will make your site look and feel professional and polished.
A platform such as Constant Contact will assist you in setting up your restaurant website quickly and painlessly.
Designing a restaurant website need not be a frightening prospect if the above suggestions are followed. Time spent in preparation and deciding exactly what it is that you want to showcase will be time well spent. Don’t try to include too much. Everything on your restaurant website should be relevant and useful. Less is definitely more in this case.
To summarize, keep these points in mind:
- Content — keep it fresh.
- Menu — update changes as they are implemented.
- Specials — make sure customers get to know what to expect from your specials.
- Photos — hire a professional and change your photos regularly to keep the content fresh and exciting
- Social media — maintain a high social media profile in whatever forums work best for you.
- Loyalty program — honor your incentives.
- Further contact — having a database of email addresses is a gold mine, and can be used for promotions targeted at specific groups.
- In the background — use analytic tools to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses.
Lastly, have fun and let your creative side loose, all while staying professional!