The Bottom Line
A great website is the crux of a restaurant’s ability to reach new customers. And just as your food needs to demonstrate clear quality and freshness, so too does your online presence.
The first step is creating a website. Sadly, a page on Facebook, Yelp and/or TripAdvisor alone isn’t enough. A website to call your own establishes a critical sense of legitimacy, and unless you’re one of the very few spots out there with a cult-like word of mouth following, it’s best to get something up as soon as possible.
Setting up a site can be very cheap and simple. Sites like Weebly allow even the least tech-savvy users to build beautiful websites, often at an out-the-door cost of less than $50. A simple drag and drop interface means that you won’t have to hire a web designer.
At the end of the day, your website will mainly serve to provide more information to potential customers who have already heard of you. The goal is to arm them with all the information they need to decide to visit you in person: your menu, hours, reservations, etc. Creating a website to simply display this information requires virtually zero technical bells and whistles, but there’s an art to it nevertheless.
Follow these five tips to create (or improve) your restaurant’s website.
Keep your menu current.
Your menu will inevitably be one of the most-visited areas of your website. Make sure it’s up to date. If you’re listing your prices (that choice is an entirely separate discussion), make sure they’re accurate.
The last thing a customer wants is the restaurant equivalent of being catfished (look that up in Urban Dictionary if you’re not familiar). If you’re a seasonal restaurant with frequent menu changes that make it virtually impossible to keep an updated menu, that’s ok. Note this on your site and specify that you’ve listed a sample menu.
Your website should reflect the guest experience as closely as possible, and there’s no better way to do that than with an honest menu.
Keep your theme contemporary.
Today’s websites are clean: chic layouts, minimalist appearance, and easy-on-the-eyes color schemes. We’ve come a long way from blocky fonts and in-your-face text boxes. If your website looks like the latter, it’s time for a major face lift.
A clean, contemporary look isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it creates trust. Websites that look like they’re from the 90s take away from the product or service they’re promoting.
Making this change can be as easy as copying your content to a word document, creating a new drag and drop website on Weebly, then pasting your old content into the new layout. But while you’re at it, you might as well take a look at your content for any necessary revisions.
Make it mobile friendly.
An overwhelming portion of your web traffic will come from mobile devices. When building your site, you’ll likely be working from a laptop or desktop, but be sure to consistently view your work on mobile to make sure it looks good on both screen sizes.
This aspect of web creation is called responsive design, and it’s actually built into Weebly and related services. They allow you to view your site as if you were on a tablet or mobile phone with the click of a button, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any technical requirements here.
Make your photos beautiful.
People eat with their eyes, so beautiful food photos are critical to entice potential customers who research your restaurant online. Photographing your flagship menu items, chefs in action, dining room, and any patio, or views you may have will significantly boost your online appeal.
This is where you really want to go the extra mile and use a good camera, if not hire a professional photographer. With all the time you’re presumably dedicating to making great food, you want your photos to reflect the work you’ve put into your business.
Display your contact information everywhere possible.
You ultimately want to convert your web visitors into paying customers, so the next step in their process [in the marketing world we refer to it as the user journey] is to make a reservation. Make this next step as easy and convenient as possible by displaying your Opentable, Resy or Yelp link on every page, or your phone number if you’re not on these platforms. If you don’t take reservations [and even if you do, for that matter], display your phone number, address and operating hours to plant the seed for that hopeful visit.
No restaurant website is the same, and a multitude of elements exist to fine tune your web presence, but these tips should help you build a solid foundation.