There are certain mysteries of the universe you and I will never understand: What is dark matter? How does gravity work? Why do humans need sleep? Where did that other sock disappear to?
But near that the top of that deeply perplexing list is one question that nags me almost incessantly: Why are all restaurant websites terrible?
It’s a sad reality, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By following a few basic principles, you can take your restaurant website from flavorless to five stars.
1. Make it responsive
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: It’s critical that your website be beautiful and functional on each and every device. If it’s not adhering to the principles of responsive web design, it’s going to be a navigational nightmare for anyone looking to find your hours, menu, contact info, etc.
Think about the ways in which most folks come across your website. Facebook, Yelp, Urbanspoon and Google Maps are all huge traffic sources, and the majority of their users are browsing on mobile devices. If I’m on the go and looking for a place to grab a bite, I’m going to reach for my phone. But if I open your website and see a desktop view (or even worse, nothing at all because you’re still using Flash), chances are I’m dining elsewhere.
2. Lose the PDF
If I’m coming to your website from a mobile device, the last thing I want to do is download a huge PDF file on my slow connection (and small data plan). Even if I’m able to get it open, I’m still going to have to zoom and pan around on this multi-page behemoth to find what I’m looking for.
Not only does a PDF offer a poor user experience, it isn’t optimal for SEO or analytics tracking either.
A far better alternative is to add your menu items in good ol’ HTML markup. This will allow them to adapt to screen size, be easily parsed by Google, and change quickly when needed. No more contacting your graphic designer for a single text tweak every time you want to make a menu change, and better yet, no more frustrated potential diners.
3. Hold the cheese
The great web comic The Oatmeal has a clever post about restaurant websites. In it, he offers a quick list of things people look for when browsing:
- Specials and happy hour info
- Address with a link to Google Maps
- Online reservation system that actually works
- Hours of operation, parking and contact info
The above should be a simple wish list to fulfill, but unfortunately these things are either a) not present, or b) impossible to find amid all the clutter.
Restaurants websites are so often full of cheesy components that do more to distract than inform potential diners. Instead of over-designing and overwhelming, try to follow these rules:
- Don’t make critical pieces of information difficult to locate
- Save the ambient music for the restaurant itself
- Keep design flare to a minimum
- Put any extra content (i.e. videos, photo galleries, letters from the chef / owner) on separate inside pages and keep the homepage clean and practical
4. Express yourself
If your aim is to provide customers with an elegant, white tablecloth-style dining experience, that aesthetic should be reflected in your site’s design. The same is true if you’re a sports bar hoping to provide elevated bar food and a fun atmosphere.
Your website often serves as the first point of contact with potential diners. You want them to come away with an accurate sense of the experience you’re trying to provide. If you don’t, you risk failing to meet expectations.
5. Keep it current
I’m sure you change your specials on a weekly or monthly basis. You probably rotate out several menu items seasonally, too. Why not give the same thought and care to your website?
Relevant information about drink specials, happy hours, and updated menu items entice potential diners to pay you a visit. However, outdated versions of the same information can scare customers away. If you’re not updating your information online, how can I trust that you’re putting the maximum effort into your food or your service?
6. Connect with the customer
One of the easiest ways to endear yourself to potential diners is to connect with them on social media. Even if you’re not able to update your website weekly, surely you’re posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram regularly, right?
By displaying links to these profiles prominently on your homepage, you provide customers with a simple way to see that recipe you’re testing or the new patio you just opened.
Unsure of how to implement all of these changes? We can help. The Kestrel Co. builds each and every website according to the best practices of responsive web design and search engine optimization. We create beautiful sites free from clutter, and ensure that your identity and vision are expressed in every detail. And, we provide simple and practical solutions for you to keep your site’s content fresh.
Eager to get started? Let’s chat!