Running a restaurant is hard work. From the servers to the kitchen staff and all of the bartenders, managers, dishwashers, and hosts in between, there’s a lot to keep track of on any given day. And sure, your establishment’s quality speaks for itself. But you can’t simply serve great food and drinks in an incredible atmosphere and hope patrons will find you naturally. In today’s restaurant industry, you need to reach out to help them find and choose you – which means you need a website. We’ve put together this website checklist for restaurants to help you and your patrons get the most out of your online presence.
This article isn’t intended to be a full website walkthrough. Instead, we’ll list the things you’ll need that are specific to websites for restaurants. What do diners want from your website? How can you use your web presence to showcase your fare? Let’s get started!
Presenting Your Site: Identify Your Brand
If you’re at the helm of an Italian bistro, you don’t want it to look like a donut shop. The same principle applies to your website. Carry your brand’s identity to your website by using the themes, colors, and patterns found in your restaurant. You can utilize fonts and assets from your menus, flyers, posters, or other merchandising and advertising to tie your website’s look to that of your physical restaurant. This helps customers know they’re in the right place and it gives your establishment an air of competence and modernity.
1. Be Mobile-Friendly
More people browse the internet on their phone than ever, especially thanks to Google and other easy-to-use mobile and voice search options. This is particularly true for restaurants, which many hungry searchers will be looking for on the go. Whether they’re checking your hours before they get off work or taking a peek at your menu on the ride there, they’ll rely on a functional, informative mobile website.
Your mobile site provides you with a chance to make a good impression. Too many restaurants don’t prioritize their mobile sites, giving potential customers a frustrating experience before they even walk in the door. But by putting effort into it, you can turn that experience into a rewarding one. Mobile-friendly websites give your customers painless carryout or reservation options and can even incorporate Google Maps tools, making your brick-and-mortar location easy to find.
2. Promote Your NAP
When we talk about NAPs, we’re not referring to what your customers want to take after a good meal. We’re talking about your Name, Address, and Phone number, but in this case it includes all the information your customers need to know in order to visit and dine with you. We’ll call it a NAP Etcetera. A clear, concise NAP Etc. gives diners confidence that they’re looking at the website for the right restaurant. Nobody likes to find out that the website they were looking at is for a restaurant across the country, not the one with a similar name in their own city!
To come up with your NAP Etc., think about the questions you commonly answer when customers call your restaurant. Do they want to know what hours and days you’re open or what times your courses are served? Are they calling to find out where you’re located and where they can park? They might want to know if you have outdoor seating, private rooms, or carryout and catering options. Make all of this information readily available if applicable.
Vital details should go in the header or footer of your site where they’ll be visible across all of your pages. Create an About page for any other information your guests should know. While many customers will call you if you have catering or private event options available, you may benefit from a contact form. This fits nicely into a Contact page, of course, and can help keep the number of phone calls fielded by your staff to a minimum during busy workdays.
Brooklyn fine-dining establishment Francie has a website that reflects its luxurious style. They also make their NAP easy to find, with the address and phone number centered at the top of the page. Below it, you’ll find links to all the information you need. Their hours and location are listed on one simple page, while another displays options for meals and wines you can buy to prepare at home. You’ll also find information about private events and an About page promoting the team behind the restaurant.
We also chose Diner for it’s unique example of the NAP Etc. This restaurant’s site may not have a prominent NAP, though it does have an easy-to-find Hours and Location page. What it does have, though, is a unique way of showing its hours of operation on the home page. As you enter the site, the first thing you’re greeted with is an image of the restaurant’s storefront, including the front door adorned with its daily hours. Consider implementing this kind of creativity as you work through this website checklist for restaurants.
3. Would You Like To See a Menu?
The majority of people searching for your restaurant will come looking for an online menu. So make yours accessible! An online menu should always be up-to-date and include your full offerings, including prices. And of course, don’t forget about your beer, wine, and liquor menus!
But you can take it a step further – an online space gives you more room to describe dishes, show off photos, and provide nutritional and ingredient information. You might consider making a page for your full menu with subpages for timed menus or some of your most popular meals. Some restaurants provide downloadable PDF copies of their menu for the convenience of their customers.
But first and foremost, keep ease-of-use in mind. Potential customers might be looking for your menu in a hurry. That means you have a limited time to give them what they want and make an impression. Focus on making your menu simple to find and navigate and feature photos of customer-favorite dishes.
4. Take Mouth-Watering Photos
Speaking of photography, have you ever seen a picture you can practically smell or taste? A close-up image of a stack of waffles dripping with fruity syrup with a swirl of fluffy whipped cream gingerly balanced on top, perhaps, or a slice of pizza loaded with heaps of gooey cheese and tangy marinara being pulled away from the pie? Maybe it’s a cut of bourbon-glazed salmon ready to melt in your mouth, sitting atop a bed of steaming jasmine rice and surrounded by crisp, steamed greens.
Did we make you hungry? While writing about your food is great, pictures are an even more powerful way to showcase your menu items. Make photos of your fabulous fare the focus of your website’s design and you’ll make potential customers hungry, too. Consider hiring a professional photographer to take shots of your signature dishes, then display them prominently on your site.
Example: Big Gay Ice Cream
This ice cream parlor located in New York City and Philadelphia takes pride in its delectable frozen treats. But they aren’t the only ones who enjoy them! Big Gay Ice Cream’s site is a great example of implementing this website checklist for restaurants, but it takes food photography a step further with images of some of its best customers: kids! With photos of both delicious ice cream and its youngest guests enjoying it, this establishment is enticing families and ice cream lovers to stop by for some ice cream and put a big grin on their faces, too.
5. Share Reviews
If potential customers are on the fence about dining in your restaurant, reviews from previous guests can provide just the right push. Reviews can be found on Facebook, Google, and Yelp, among other places. But you can give the best, most useful reviews a spotlight by featuring them on your website.
You may have dozens of reviews across many platforms. They may all rave about delicious meals, incredible service, or swanky atmosphere. That doesn’t mean you should post them all, though. Great reviews may be an essential part of this website checklist for restaurants but so is restraint. Most visitors will only read through two or three reviews before they make a decision about where to eat. Choose the reviews that you feel best represent your restaurant.
6. Local SEO
Restaurants rely on a customer base in their area, which means effective local SEO is more important for them than for almost any other business. Put your joint on the map by optimizing your website for local searches. The Google Snack Pack, a compact, attention-grabbing business showcase on the Search Engine Results Page (or SERP) is perfect for restaurants. But many searchers still click on organic results, too. By putting effort into your restaurant’s SEO, you can show up where it matters and be found by hungry locals.
Social media is a huge factor in local SEO and continues to be a great way to reach people in your region. We’ll help you get your posts and profiles on track with our social media marketing tips for restaurants.
A website offers the chance to spread the word about your restaurant and give potential guests all the information they need to visit. With exquisite photos, raving reviews, and a convenient menu, visitors to your site will be eager to get a table. Put this website checklist for restaurants to use and start maximizing your online presence.