One of the things I’ve come to notice as a designer and a food lover consistently is the terrible design of restaurant websites. Or even the lack of a website! Many restaurants just use Facebook pages or other social media updates to communicate with their patrons and future yelp ravers, which can work but has some serious drawbacks! Like, for instance, where do people go to get the feel of your restaurant? To see actual photos taken of the beautiful interior and not just people’s selfies of the bathroom or the bar?
Your website is an extension of your restaurant business — it is usually the first place people go to find out more, read your menu and see what your place is all about!
It answers the questions that pop up in a diner’s mind, like:
- What kind of food is it?
- How dressy/casual is it?
- Do I need reservations on a Friday night?
- What are the specials and/or when is happy hour?
- Can I have a special event there?
You may be thinking (if you are a restaurant owner) that you can just put all this info on Facebook. Yes, you can, but it’s extremely limiting and frustrating to the consumer. You may have answered all the above questions… 100 times… in a 100 different spots. And we still can’t find it. Also, the only visual control you have over Facebook is the cover photo and the profile image, which both have things covering them partially up. This makes it really difficult to convey your brand all through a Facebook page.
There are a couple of other reasons to have a website. Say you want to start catering special events as well, or hosting live music. You need to have some information online about these things (payment, deadlines, applications for bands) and those things are really easy to put on a website for future clients to find. (and gets you out of answering a million one-on-one emails or Facebook messages.)
Another reason to have a website is so you can get more followers on social media. (WAIT, what? Shouldn’t I just have a Facebook page then?) No. Here’s why. How often do you go to Google and type in: [Restaurant Type] in [City I live In]? I’m willing to bet that when you are on the hunt for a great restaurant, you go to the Google first, amiright? How often do you think to use the Facebook Search bar for a local restaurant? I personally hardly ever do!
So, knowing what we know about our searching habits online, having a website will help you get in those higher search results, help more people find you, and give you a platform for drawing more customers in.
Back to my point: once people find you online, see what you are about and get a feel for what you offer, they will want more.
That more usually results in going over to look at your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts. If I like what I see on a restaurants social accounts, then I will follow them in a internet-second. Personally, I like restaurants that either A. I have been to, or B. I want to go to in the future or C. I am inspired by and would go if I am ever in the area. The accounts should also be ACTIVE. Meaning, you need to be posting at the minimum of once a week, preferably multiple times a week. Once you have them following you, you’re in! They are then that much more likely to come in for a meal or a drink.
So, now that you know that you SHOULD in fact, have a website, here’s a couple quick rules for restaurant websites:
- Publish your menu (as frequently as possible). If you menu changes daily, then put the drinks up or any dishes that are mainstays and drive website traffic to your facebook or instagram pages for the daily specials. A pdf of your menu design, or straight text version of your menu is easy to do. Don’t put a photo of a paper menu on your website.
- Take your 3-6 most commonly asked questions and put them somewhere on your website (maybe even all in a FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page.) Ask your hostess or whoever is in charge of answering phone calls. What do people call about the most? Hours? Reservations? Put those on your site. If they are there, and you still get a bunch of calls about these things, then maybe they need to be made more prominent or even promoted in social media.
- Keep it as simple as possible. If you always have techno music and flashing lights in your club, that doesn’t mean those things should go on your website. People don’t want to have to worry about music or movies loading while they are at work at 4:30 on a Friday scoping out the newest happy hour spot. For a club feel, use darker colors in general but leave the effects to the DJ.
- Mobile! Most people are on their phones when they are looking for a place to eat, so make sure your website design is mobile ready, or responsive. Your designer/web developer should be able to help with that, or there are tons of website themes that I’ll share in another post that have that built in.
- Include a call to action! They made it to your website, now get them to do something! Maybe it’s signing up for your newsletter (which is another great thing to have) or checking out those social pages. Or maybe it’s getting on the list for an upcoming special event. It can even be a call to action (or CTA, for short) that encourages them to check out the restaurants blog… just as long as you regularly post on that blog!
Really, what it comes down to is:
You want your website to be the best possible combination of information, efficiency, and branding as possible, or future customers will likely pick somewhere else to go.
Need help with any of this? I’m here! Contact me at email@example.com for specific questions or check out my other design related posts. I also do 30 minute informational calls if you are interested in design services. Download this PDF for more.