With the exception of your menu, your restaurant's website might be the most important marketing vehicle you have. It represents a platform from which you will launch many of your marketing efforts. Plenty of potential diners will want to visit your website before deciding to try your restaurant, so if you don’t have a restaurant website, it's time to get going.
It’s never been easier to build a restaurant website
Today, building a great website is easier than ever. What used to be an arduous, complex task is now simple enough for anyone to do. Here are some important tips to help guide you through the process.
Tip No. 1. Choose a great domain.
Selecting an appropriate domain name for your restaurant is a vital step.
The domain name should be short, memorable and representative.
As your business’s address on the web, it’s important to include the name of your restaurant in your domain name.
For example, if your restaurant’s name is Tony’s Pizza, then selecting TonysPizza.com would be a good choice. If the domain you want is already taken, another option — which might also improve your local search ranking — is to include your geographic location — for example, TonysPizzaDallas.com.
Editor’s note: Be sure to check out the new geographic domain name extensions — such as .quebec.
Tip No. 2. Choose a clean design.
When it comes to your restaurant website, sometimes less is more. While it’s tempting to be really creative with color, it is often better to use neutral colors on the primary parts of the website, such as the background. Vibrant colors can be a bit distracting to website visitors and could make it difficult for them to find the information they are looking for.
Even if your brand has a colorful creative platform, it’s not always necessary to let that dictate your website design. Neutral backgrounds and clean design allow important information such as your menu, location and phone number to stand out and be easily found on your site.
If you use images on your website, it’s important to follow some simple guidelines to ensure a positive user experience:
- Format images to the proper size.
- Be selective with your images and use them sparingly. Too many images will slow down the speed of your site and make for a frustrating visitor experience.
- Use high-quality images. You’re selling your products on a restaurant website, so it might be a smart investment to pay for professional photography.
- Use image file names that include keywords. Including key search words in your image file names will improve your restaurant website’s search engine results.
Having music that launches automatically on your site is not recommended. Generally, visitors will find it annoying — especially if it is difficult to turn off (grrrr). Videos, however, make for great content. The key here is keeping them short and engaging. You’ll lose your audience with anything longer than about 30 seconds.
Tip No. 3. Give visitors what they want in a restaurant website.
The majority of those visiting your restaurant website will be looking for specific information. Generally, they want to know what's on your menu, where you are located, your hours of operation, your phone number, and any special events your restaurant is hosting.
Display this information prominently on the home page of your restaurant website. By focusing on what your user wants, you enhance their experience.
Thoughtful formatting, fonts and design can streamline the appearance of your restaurant website and make important information easier to find.
Again, visitors are looking for a defined set of information and might be annoyed, for example, if they hope to stop in for an early lunch but are unable to find your hours of operation. Jim ’n Nick’s Bar-B-Q is a great example of giving searchers what they are looking for and displaying it prominently on the landing page.
Tip No. 4. Showcase your brand.
Creating a clean and simple design doesn't mean you have to sacrifice creativity and style. Taking key elements of your brand and showcasing them is an important goal.
Remember, your restaurant website might be the first experience a potential customer has with your restaurant, so it’s important that your brand shines through.
A great example of a restaurant website that keeps brand consistency while maintaining a clean and simple design is Dick’s Last Resort. Known for its quirky, offbeat brand elements, Dick’s has done a good job of proving that you don't have to clutter your brand messaging by going overboard with design.
Creating a clean design will allow you to merchandise your promotions, events and brand messages in a way that makes them easy for your visitors to digest. If you are a restaurant that takes reservations, providing a link to a service such as Open Table in an easy-to-find place will create yet another way for customers to reach you.
Tip No. 5. Go mobile.
Having a website that displays well on a mobile device is one of the most important elements for a restaurant website. Without a doubt, most people visiting your site will be accessing you on a mobile device.
Mobile searches surpassed desktop searches in early 2015; this is critical for restaurants. These days consumers are making their restaurant decisions on the fly, and it is estimated that the majority of searchers landing on a non-mobile-enabled site from a smartphone will bounce off the site very quickly.
Mobile-enabled websites have what is referred to as a “thumb-friendly” layout, which means users can navigate and click on important parts of the site with ease using their thumb. Today, fortunately, mobile websites are easily attainable as most website builders offer responsive design, allowing restaurants to create websites that are consistent with the needs of their potential customers.
Ready to get started?
Creating an excellent website for your restaurant doesn't have to be a difficult or intimidating process. Following some simple guidelines will put you on the path to creating a website that creates a great experience for your potential customers and increases brand awareness and drives sales. Just make sure your customer’s experience online is just as satisfying as the one you strive to provide in your restaurant every day.