After you have read this article, you will know all the secrets for building a successful restaurant website. You will learn about the 19 must-have characteristics, and how to design it.
This article speaks to those who have a restaurant and want to get clear, once and for all, on how to create a website that attracts customers.
So, if you are a restaurant manager or an entrepreneur, don’t quickly scroll down the article. Instead, take a few minutes and read it carefully. By putting these concepts into practice, you will finally start to see the internet as a sea from which to catch many beautiful fishes – not a black hole that sucks money.
Through the information contained this article, you can earn money, or at worst, save it.
Does my restaurant need a website?
This is the kind of question to which most of my clients want an answer. Generally, this question goes along with a painful confession like “Our website is obsolete. A dear friend of ours designed it a long time ago for a special price… but it has never brought us a customer. Finally, it is impossible to navigate from my iPhone.”
The amount of internet-connected devices total more than the earth’s inhabitants. There are more smartphones (4 billion) than toothbrushes (3.5 billion). The visual data is processed by our brain 60,000 times faster than text.
The answer to this question is “YES“. A website for a restaurant represent one the most powerful marketing tools. Why? Knowing that two-thirds of the world’s population use a mobile phone with an internet connection should be enough to convince you of the importance of having a website for your business. But to take away all doubts, I will go deeper and I tell you what Google thinks.
In April 2011, Google commissioned a study to Shopper Sciences. They surveyed 5,000 consumers to figure out which sources would most influence their purchasing decisions. They introduced the concept of ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth), which is the moment in the decision-making and purchasing process when we search for information online before going to the business and buying a service or a product.
Customers, before visiting a restaurant (or a store in general), seek information. They read reviews, comments and ratings on TripAdvisor, do web searches on Google, watch videos on YouTube, and consult social networks.
In practice, prospects get informed and decide through carrying out research not only on search engines, but also on social networks. The Zero Moment of Truth has these features:
- It takes place online and usually begins with research on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, etc.).
- It happens in real time, at any time of the day.
- The consumer prefers to look for information by themselves (pull) rather than receive it from others (push).
- It is emotional: the consumer has a need to be met and is emotionally involved in finding the best solution.
As explained above, the crucial moment of the purchasing circle is when prospects seek information online. Thus, you are intelligent enough to understand that your businesses must be found on the net to be successful in the Zero Moment of Truth. Putting up an effective website is only the first step in the process of building your online image. If prospects don’t find you online with a good website and social network profiles, you’re out of the game.
If these data have not yet convinced you, please change profession because you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur nor a manager.
Restaurant website: when to create or redesign it
It depends on your brand’s history and your needs. Generally, it is useful to create or redesign a restaurant website in these cases:
STARTUP. When it comes to a new opening, you cannot start your business without an online presence. Most managers and entrepreneurs make the unforgivable mistake of thinking “Now I open and then I’ll see.” Don’t commit the same crime! When you open a new business, your prospects, hearing about the new opening, will start to search for more information online. If you’re not there, you miss out on a huge chance to convert them into customers.
OBSOLETE WEBSITE. If your website doesn’t respond to users’ needs, or it doesn’t present effective communication, you must redesign it. To be more clear I’ll give you a couple of examples:
- You would like to add news and recipes but you can’t.
- You customers try to visit your website from their mobiles but your content is illegible.
- You try to search the name of your restaurant on Google and you don’t find it on the first-page results.
INCONSISTENCY WITH BRAND IDENTITY. If your website is not consistent with the image of your restaurant, you must rebuild it. The following are the most common cases:
● You have commissioned a new logo and the whole graphic but your website has not been updated.
● You have restored your restaurant, changing its colors and interior design, and your website doesn’t mirror the new style.
● You are opening to new markets, but your website speaks to the wrong target.
Restaurant website: the top 19 must-have characteristics
Although every site should be tailored according to the restaurant’s needs, below I have listed the 19 top characteristics:
Your business can’t ignore the flourishing mobile world. Unfortunately, a cool and trendy website is no longer enough to hook customers. To fork people into your restaurant, you must have a fast, mobile-friendly website that works with all screens.
Visiting websites from mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets has become a common practice now, and so a webpage must be accessible from the smallest screens. This is especially true in the restaurant business, where people look for a good place to eat from their phones when they are already away from home.
2. No special effects
Bear in mind that you are neither a disco club nor a theme park from another planet. Avoid useless videos, animations and background music if they are not in line with your concept. A good website doesn’t surprise visitors with sci-fi effects, but provides them with what they want.
3. Easy to navigate
One of the most important characteristics of a website is usability. A good website must foremost have a well-designed structure based on the path that users will follow to search for information on the company.
4. Easy to update.
A site should be frequently updated to ensure a constant number of visits. The updating procedure should take little time and must be easy to learn even for inexperienced users. In this case the use of a CMS, especially if easy to use, can make things easier.
5. Quality content
Although it may seem easy, creating high-quality content for the web able to get users visiting your page is anything but simple. In fact, to do so you have to follow the always-in-turmoil web writing rules.
Creating content should not be done your programmer, but a professional who specializes in writing for the web (which is quite different from writing for print media).
The professionals doing this job are the web writers who design and produce original content to attract users. They know how to write from an SEO perspective, so that the pages rank high in Google results.
6. Content readability.
Writing original content is the basis of a good web marketing strategy, but it’s of little value if it doesn’t encourage you to read it. We are in the era of “everything easy and immediately”, where users engage only in actions that need little effort.
In a nutshell, users hardly continue reading if there is a wall of text in front of them. Of course, the paragraphs must be well spaced between each other to avoid the terrible wall effect. But readability also implies the use of subtitles, keywords and key phrases bolded, bulleted and numbered lists. Finally, be sure to use a font that does not tire the reader.
7. Tempting food pictures.
A beautiful picture is worth a thousand words. Photographing food is not easy; I recommend hiring a professional photographer, unless you have the time and patience to learn how to take food pictures. An image can make the difference, but if snapped with no care can dissuade users from eating in your restaurant.
8. Easy-to-read menu
Menus in the food business are critical. They should always be updated and modern, composed of clear explanations and easy to understand to ease the choice of customers.
Above all, the menu must be always within the grasp of your clients, especially if you have a delivery service. And what is the best means to put your menu always under a client’s nose? Your website. Publish on it an easily-read menu that can be used from any mobile phone. And don’t forget to add the prices.
9. Address, contact and opening hours
Losing a potential client because they cannot easily find your contact details and address is the most foolish way to not optimize the construction of a website.
Not all online visitors have the patience to navigate through each page to find the contact information. The best place for them is the top left or right corner of the home page. A good idea is to also include contacts in the footer bar to help visitors find you easily.
10. Testimonial and reviews
To reassure your potential customers, you can publish the testimonies of people who have already eaten at your restaurant. Don’t underestimate the power of online reviews. People have a burning desire to find good food and they rely on the word-of-mouth offered by the new technologies. Those coming to your website for the first time will be intrigued (and not a little) by the comments of previous guests.
11. Social profiles
The number of people who have at least one social network account are increasing, and the amount of shared content is growing at exponential levels. People spend hours on their social profiles, thanks to the fact that these channels of communication are increasingly at hand.
Through a simple smartphone or tablet you can stay connected all the time and be able to communicate with others. Your site is a good starting point to establish a relationship with your customers on social networks. Your Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus profiles must be integrated in your website, as well as the sharing buttons at the end of your blog entries.
12. Logo clearly visible
Your logo should not go unnoticed on your website, as it is the sign that will be printed in people’s minds. Make sure it has the characteristics to be effective and is clearly visible on your website. It must be one of the first things that people notice when they get to your site.
13. Colors reflect your identity
It’s enough to see the McDonald’s website for less than one second to figure out that is their page. That’s because the logo and colors that make up their brand identity are consistently used everywhere. They didn’t make their restaurants blue, their website black, and their menu yellow. They use the same set of colors for the entire presentation.
14. SEO friendly
This means that your website must rank well on Google and other search engines. It is not a technical procedure that can be carried out by a programmer or your cousin. If it was so quick and easy I would be so rich that I could afford a whole island. Instead, it is a time-consuming procedure that requires highly skilled expertise.
15. Web analytics
A good website should be provided with an internal system for monitoring the movements and actions of users among webpages. Set up Bing and Google analytics on your website to get information about your users. By doing so, you will be able to change your strategy accordingly.
The site’s speed is one of those factors that are often overlooked. How long does it take for the user to load the various pages of your site? Reducing the time of page loading is important to enhance the experience of the user’s navigation. Have you ever tried to navigate on a site that’s slow to load? After how many seconds did you get out? In addition the site loading speed is one of the factors that Google takes into account to calculate the rankings.
17. Web hosting
It is good to be careful when you choose the company who will host your site on their server. To make sure that the web hosting company is reliable, try to phone and email on weekdays to ask questions. Assess the timing and completeness of responses: remember that if you have problems in the future, they are the one who will solve them.
18. Booking tables online
Be smarter than others and use online table-booking software. People love to reserve a table in a couple of clicks without using the phone. Many online services manage reservations in real time for you, such as theforkmanager.com.
19. Section with “distinctive” information.
If your restaurant or chef has got prizes and awards, don’t miss the chance to let it be known to all.
How to bring potential customers to your website
Now that you have clear idea of how to design a successful website for your restaurant and what the must-have characteristics are, it’s time to understand how to bring in visitors. To bring prospects to your website you must boost its visibility.
How do you get visibility? Well, there are many, many ways.
A website doesn’t have to be beautiful, but effective and persuasive. It has to be optimized to rank well on search engines and convert visitors into customers.
The most common two sources are Google and Facebook.
The important thing to know is that Google and Facebook are different both in how they work and the types of visitors that they bring you. The thing they have in common is that to work effectively both of them require investment.
To avoid the risk that some readers of this article waste money by improperly using one of the two, or both, I’ll talk briefly about them.
How does Google work?
People who have a problem search it on Google. The search engine then gives you a great deal of sites that promise to solve that problem.
You intercept the type of problem that people want to solve, through the keywords that they search on Google. For this reason, choosing the right keywords to make yourself visible on Google is vital.
Being among the first pages of Google requires competence, effort, and above all, a good strategy.
For example, those looking on Google for “how to prevent back pain” do not have the same problem as those looking for “how to heal back pain.”
In the first case, they are people who have suffered from back pain and are looking for something that will prevent it from returning. So, if you sold mattresses they would be potential customers.
In the second case, they are most likely people who have back pain at the precise moment when they write. So, they are looking for medicine or something that makes them heal from back pain NOW, not in two months’ time. In this case, if you sold mattresses they would be “off target“, and so it would be useless investing on this keyword.
Another fundamental factor in the successful positioning of a site on Google is that the keywords for which you rank must have good traffic. If a particular combination of words is not sought by anyone, it is useless to be first in those searches.
How does Facebook work?
The Facebook page for your business runs contrary to Google.
Those who have problems don’t look for information on Facebook. However, those who are on Facebook certainly have unresolved problems – the so-called “latent demand.”
Having Facebook page for a restaurant is as important as having a phone number.
What does this mean?
It means that a person who is on Facebook may have suffered from back pain in the previous months, and would probably like to avoid suffering from back pain again. But is not a pressing issue in the “here and now”, and they do not particularly care about it.
Or maybe, in some cases, the person thinks that there is no solution that can prevent it, and then no longer looks for a cure.
But if, while quietly scrolling the news feed of Facebook one day, he finds in front of his eyes an eye-catching ad that promises to prevent back pain, it turns on a light bulb in his brain:
“Well, let’s see what this is… two months ago I was stuck in bed with terrible back pain. Maybe it can help me make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
The user clicks on Facebook ad, ends up on your site, finds it to be knowledgeable about the properties of the product, and if you’ve stimulated them enough, they will contact you.
It is a customer who, without this interception of their latent demand through the Facebook ad, you could have never hooked!
How to design a restaurant website in 7 steps
Whether you have a big or a small restaurant, the website is the communication and marketing tool par excellence. It must be developed following a consistent web design project. It doesn’t involve only graphical aspects, but also performance, usability, and functionality.
If you think that it is something that can be done by your 17-year-old nephew or your neighbor programmer, you are on the wrong track.
To put up an effective website that communicate and attract people, you need a team of professionals.
For this reason, I recommend commissioning the restaurant website design to a web marketing company with proven experience in the F&B field. They should be able to speak about results, not graphical beauty. Let’s see in detail the 6 key steps to design your restaurant website along with your marketing consultant:
1. Interview. You should sit around a table with your web agency and outline the website’s objectives. At this stage, they will learn more about your brand, mission and vision.
2. Project draft. The web agency provides a first draft of the project that answers the following questions:
- What are our objectives?
- In which way will we know if the project will be successful?
- What features should the website have?
- Who is our target? How will we reach them?
- Who will be part of the project’s team?
- What are the deadline?
- What is the budget to be invested?
3. Competitor analysis. Your web agency should be able to provide a report about your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, pointing out the opportunities to be exploited not taken by them.
4. Information architecture. At this stage, your digital consultant outlines a content map and the structure of your website. Finally, they set measurable objectives to monitor the performance of the website.
5. Wireframe. Once the architecture is approved, you move on to the creation of a website wireframe. This is a visual guide that shows how the content (videos, texts, images) will be arranged within the frame of the website.
6. Mockups and prototypes. Graphic designers create detailed graphical drafts texts and images. They are useful for conducting tests with potential customers.
What do you think? Do you agree with these suggestions? Would you have added something else? Leave a comment and share with us what, according to your experience, are the characteristics of a professional restaurant website.