Creating and promoting your own brand is anything but a simple task. One of its requirements is learning a little about web writing. Once you have read through this definitive guide, though, you will have all of the secrets in your toolbox for building a successful website for your restaurant. You will learn how to design this site and also the 19 characteristics that your site needs to have.
This is a guide for those who already have a restaurant and need a clear path to creating an attractive site for their customers.
If you are a manager or budding entrepreneur, take a few minutes and read through this article carefully instead of skimming to parts you think you need.
When you put these ideas into practice, you can start to see the internet as a sea full of potential prize winning catches, rather than a black hole that sucks the money out of your account.
While some of this information might help you to earn money online, you can be assured that these techniques will prevent you from having wasted it.
So let’s begin.
Does My Restaurant Need To Have A Website?
Surprisingly, this is a question that I am asked quite a bit. Often this also comes with a painful but common confession, “…its obsolete now. A friend designed it a long time ago for a great price, but it never brought a single customer in. To make matters worse, you can’t navigate it from my phone.”
The number of smart connected devices exceeds the amount of people in the world right now. There are more smartphones (roughly 4 billion) than toothbrushes (3.5 billion). Visual data is processed by our brain nearly 60,000x faster than plain text.
Yes, you need a website. It is a powerful marketing tool.
Why? Knowing that nearly 2/3 of the entire world connects to the internet via mobile devices should be enough to show you the value of a website. But if you are still on the fence, let’s see what Google thinks.
Back in April of 2011, Google commissioned a study with Shopper Sciences. Collectively, they surveyed 5,000 consumers to determine what affected their decision to make a purchase the most. They introduced the concept of ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth), which is the moment in decision making and purchasing where we search online for more information before visiting a store and purchasing a product or service.
The same thing happens before people visit a restaurant. They want to see reviews, comments, ratings (sites like TripAdvisor), see what they can learn through search engine queries, watch videos on YouTube and even resort to social media for guidance.
Potential customers get informed through research on both search engines and social media. This Zero Moment of Truth consists of these features:
- Takes place online and begins with search engine research. (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.)
- This is real time information gathering, happening at all hours of the day.
- Consumer prefers to look for the information on their own (pulling) rather than to get it from someone else (pushing).
- It is an emotional process. There is a need and the consumer is emotionally involved in finding the best choice.
So it becomes a crucial moment in the purchasing circle for a potential customer to seek information online. So to be successful in terms of the Zero Moment of Truth, you have to actually have a presence on the internet. An effective website is only step one in the efforts of building an online image, though. If you cannot both be found through a good website and social media network profiles, you’ve likely lost business.
If you are still unsure if you need a website, it might be time to stop considering yourself an entrepreneur. You are not cut out for the digital age.
Your Website: When To Create or Redesign It
This answer depends on the history and needs of your brand. Generally, here are some reasons that you should create or redesign your website:
1. Start Ups
When it comes to the opening of your business, you cannot start this process without a decent online presence. Too many business owners decide to open first and then see about creating a site, but this is backwards. Do not fall into this dangerous line of thought. When you open a business, your prospects will want to research online for what they can find out about it. If you are not online, they are going to be far less interested in your restaurant.
2. Obsolete Sites
If you no longer respond to the needs of the user, or you cannot effectively communicate with them, redesign your website. Here are a couple of examples to help you:
- Want to add items (news, recipes, etc.) but you can’t.
- Your content is illegible on mobile devices.
- You try to search your restaurant on Google, and it is not in the first page results.
3. Inconsistency With Brand Identity
If the website you have is not copacetic with the image of the restaurant you run, it is time to rebuild it. Here are some common cases:
- You commissioned a new logo and graphics, but the website is not updated.
- You have restored your restaurant, changing interior design and colors, and your website still shows older pictures from your former style.
- Your website speaks to the wrong target audience for new market expansions.
Your Restaurant Website: Top 19 Must-Have Features/Characteristics
While every website will vary depending on its needs and customers, below you can find 19 top characteristics to include.
You cannot ignore how quickly the mobile world is expanding. A cool and trendy site is no longer enough to hook in customers. You need a fast and mobile friendly site that adjusts to all screens to really engage your audience.
It is more common these days to visit sites from mobile devices, so your page must also be accessible from the smallest of screens out there. This is especially true for restaurants, as people are often away from home when they research a place to eat.
2. No Special Effects
You are not a theme park or a nightclub, so you do not need unnecessary videos, background music and animations if they do not work with the restaurant’s image. A good website isn’t fireworks and noise, its quality information at a user’s fingertips.
3. Easy To Navigate
Usability is a top characteristic. Your site needs a good structure and a path users can follow to reach the information that they need.
4. Easy To Update
You are going to want to update your site all the time to keep people coming back to the site. Updating the site should be simple for even inexperienced users to do. In this case, the use of an easy-to-use CMS can simplify things across the board.
5. Quality Content
It might seem simple, but creating high quality content for your webpage is critical.
This content creation is not the job of your programmer. It needs to be done by a professional who can write for the web (which is very different than writing for print media).
Professionals for this job can design and produce original content to attract new and existing users to the site. They know how to write to maximize SEO potential, so that your page and content can rank highly in Google search results.
6. Content Readability
Writing great content is part of an effective strategy, but it doesn’t hold much value if no one wants to read it. We live in a time of “easy and immediately” where users engage only in actions that require the smallest of efforts.
To put this plainly, users do not want to read a wall of text. Paragraphs need to be well spaced out so that reading doesn’t appear so daunting to the user. Use subtitles, keywords and key phrases in bold type, bullets and numbered lists. Choose a font that is not difficult to read for extended periods of time as well.
7. Tempting Food Pictures
Pictures, as they say, are worth a thousand words. Photographing your food is not easy, so I would highly recommend you using a professional photographer unless you want to take the time to learn the tricks to quality food images. This picture can make all the difference, but a bad one can keep people from wanting to eat at your restaurant at all.
8. Easy To Read Menu
Menus are critical to the food business. You should strive for updated and modern menus, take the time to offer clear explanations that are easy to understand. This helps your customers decide.
Your menu should always be available to customers, especially if you offer delivery. How do you reach anyone who might want to look at this menu? Your website, of course. Publish and easy-to-read menu on the site accessible from any mobile device with the prices included.
9. Address, Contact Information, and Operating Hours
Losing a customer because they could not find out how to contact you or your address is a blatant foul in website design.
Not all visitors online have the patience to go from page to page and find your contact information. Keep it in the top left or right corner at the home page. You should also include information in the footer bar of the site to help visitors find you easily.
10. Testimonials and Reviews
Never underestimate the power of online reviews. Take some words from the mouths of those that have already enjoyed their experience at your restaurant and post them onto the site. People want to rely on other people to help them make a decision. If they are coming to your website, these reviews will help them make a decision to choose your food.
11. Social Media Profiles
The number of people engaging on social networking sites is increasing by the day, so shared content grows exponentially in kind. People spend hours every day on these websites, and they have become a path of communication and information sharing.
You can stay connected constantly through your smartphone or device and stay in constant communication with endless people. Your site is a good starting point to develop a relationship with customers engaging on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google Plus and more should be interfaced into your website so that visitors can navigate to your respective profile on the service they use.
12. Logo Clearly Visible
Your logo needs to be seen on the site, as this is a direct image to connect with your brand in someone’s mind. Make sure that it can clearly get seen when someone visits, and it signifies the characteristics of a memorable image.
13. Colors To Reflect Your Identity
You do not have to spend but a few seconds on McDonald’s website to know where you are. Their logo and respective colors are found all over the website. They didn’t vary dramatically from one color to the next, they use the same set of colors in every aspect of their site.
14. SEO Friendly
This is all about ranking in search engine results like Google. It is not an easy thing to do, even for the programmer you use. If it was simple, I would be a billionaire with his own island. It is time consuming and requires skilled expertise.
15. Web Analytics
It is a good practice to monitor movements of users who navigate your site. You can see the strategy you employ at work this way. It helps to determine what content is working and what isn’t, and that can dramatically change the success of your restaurant. Rely on professionals for this aspect of monitoring and software, such as HitMetrics (which is a popular choice in the food industry).
Speed is often overlooked in terms of effective website construction. How long does it take for certain pages to load? The faster the better, as this enhances the experience for the user. Ever been on a slow site? How long did it take you to navigate away from the page entirely? Site loading speed is also a factor Google uses to determine rankings for sites, so it is doubly important.
17. Web Hosting
It is good to exercise caution when choosing a host server. Make sure they are reliable. A good idea is to ask some questions on the phone and via email on the weekdays to see how quickly your question can get answered and how complete these answers are. They are the ones who have to help you when something goes wrong, you need to know you can depend on them. For example I’m using SiteGround.
18. Booking and Reservations
People love making reservations without having to call in. Utilize online table-booking software, which can provide you this information in real time as it happens. A good choice is theforkmanager.com.
19. Distinctive Information Section
If your chef or restaurant has earned praise or awards, use a section of your site to toot your own horn a bit. It’s good for business.
Bringing Potential Customers To Your Site
While you might have a clear idea now of what your site needs to be successful, it is time to figure out how to bring traffic to this site. You have to focus on boosting the visibility of your webpage to get hits.
How do you obtain this visibility? There are many, many ways.
You do not need to have this beautiful website to bring people to it. You need an effective and persuasive effort. Optimization for search engine ranking can aid you in converting your visitors into customers.
The most common sources for this exposure are Google and Facebook.
These two platforms are different in terms of how they actually work and the kind of traffic they can provide for you. The one thing they commonly share is that they are a wise investment that works effectively for their purpose.
To avoid the potential investing in the wrong approaches on these sites and wasting your money, I will talk briefly about how each one works.
How Does Google Work?
Anyone who has an issue they need an answer for, they look to Google. Their results are websites that offer solutions to the problem or question that you had.
You need to intercept this problem that potential customers have through the keywords that they will use to search it out on Google. This makes your choice of keywords essential when writing content and composing your website.
To be placed among the top results on Google, you need to have some ability with SEO, you have to put in the time and effort, and finally, you need a good strategy to pull it all together.
If someone were searching “how to prevent back pain” for instance, are not looking for the same information as someone searching “how to heal back pain”.
The first case are users that want to prevent back pain from happening to them again, as this is something they have already experienced. This would be a good niche for those selling mattresses.
The second situation is from the perspective of someone currently dealing with back pain. They are looking for medicine or a therapeutic approach to heal their back pain right now. Mattress sales would be off target for this need, so investing in this keyword would prove fruitless.
The keywords for which you rank require good traffic, and this plays a significant role in higher positioning on Google’s results. If no one searches for keyword combinations you choose, it does not matter if you are ranked first. No one is going to find your page.
How Does Facebook Work?
A Facebook page is very different from the use of Google.
Those with issues do not look to Facebook for answers. The primary unresolved problem that users of this social media site have is something called “latent demand”.
Yet, having a Facebook page for your restaurant is as important these days as having a working phone number.
So what does this actually mean?
It means that the user on Facebook might have suffered back pain in previous months, but is not concerned with this situation at the present time.
If a person believes there is no preventing or avoiding his/her problem, so they no longer actively seek answers.
Perhaps while they scroll through their feed, a user finds an eye-catching ad geared towards preventing back pains, they can remember instances of experiencing this back pain in the past and wanting to prevent it from happening again.
“Let’s see…two months ago I was laid up in bed with horrible back pain. Maybe this can ensure that it doesn’t happen a second time.”
So they see the ad, click on the ad, and then end up on your page. Your design, enticing and informative, works to ensure that they will call you.
Without the interception of their latent demand reflex on Facebook, you might never hook customers through this medium.
Designing A Restaurant Website In Just Seven Steps
No matter the size of your restaurant, the website communicates with customers. It must get developed following a consistent web design project. This does not just indicate graphic aspects, but also performance, usability and functionality.
This is not something that your “tech-savvy nephew” can do. If you believe it is the case, you are far from the right track.
You need a team of professionals to put a website that is attractive and effective.
For this particular reason, I would recommend that everone seeks out a website design and marketing company with a proven track record in the food industry. This is a process that is all about results, not just an attractive website. Let’s look at the 6 key steps to design a restaurant website alongside your marketing consultant:
You should sit around a table with the people of your web agency and set out a clear list of objectives for the site. This is where customers learn about our brand, vision and overall mission.
2. Project Draft
You need a company that will provide a first draft that addresses or answers these key factors:
- What are our objectives?
- How will we know the project succeeds?
- What features should a website have?
- Who is the target audience and how are they reached?
- Who will be on the project team?
- What deadlines are already in place?
- What is a budget investment you have to work with?
3. Competitor Analysis
You always want to have the right information to make decisions, and knowing competitor strengths and weaknesses are incredibly valuable. This allows a web agency to suggest approaches based on successes and exploit them for your own popularity.
4. Information Architecture
A digital consultant outlines a content map and the overall structure of your site. You can then set measurable objectives to monitor the performance of the site overall.
Once this architecture is approved, you can move on to the creation of the wireframe of your website. This is a guide to follow that shows how content gets arranged within the website’s frame.
6. Mockups and Prototypes
Graphic designers then create detailed graphical drafts, text and images. They will prove useful in conducting tests with your potential customer base.
If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to leave them down below. Feel free to share characteristics that you think a professional restaurant website should have.