Best Practices for Restaurant Websites

published February 16, 2015

If you’re a restaurant owner you probably want to know how people are finding out about your place, and how you can bring some of those people in. You have a site and a Facebook page. You might have even created an account on Twitter and Instagram. You post, but you can’t tell if any of it is getting you anywhere. Maybe it seems like Yelp has things locked up, so why bother too much with everything else? Yelp is definitely important, but your site can be more than a place to post your menu.

An agency I often work with did a survey and discovered savvy foodies get at least 2 sources of information before they make a choice. Whether the potential customer asks a friend or checks you out first on Yelp, the second thing they most probably do is to look at your website. If your site is appetizing, they figure it’s a safe bet your food might be too.

10 things to keep in mind about your site

  1. The majority of people are viewing your site on a phone. If it doesn’t load quickly, or isn’t easy to read on a small screen, you just lost a potential customer. That means your site should be responsive, it adjusts its look and functionality based on the width of the device being used to view it.
  2. Most people don’t want to download a menu in pdf. They want to view it quickly on the site. They’re scanning for items that interest them so the quality of the descriptions, like the food itself, should be spot on. If you can’t write a menu that sounds as good as your food tastes it’s worth it to hire someone who can.
  3. Your physical address. On. Every. Page. Put it in the header or the footer. Anything on your site might be the thing that makes the decision to dine happen. Don’t make a potential customer search for your location, because they probably won’t.
  4. Have high quality photographs of your food or don’t bother. If the best you can do is a blurry snapshot from your smartphone, skip it. You don’t need to hire a photographer (although if you have the budget, go for it). Invest in a Digital SLR and a fixed 50mm lens. With the automatic settings in virtually any light you’ll take close ups of your food that make you hungry.
  5. Don’t have music, videos, or cartoon animations on your site. These elements seemed clever years ago and are now near-universally hated. Remember #1 from this list. What would you do if you were looking for information on your cellular connection and a bandwidth-gobbling audio-video element of a site prevented it from loading? You’d leave the page. That’s what your customers are doing too.
  6. Keep it simple. The same way you want your address on every page you want your menu, your hours, and who you are to be easy to find. If it’s not immediately apparent where that stuff is, you just lost customers. Don’t make them play Where’s Waldo.
  7. Update your site regularly. Does your menu change frequently? Do you have daily specials? If you care enough to have current information on your site people will choose your restaurant over some other guy’s site that looks like it hasn’t seen a tweak in years.
  8. Have a site that any of your employees could maintain. If you have to call your web admin to change something, or you have to do it yourself, you need a new site on a dead-simple content management system like WordPress. That way instead of having everybody folding napkins or polishing the brass during downtime you can have someone providing the outside world with current information. You’ve got better things to do than correct typos and change the specials board.
  9. Engage your audience. They may go to Yelp to review your restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t interact with your customers. Have a contact form on your site and invite people to share their experiences or menu ideas. Make sure your site clearly links back to your Facebook Page and Twitter Feed. What? Your restaurant isn’t on Facebook and Twitter? Why don’t we just go in the back now and set some money on fire?
  10. Be Yourself. We’re well beyond The Age Of information. So much information is out there on everything and everybody that any affectation is going to sour a significant number of your potential customers. Don’t try to be like someplace else. Look around at your people and your grub, what do you love about what you see? If you communicate your passion about those things you’ll get people interested in your restaurant.

Hope this list was helpful. If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.

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