One of the most important branding tools that a restaurant developer has is a website. For many diners, the website will serve as the first point of contact with the restaurant, and if it looks dated or fails to offer relevant information, people may choose to eat elsewhere. In an increasingly digital world, restaurant developers need to recognize the importance of investing in quality web designers who can create a clean, modern, easy-to-use site for potential diners. In addition, it is important to keep the website regularly updated, not only to reflect changes to the menu, but also to keep up with the latest web design standards. For example, many restaurant websites continue to play background music, which will instantly turn many potential customers away, because this is a very dated feature.
Below are some of the key points to keep in mind for restaurateurs seeking to create a winning website for their establishment.
1. Content is key.
As with any website, clear and engaging content will pull individuals in and keep them reading. The About page needs a well written story that reflects the restaurant’s brand and vision. It should also highlight important members of the staff. A page that includes the restaurant’s address, contact information, hours of operation, and perhaps an embedded Google Map or written directions is also necessary.
In addition, it’s important to create a page dedicated to the current menu, and to keep it updated. People shouldn’t see last year’s Christmas specials still listed on the page in April. Many restaurants only upload scanned PDFs of their menus, rather than building an actual page that lists the current dishes. This can be frustrating for users—no one wants to go through the extra step of downloading a document just to get basic information that should be clearly presented on the page.
To engage with customers, restaurant developers should also consider creating a blog on the site that allows staff to write about the history of the restaurant, highlight specific dishes, announce new menu items, and offer other engaging content. Such a blog appeals to both readers and Google’s search algorithms.
2. Link the website with social media.
Many social media websites have grown into important tools for connecting with current and future customers, as well as marketing a restaurant. A restaurant’s website should link to all its major social media accounts, from Facebook to Instagram. All of these networks have tools for embedding links, and designers should avoid pop-ups or any other sort of “in-your-face” advertising that can detract from the user experience. Give visitors the opportunity to go to the Facebook account and “like” it if they are impressed by the website, as well as the tools needed to share content, including menus, pictures, and blog posts on their own accounts. Nothing more than a simple button is required for encouraging shares.
Some social networks may demand a greater degree of integration, such as booking services like OpenTable. If restaurants use OpenTable or a similar service to make reservations, this should have its own page that is clearly designated in the website’s navigation menu. Many people come to the website with the intention of booking a table, so it’s critical to make this easy to do. In addition, restaurants should also give other options for making a reservation, such as a phone number or an email address.
3. Make intelligent use of color.
Visuals are an important part of any website. When potential diners visit the restaurant’s website, they will expect to see attractive pictures of the food, as well as the dining area. People want to picture what it will be like to sit down at the restaurant, from the décor to the food and drink in front of them. It makes sense to hire a skilled professional photographer to take photos of the restaurant and all signature dishes and drinks. The colors of the photo should pop and make people excited to visit. Usually this means that the photos should be edited so the colors are bright and alluring.
The use of color also applies to the overall look of the website. The choice of background color will largely tie into the restaurant’s brand, but the color should also work well with the photos of the food and drink displayed. A popular choice today is the black background. While black certainly does make colorful photos pop, the choice also suggests something about the restaurant’s brand that may or may not be accurate. Restaurant developers should not be afraid of using bright colors, which can actually appeal to diners more than black. Ideally, the colors should be inspired by or complement the food photos. Restaurateurs should also consider the value of textures on a website. While light brown and tan are neutral colors that could be considered boring, similarly colored wood grain or burlap textures can make the website more engaging and appealing, especially for those restaurants that want to cultivate a more rustic or natural aesthetic.