No science classes here, I promise. This is a different kind of anatomy. Restaurant website anatomy.
(And, yes — right now we're specifically digging deep for restaurants, but if you own a food product, don't fret! We'll be talking about you next week in The Anatomy of a Successful Food Product Website.)
We're not talking about colors, logos or things that a creative team would handle. That's why this isn't called "designing a successful restaurant website." Today's about tactically placing information where it will perform the best. It's about where to put that reservation button so people click it more often. Today's about anatomy.
In this guide to building a better restaurant website, you'll learn:
- Why does my restaurant website matter?
- What information does my restaurant website need?
- Where should information in my restaurant website go?
- How often do I need to update my restaurant website?
- How do I get more traffic on my website once it's ready?
Why does my restaurant website matter?
If you've ever been involved in a restaurant opening in any capacity, you know how much time, sweat, energy and tears are put into the design process.
Last week, I grabbed drinks with the owners of LIVstudio (the creative brains behind some of the most beautiful restaurants in Denver) and we talked a lot about this. In most restaurants, the design isn't accidental. Everything — from the chairs underneath your butt to the cup in your hand — was carefully considered (and usually debated) by many passionate people. Not only that, but the WHERE things are (the bathrooms, the bar, etc.) are just as important as the color of the paint on the walls or the tile used to pave the entryway. You don't just need it to be beautiful, you need it to be functional too.
In the days of online EVERYTHING, people are likely searching your restaurant before they come. Fewer and fewer people are stumbling into dining decisions — now, they're researching them. Studies have shown that 85% of the people conducting these searches go on to make a purchasing decision, too.
Gone are the days of delivering the first impression at the hostess stand. The first impression is happening before they even enter the building. It's happening online, hopefully on your website.
Where should I host my restaurant website?
I don't want to spend too much time convincing you that you need a restaurant website. To be frank, if we're stuck on that point of the conversation, I don't know how much I can help you join the 21st century.
But, what's more helpful, is where to host your restaurant website.
If you don't hire out web services, it is possible to DIY. While most seasoned web developers may custom build your site or use more customizable platforms like Wordpress, I point all of my DIY clients to Squarespace. They even have a dedicated section for restaurants — showing you successful examples in the space and pointing out industry-specific capabilities it has, including Open Table integration, easy-to-edit online menu templates and more. Read up on that here.
Bottom line, whatever you use, it's got to be mobile-phone friendly. That's where most of the searching is happening.
What information does my restaurant website need? Where should it go?
This is where things start to go south on many websites I see. You know how newspapers have all of the most important news of the day "above the fold?" That's what we're trying to do with your website. Consider the example above.
All of the important actions you want a visitor to make are at the top, front and center — ABOUT, RESERVATIONS, MENU, PRIVATE DINING, GIFTS, BLOG. I don't even have to scroll to find them.
Here's what every restaurant website should have "above the scroll":
a link to learn more about you (about page)
We'll dig into this another day, but your about page should include more than a cutesy story of how you got started. That is important, but, more importantly, people want tactical information — where to park? Is there valet? Are you connected with other restaurants? What are your hours?
- a link to make reservations & contact you (contact + reserve page(s))
- bonus if you don't even have to click to get to the phone number
- a link to your menu
- ALL OF THEM. And, try to keep this as up-to-date as possible. If you know you can't stay on top of it, set expectations accordingly. The disclaimer, "menu is subject to change" goes a long way. PDFs don't work well on phones, I highly suggest adding menus into the body of your site.
Those are the big ones. Further down, we weave in...
killer food photography
a link to your social media accounts and/or email sign up
- miscellaneous — any other programs your restaurant has that you'd like to boast. Private dining? Gift cards? Sourcing? Skies the limit!
How often do I need to update my restaurant website?
This one's simple. As often as information changes. Hospitality is about anticipating someone's needs before they're spoken. Giving someone false or out-of-date information before they've even stepped into the restaurant is hurting your business in the long-run.
Obviously, if your restaurant is more seasonally driven, the menu may change frequently. I'm not saying you need to update it every. single. day., but even monthly (with the disclaimer!) goes a long way. People who want to "keep the mystery" won't be looking for it anyways - you can preserve that for people who crave it.
How do I get more traffic on my website once it's ready?
Obviously, people are going to visit your restaurant's website when they're searching for somewhere to eat, BUT what if you had them coming back regularly? What if you could stay top of mind all the time? It's possible, but you'll need to blog. And that's a story for another day. (Hint: in 2 weeks). (And no, we didn't forget about SEO. It's coming too.)