Restaurant Website Tips: A Style Guide
At this point, there’s little debate as to whether or not your restaurant needs a website. It undoubtedly does! However, knowing what to put on there, how much and in what way, can be tricky. Customers have diverse needs and preferences, and different restaurants will want to emphasize different things. No matter what type of establishment you operate, follow these restaurant website tips to create a site your visitors will love and will drive traffic your way.
Know Your Audience
In many cases, your website will be the first interaction a guest has with your restaurant. As such, it’s important to understand your target audience and what they’re most likely to do with your website. Will they want to make reservations online? Check the menu? Find the location or seek out contact option? Remember that different types of restaurants attract different kinds of customers. A boutique-style mom and pop will use different verbiage than a multi-site chain. Before making anything, know your audience.
Know Your Resources
No matter your experience level or preference, there’s a website option for you. Drag n’ drop style services like Wix and Squarespace take the stress out of coding and design and give you the freedom to change things up on a dime. You can also outsource to a professional web developer, but do your research. Will they help with support if something goes wrong? Remember to provide them plenty of creative direction as well. It may help to seek out existing restaurant websites that you’d like to emulate.
2. Style Tips
It’s your website, so get YOUR brand on it! Use your brand colors, your logo, and your verbiage to give your site some personality. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here; it’s okay to use a generic template. Just make sure your brand is prominently on display.
Be judicious with color choices. Obviously, your brand colors will help dictate this decision somewhat. You’ll notice the most common color schemes used in restaurant websites tends to be brown (symbolizes stability and tradition), red (expresses passion), black (symbolizes power) and white (freshness and purity). Don’t use too many different colors on your website, because it can overpower the design.
Generally, “simple and uncluttered” is the way to go. Use ample blank space, so users know where to focus, have a simple sitemap, and use clean, minimal layouts for easy functionality. Should you feel stuck, “minimalist web design” is a natural topic to search and research, by merely observing different websites.
3. Content (Beginner)
Once you’ve keyed into your audience, your brand and the overall aesthetic of your website, it’s time to talk about the content. This section deals with the content your site needs to be genuinely useful. In other words: if your website doesn’t have this material, it’s not ready to go live!
Your website must have:
- An “About Us” Page: Don’t be generic here, in many ways this is your one opportunity to stand out and tell your story. We’ve seen some incredible “about us” pages in our research, and it’s a topic worthy of a separate article. You don’t have to go all out if it’s not on-brand, but you need to have something there.
- Contact info: It goes without saying, but if a customer Googles you (very likely!), they’re going to want to be able to find contact info quickly and easily. Don’t make them dig for it.
- Street Address and Map: Same as above. Make it easy for them to find you.
- Social Media Links: Your site may be the first contact a guest has with your business, but that continued engagement happens on social media. If you’ve got a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, provide some social links along the bottom.
- Your Menu: How you choose to include it is up to you but cross-check it with your on-site menu to make sure it’s correct. If there are seasonal items or menu changes, make sure you’re prepared to include them on the website. As discussed in our article on Menu Design, if you cannot get professional food photography, don’t settle for less. Written and illustrated menu content is perfectly acceptable.
- Photos: Where applicable, try to provide at least one picture of your restaurant, even if it’s just a photo of the building from outside. Guests visiting your website want to get an idea of what you’re about, so give them that window. You can include a gallery, but try and get as close to professional photography as you can.
4. Content – (Advanced)
The preceding section outlines the content you “must-have,” while this section takes that principle a step further. Websites give you the chance to “own” your brand and tell the story from your perspective when someone searches your name. Your mileage may vary with this material, but if you’ve got the bandwidth, here are some additions your customers will love and will make your website tip-top.
Your website should have:
- A Press Page: Use this as an opportunity to showcase any applicable press, news articles or stories about your restaurant. Remember, it’s not bragging if someone else is saying complimentary things about you.
- Reviews and Testimonials: Naturally, customers will review your business on Yelp (or an equivalent). These testimonial pages give you the chance to curate those good reviews and leverage some social proof on your website.
- Promotional and Seasonal Events: Proactive restaurant owners will provide upcoming events and promotional specials going happening in their restaurant. Only include these pages if you can keep them current.
5. Nuts and Bolts
With your content in place, you need to consider a few of the functional features of your website to make it as successful as possible.
For an extra useful restaurant website, include:
- SEO optimized content: You want to ensure that customers can find your website when they search for it. As such, following a good best practices list (Like our article on successful Restaurant SEO ) will help. General things like ensuring your site is mobile-friendly, and that its content (however sparse) reads clearly, will help your site get “crawled” and subsequently indexed for web searches.
- An easy-to-Locate Contact form: A good rule of thumb is to ensure that any user can find what they’re looking for within 15-20 seconds of visiting the site, and many will be searching for this first. Place it in a prominent location, or somewhere easy to find on the nav-bar. Don’t make users dig endlessly for it!
- A clear, distinctive domain name: According to Broadband Search, your domain name is essentially whatever exists between “HTTP://” and the first slash (“/”) or your URL. In this case, the domain is QSRAutomations.com. You want to keep your domain name short and relevant to your restaurant, ideally containing your restaurant name. In some cases though, especially with more common words, you might have to be creative. Here’s a good guide on domain names, and how to choose the ideal one.
- An online order widget: Off-Premise Dining is on the rise, and will only become more commonplace in the coming years. Preparing your restaurant with online order capability, as well as automated technology like a good Kitchen Display System that can integrate with your POS and guest management tools, will help in managing the dual streams of traffic.
6. What to Avoid
Finally, here are the general “don’ts” of Restaurant website design. As mentioned earlier, clean and uncluttered should be your modus operandi.
For a successful restaurant website, avoid:
- Music or videos that Autoplay: They’re outdated and more likely to annoy visitors than anything else. Plus, they slow down loading times.
- Walls of Text: Section your content out so that it doesn’t read in one big block. It’s overwhelming to understand, and most visitors will just ignore it and leave the site.
- Splash Pages: These heavily branded pages act like a “welcome page” through which a user must click to enter your site. At one time, they were very much in-vogue for businesses, but in modernity, they’re a needless extra step for the user to go through. Users may appreciate a splash page on their first visit but will find them tedious on all subsequent visits. Make it easy for them to access you, and ditch anything which complicates that.
- Image-Only content: Use images on your website (see above for best practices) but ensure you accompany them with text. A web crawler cannot always accurately index an image If your menu is an image, consider embedding it a PDF file so search engines can still crawl them.
Like your restaurant, your website is a unique endeavor, your opportunity to show the world what you have to offer. With these restaurant website tips, some attention to content and the user experience in mind, you’ll craft a site that looks great and drives regular traffic to your business.
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About the Author
Dylan Chadwick was a Content Marketing Specialist at QSR Automations. He graduated from Brigham Young University with an English degree and journalism focus and loves to write about technology. When left to his own devices, he enjoys loud music, adorable dogs and documentaries about the aforementioned.