A great restaurant website will help you attract new customers, maintain loyal ones, and raise the overall profile of your business online. But how do you put together a great website when you, as the restaurant owner/operator, are busy with other critical, day-to-day duties?
First and foremost: Building a top-notch restaurant website doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or difficult task. There are standard elements you can build into your website to share the most important information with your frequent and potential guests.
To give you examples of how to do it right, we have borrowed 12 terrific templates to follow from Toast's 50 best restaurant websites. This Dazzling Dozen addresses the very best when it comes to best practices in creating restaurant websites. The list of essential tips to remember includes:
Example: Acorn (Denver, CO)
Most guests head to your website to grab basic information: your address, hours, and a way to contact you. Don’t make it difficult for them. Put it front and center, as Acorn does on their website. No scrolling is necessary. Their basic information is displayed clearly at the top-left of the page.
Example: Parachute (Chicago, IL)
Once prospective diners know where to find your restaurant, the most important consideration is what to eat when they get there. They want to see your menu and you should make it easy to find and browse. For best results, this will be in webpage format so that it’s easy to click around and search menu items. But you should include a PDF of your latest menus. Parachute in Chicago, IL has a simple, beautiful website that makes it extremely easy to find the menu. Just scroll down, and there it is!
Example: Mei Mei Street Kitchen (Boston, MA)
The more content you include on your website, the more opportunities you have to attract and engage guests online. Boston's Mei Mei Street Kitchen does a great job of this by including information about their restaurant and food truck. They also feature content about their local and sustainable approach; links to recent press clippings & reviews; and a blog area where they post about their food, events, and more. A blog is a great way to keep customers engaged between visits.
Example: Upper Crust Pizzeria (Multiple Cities)
Online ordering already is popular and continues to increase in volume across the industry on a daily basis. If you don’t offer online ordering - for takeout and/or delivery - you may be missing out on a huge additional revenue stream. If you do offer online ordering, make sure it is easy for customers to find it on your website! Because most online ordering sites charge large per-order fees, it is best to have a customer order online, straight from you. Upper Crust Pizzeria, like many pizzerias, does a lot of business via online orders. They prominently display a button at the top of their website to let visitors easily place an order with them. Other sites choose to provide links to whichever online ordering sites they use to dispatch food to customers' homes.
Example: Old Lady Gang (Atlanta, GA)
If your restaurant takes reservations, make it easy for diners to do that on your website instead of placing phone calls. Old Lady Gang in Atlanta, GA puts a reservations form right at the center of their homepage. This way, their guests can easily see what times are available without having to talk to a host that's trying to hear them over the din of the restaurant.
Example: Costa Vida (Multiple Cities)
Loyalty programs were created to help restaurants reward their best customers and encourage repeat visits. Consumers estimate a restaurant loyalty program would increase their visit rate to a restaurant by an average of 35%, and when a customer is about to unlock their loyalty reward, they spend 39% more on average. If you have a loyalty program, don't rely on punch cards. Instead, make it easy for customers to check their status online. Costa Vida does this beautifully through the “Rewards” section of their website.
Example: Olympia Oyster Bar (Portland, OR)
Many restaurants run special events throughout the week, like Trivia Tuesdays or afternoon Happy Hours, to keep customers coming back at specific, low-traffic, times. This is great content to add to your website to let new guests know about the unique, recurring activities at your establishment. Olympia Oyster Bar in Portland, OR has an Upcoming Events section up top, and if you scroll down, you'll find their Weekly Happenings section as well as more information about their events.
Example: Lucha Libre Taco Shop (San Diego, CA)
If you sell merchandise and/or gift cards in-store, why not also sell them on your website? Lucha Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, CA has a bright-blue button for "Lucha Gear" on their homepage, and if you scroll down, you find a button for e-gift cards. If you make it easy for your customers to buy gift cards or merchandise, they'll be more likely to think of you next time they need to buy a present! Also, offering merchandise creates awareness around your restaurant; your customers will be vouching for your brand in everyday life.
Example: Dutch’s (Portland, ME)
Social media is one of the best ways to engage with your customers and share photos and updates from your restaurant. Be sure to link to your social accounts right from your website (and vice versa), and even include a feed of your recent updates and photos. It's a great way to add more interesting local content to your website! Dutch’s in Portland, ME has a big section of their homepage dedicated to their Instagram account, and they also link to a bigger gallery of photos they’ve taken at the restaurant.
Example: SusieCakes (Multiple Cities)
Many of your visitors will be checking out your website from their smartphones. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and looks good from a phone; otherwise, you risk missing out on a lot of great customers. SusieCakes does a good job of this on its mobile site.
Example: Smith & Wollensky (Multiple Cities)
Turn your anonymous visitors into guests you can email by collecting email addresses on your website. Some restaurants, like Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse, have an email signup link. Others use pop-ups when landing on the website. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure you have a good reason for someone to give you their email address. Ideas include notifications about upcoming events, exclusive promotions, menu specials, or even fun updates from the staff.
Example: Marlowe (San Francisco, CA)
When diners or media outlets praise your food and service, be sure to let everyone know. Highlight press quotes and customer reviews right on your website to make it more appealing to visitors. The website for Marlowe, in San Francisco, shows off their many accolades on their homepage, while other restaurant websites choose to create a separate page for recent press clippings & reviews.