12 Tips for a Great Restaurant Website Design

12 Tips for a Great Restaurant Website Design

Making your restaurant website stand out from those posted by competitors is essential to expand your business in a competitive market. To grab the attention of curious browsers and turn them into regular customers, you need to include some creative & informative features on your site. 

We offer a dozen tips to make your site truly stand head-and-shoulders above the competition.

1. Understand Why Visitors View Your Website

Before posting your first word or photo, consider why customers would look at your site & target those individuals. They’ll usually fall into one of three categories:

  1. New patrons from out of town
  2. New local patrons
  3. Returning customers

When building your online presence, think about the needs of those groups. They will look something like this:

First-time customers are shopping for a place to eat before they head to your restaurant. Whether they are local or out-of-towners, they’re comparing your website to other restaurant websites in town before making a decision to head to the place that sounds best.

If they’re a tourist, they’re likely on a mobile device in a hotel room. That means you must have a responsive, mobile-friendly site to earn their business. Local patrons new to the area may be looking on a laptop or office computer, but they are seeking the same information. That means your website is a vital piece of your marketing strategy in mobile form or otherwise.

A returning customer will probably be seeking the fastest path to a menu to place an online order for takeout or delivery. Visitors also will be looking to make a reservation or confirm directions to your location. Make sure your links to contact information, directions, phone number & menu are quickly accessible and not buried behind multiple clicks.

2. Pretend the Website User is Visiting a Physical Space

Restaurant owners understand the importance of atmosphere in their physical location. You want clean tables, nice lighting, and a welcoming atmosphere to attract customers. The same premise applies to your website.

When someone lands on your website, they’re visiting your virtual space and they will judge the quality of your food, location, and service based on what they see. Your website is a customer’s first impression of your entire business. Make sure it is a positive one! You will have a competitive advantage over peers when you do.

3. Use Professional Photography

High-quality photography is the best tool in your digital marketing arsenal. Do not cut costs in this area or you will regret it. Instead, hire someone to create sharp, clear, professional images that showcase your atmosphere, food, staff, prices, and style.

Put a large photo up front on the homepage, ideally as the background image. Add the strongest imagery first, then continue with more images lower on the page. The best restaurant websites highlight multiple subjects (street level, interior, plating, chefs) because each element appeals to different types of customers. 

If you have a cute storefront in a nice area of town, don’t be afraid to show that off. If your restaurant looks best on the inside, use an interior shot. If your space isn’t the best looking but your food is beautiful, lead with your entrees instead. If you have a charming staff and a nice kitchen, feature behind-the-scenes shots. Add videos when appropriate, but don't have a video just to have a video! Opt for the highest quality visuals, whether they are videos or still images.

Taking professional photos of food doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. You can build a lightbox by using cardboard and tissue paper. Put food in the lightbox before taking images on a smartphone camera for incredible results. 

4. Write a Clear Message About Your Food

A clear message about your restaurant's food speaks to customers and is important for search engine optimization. Different people respond to different types of information. While high-quality images appeal to most visitors, you can't neglect readers. Having both visual and text information will engage both sides of the brain and leave the strongest impression.

Make sure you announce what type of restaurant you are clearly on the homepage. If you’re a Thai place, write Authentic Thai Cuisine in a large font right on top of your intro image. You have less than 5 seconds to capture a user's attention. If you can get them to see a beautiful image and read We Make Tacos, your website will drive sales. For an example check out the site for Biscuit Head.

5. Use Multiple Appeals to Customers

In the body of the homepage (below the intro), add detailed information about your restaurant. Follow the advertising principle of multiple types of appeals. Be sure to appeal to:

  • Utility - Some people respond most to speed of service or price of a meal
  • Emotion - Is your food ethically or locally sourced?
  • Prestige - Has your food been recognized for awards? 

Ideally, you should use multiple types of appeal within the body of the website to resonate with different personalities.

6. Show Your Human Side

Authenticity is essential in today's advertising. That is in response to all the fake, shallow, brand identities from the last 10 years. Make users understand how your restaurant started and what it special.

Feature your story in an "About Us" section that talks about things like:

  • When you were founded
  • Where your food comes from
  • How it’s prepared
  • Where you got inspiration for your menu
  • Who your head chef is
  • Who the core team is

Providing more details will differentiate you from your competition. For inspiration, see Chai Pani's "About" section.

7. Refine Your Menu's Usability

Menu usability is critical. Your menu ranks behind only your homepage in website importance. A good menu is responsive, usable, and enticing. While there are several good ideas involved in creating an online menu, there two critical mistakes you absolutely must avoid:

  • Never Upload Your Physical Menu as an Image or File: This will alienate mobile device users. It slows the download process because dragging/panning around a document to try and read it is difficult & frustration. Even more important, this approach will damage search engine rankings because the text is not readable by crawler robots. To maximize the impact of your menu, always re-type your menu into your website so the text can scale, move, resize, and be parsed by search engines.
  • Never separate parts of your menu in tabs or bury it behind a click: If a user has to click to see Sandwiches, then click again to see Appetizers, then click back to see Sandwiches again, it is frustrating. And it's never good to frustrate customers. Instead, your entire menu should be visible on one page without additional clicks (scrolling is fine and expected). This is crucial on mobile devices because clicking is slower than scrolling. 

8. Use Photos in Your Menu

Even if you do not use photos in your physical menu for in-house diners, using them online can provide a huge competitive advantage. When appraising a restaurant, guests commonly look at other diners' plates to see if the food “looks good” before committing to an order. Do what you can to simulate this real-world process online by providing mouth-watering photos of your entrees. 

9. Clearly Display Your Hours & Location

The ultimate goal of your website is to increase phone calls and visits. These are the actions you want users to take, so don’t bury them behind a click or on a special page. Make sure your restaurant name, address, and phone number is prominently displayed at all times. Bonus points if you link the address to google maps and the phone number to a special tel link so users can call or get directions in a single click by hitting something like 111-2222.

10. Track Your Walk-in Visitors

How do you know if your website is performing and actually generating sales? This is difficult for a restaurant since your conversion is usually foot traffic or a phone call. Tracking walk-ins is impossible, and call tracking is prohibitively expensive for small businesses. At the very least, make sure you implement Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools for the following reasons:

  • Google Analytics will tell you bounce rate, time on site, and click-through-rate. All three are good indicators of success. A low bounce rate (below 70%) means that users don’t immediately go “back” when they arrive. A high time on site (above 20 seconds) shows you’re grabbing visitors' attention. If users are clicking through from your homepage to your menu, that’s even better!
  • Webmaster Tools can tell you which keywords users entered into Google to find your website, and how you rank for those keywords compared to your competition. This information can help you refine your message to get more visitors from high-value keywords. For example, if people more frequently search for “Asian Cuisine” instead of “Chinese Food,” then refining your content to align with “Asian Cuisine” will help you rank higher and generate more traffic, which generates more business.

11. Set Up Social Media Profiles

Making sure your business is properly represented on multiple social networks will boost sales and help you organically rank higher in Google search results. Some suggestions to maximize your efforts: 

  1. Make sure your Facebook, Yelp, Google+, Foursquare, and Twitter are all branded and showcase the same high-quality content that your website does.
  2. Post frequently so that customers have the incentive to follow you.
  3. Don’t forget to link all social sites back to your website!

12. Hire a Professional Web Design Agency

A professional web design agency can carry your design from concept to completion. A website is the most vital component of any modern marketing campaign, so making sure it's done right from the beginning is crucial to success.