All restaurant websites are not created equal. For your business to be successful, your website must stand out in an era when almost 90% of diners search online before making a reservation.
That can be a challenge, but we're here to offer tips that will allow you to avoid self-inflicted wounds that have cost other restaurant owners dearly in the past.
First and foremost: Rember that your restaurant’s website is the digital front door to your business. Just like the front door of your actual home, it will make a lasting first impression on visitors, for the good or the bad. You need it to be a good one, but evaluating your website on your own can be difficult if you don't have experience in website optimization.
There are several common website mistakes that restaurant owners make and may not even realize. We’ve outlined some of the major ones in this post to help you avoid the same pitfalls:
Two statistics leap to mind in regard to the importance of a mobile-friendly site for your restaurant. Based on a recent study, OpenTable reports that 89% of guests search for a restaurant online before dining out. However, more than 50% of potential diners do their restaurant searches on mobile devices, according to Bento Box.
That means at least half of all your customers visit your website through a phone or tablet. You must make it easy for them to find important information like your contact information, location, hours, and reservation options. If your site that is not mobile friendly, it diminishes guests’ experience online and limits your list of potential customers.
Another common website mistake for restaurants is the use of PDF menus. Not only does listing your menu in this format take much longer to load, but it offers a poor viewing experience. Because PDFs are not responsive on a mobile device, they do not resize images to fit the dimensions of a mobile device's screen. That makes them difficult to read, with fuzzy images that frustrate potential customers.
PDF menus also are not optimized for SEO, which means that search engines can’t “read” them. This creates a HUGE missed opportunity for your menu items to rank as search results and help you climb to the first page of "restaurants near me" searches.
In order to avoid all the pitfalls of PDF menus, format your online menus with texted-based HTML. Because the HTML is coded into your website, it will load much faster and optimize your opportunity to rank in local Google searches. It also offers your guest an infinitely better user experience, which helps create new customers.
Researchers at BentoBox have found that location and contact information are two of the top five reasons that guests visit restaurant websites. These elements include key information like address, phone number and hours.
If you don't make it easy for guests to find this information on your website, you’re making another common mistake -- and a major one. All location and contact info should be one click or less away, either listed clearly on your website’s homepage or anchored in the navigation bar so your guests can quickly find what they need.
If you have more than one location, you can take it a step further by providing a store locator on your location page. This means formatting your location page with an intuitive map view of all your locations and providing search options within that page.
If your restaurant accepts reservations, you'll want to list that information clearly and prominently. The opportunity to make a reservation is another top-5 reason why guests visit a restaurant website.
Making a reservations link difficult to find, or omitting it entirely, is a sure way to losing opportunities to get guests through your doors. In Toast's 2017 Restaurant Technology Report, researchers found that 83% of diners say online reservations are very important to their dining experience. Make reservations part of your main website navigation, or accessible from every page to make it that much simpler for your website visitors.
If your restaurant offers private events or catering, the inquiry forms not on your website for those areas of your business must be prominent, working, and easy to access. This is another common mistake in restaurant websites.
Guests aren’t just looking to restaurants for dining[in options anymore. A survey by the National Restaurant Association showed an estimated 70% of all restaurant transactions will be from off-premise sales by 2020. This includes setting up private events or catering options.
Additionally, BentoBox estimates that the demand for catering triples during the holiday season. Having an inquiry form on your website allows guests to contact you directly about their catering or event needs.
While these are some of the most common website mistakes, there are other ways you can improve your online presence with your website. The list includes:
Rather than researching and evaluating options on your own, there are some great tools available to help you understand how your website is performing online, and where it needs to improve. We recommend getting started with BentoBox’s Restaurant Website Report, a website grader made specifically for restaurants.