7 key tips for building a restaurant website
posted on 30th Jul 2018 by David Jordan
Neworld have developed quite a few restaurant websites over the years and we’ve learned a thing or two about how to create effective and engaging sites that help build loyal customers and drive bookings. Here are a few key tips we’d recommend you keep in mind when it comes to building or updating your own site.
It might seem obvious to say that your website should be strongly branded and of course have an appealing and distinct brand identity. But your site needs to do more than simply display your brand – it needs to really reflect the identity and personality of your restaurant and all it has to offer.
It should not look like a generic website interface that could have any restaurant logo inserted into it. The website should be a digital extension of the real world positive experience of dining out at your restaurant.
Just because it’s a cliché to say that “a picture is worth a thousand words” it doesn’t mean that it’s not true and it is certainly true for restaurant websites. It really pays to invest in high level professional photography to get great shots of your best dishes. If quality food is a core part of your offering (and I assume it is) then food styling needs to be at a level to tease discerning taste buds. Don’t forget to share on Instagram and your social channels.
In addition to food shots it’s also really important to show your interiors and ideally your staff at their best. A few ‘smart phone’ shots will not only not do justice to your restaurant but will likely discourage potential customers. However don’t go too far and create a fantasy idealised version that creates disappointment when a customer walks in your door before they’ve even had a chance to experience the ambience, service and food.
Video can also be used to bring the experience of your restaurant to life and show your staff in action. Large background video loops are the current trend and can be ok once they’re used sparingly. But whatever you do, don’t set audio to play by default.
M&S have set the benchmark for sumptuous food photography.
Ideally menus should be displayed in a text format within web pages that can easily be shared, printed or bookmarked to be found again. However in the real world, restaurant staff are not ideal website administrators and they don’t have time to edit online menus themselves.
It is therefore an acceptable compromise to display links to PDF versions of print menus, once you ensure they are suitable to be viewed online, i.e. the text is large enough to be read on a mobile screen, no crop marks are shown, and any blank pages (the equivalent of the inside cover of the printed menu) are removed from the online PDF version.
Do include menu variants (like wine and cocktails) and deals (like pre-theatre), keep them up to date and use your social media accounts to share them when you put them online.
4. Content & copywriting
Your website does not need to be very text heavy but it is still important to include copy that explains your ethos and what you stand for. Are you a family friendly neighbourhood bistro or high end exclusive eatery, what’s your origin story, who is your chef and key staff, where are you located, are there any events happening this week? Think what your potential customers might want to know and answer those questions.
Text will help tell your brand story and also contribute to your search engine profile which in turn will dictate how easy it is to find your website online.
As with sourcing images do get professional help. A copywriter can write your copy or polish your text to ensure it has a consistent tone of voice and works as a marketing tool to really sell your restaurant.
The majority of restaurant bookings now originate online and if you have set up your account with a restaurant booking engine provider then also remember to make it easy for your website visitors to find your booking link. You don’t necessarily need to include the booking form on the homepage but do ensure they can clearly see the booking link. Also provide your customers with alternative ways to contact you – don’t hide your phone number or social media links.
If you are lucky enough to be a flavour of the moment, tyre manufacturer starred restaurant that can afford to turn away daily bookings and only opens reservations for short periods of time, then make sure your booking system can handle short periods of very busy activity.
6. Reviews & Testimonials
Hopefully you’ve received lots of good reviews so don’t be afraid to share them. People love reading reviews. Also if you have testimonials from whatever source whether provided directly or on social media then why not setup a dedicated testimonials page.
Awards can also be included but beware of cluttering your footer with logos of organisations that your customers have never heard of and which in reality only help promote them and not your restaurant.
7. Social integration
The social media revolution has made it easy to keep in touch and directly communicate with your customers. Your site should be the the centre of an ecosystem of social media activity driving traffic to your menus and booking system.
Email newsletters aren’t as trendy as more recent social activity but are very effective as a means to regularly communicate with restaurant customers who in our experience really respond to newsletters more than most other B2C sectors. Platforms such as Campaign Monitor take the grief out of building and sending newsletters and make it easy to manage subscribers in a GDPR friendly way. If you can build up a subscriber list of loyal customers you will have an opportunity to regularly promote the restaurant and highlight deals, new offerings and special offers.
The benefit of websites is that they can evolve and be updated to respond to your marketing needs and audience requirements. But if you plan your site structure in advance of production it will help streamline the build and help ensure you end up with an effective marketing led website from the start.
Having your own bespoke website is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors and produce a living, breathing representation of what your restaurant does best.
You will need to invest in your website to see returns, but the real question is can you afford not to?
David Jordan – Digital Director
David set up the dedicated digital division of Neworld in 1999 and oversees the strategic approach, creative design and technical development of digital projects from websites to moving graphics and on-screen presentations. When not pushing pixels or travelling to other continents, he is likely to be tinkering with computers or watching a cycling race.