10 Ways to Level-Up Your Restaurant’s Website
As a small business owner, you understand the importance of the world wide web. Most consumers find businesses (and especially restaurants) via search engines or apps like Yelp, Grubhub, and OpenTable.
Despite your physical location and marketing materials, without a well-managed online presence, many consumers will never find your restaurant amid the internet’s highly-competitive digital ecosystem. Your restaurant’s website is your virtual storefront, and the beginning and end of all of your online marketing campaigns.
More than likely, you already have a website for you restaurant. And if you don’t, services like MustHaveMenus make it easy with customizable websites for your menu and social links. But how do you know if your restaurant is doing all that it should to drive sales and traffic to your restaurant?
With all that a website can do, it’s sometimes difficult to know what a website should do. Here are 10 ways to level-up your restaurant’s website, allowing you to leverage its design and content to increase your local SEO and drive business.
1.Keep it mobile friendly
More people search for restaurants on their mobile devices than on desktop computers, but most website building software is desktop-based. So if you want your customers to be able to interact with your website, no matter their technology, your website should be optimized for both desktops and devices with smaller screens, like tablets and cellphones.
Search engines know that consumers prefer websites that are mobile friendly, so they take this into account when ranking search returns. If you want to use your website’s content to boost your local SEO, a website that isn’t optimized for mobile devices can undermine all of your hard work.
Luckily, most website builders like WordPress, Wix, and Google Sites understand the importance of mobile-friendly websites. Their software takes this into consideration when formatting your pages.
However, it’s always smart to double check your website’s user experience on both a desktop and a mobile device. If it’s difficult for you to interact with your pages, photos, plugins, and links, then you should rethink your website’s layout.
2.Keep it simple
Now that your website is optimized for different screen sizes, you want to make sure it’s easy to navigate. Don’t overload your pages with large blocks of text, and don’t try to fit every bit of information your customers may need on one or two pages. Instead, consider ways you can “chunk” information across multiple pages linked from your homepage.
For example, your homepage should have mouthwatering shots of your most photogenic dishes, along with the name of your business, your address, your phone number, and your hours. That’s likely all you need for an effective homepage.
Additional information can be linked from a navigation bar. This will reduce the amount of scrolling and clicking your customers will have to make to find what they need. Your linked pages could take your customers to resources like your digital menus, your online ordering system, your online reservation system, or your contact information.
Keep it simple, informative, and easy to navigate. If your potential customers get bored sifting through long blocks of text to find your address, your hours, or your menus, they’ll likely move onto your competitor’s website.
Websites aren’t all about text, hyperlinks, and information. They are intensely visual, and you’ll want to whet your customers’ appetites with Insta-worthy food photography. From your homepage to your contact us page, you want your site filled with hunger-inducing pics.
Consider hiring a professional photographer to capture all of your best angles. If a professional isn’t in your budget, anyone with a newer smartphone, an eye for details, and an artistic flair, can take #foodporn.
But be careful. Grainy, unfocused, unappetizing, and poorly lit photos can make even the most beautiful dishes look like duds. Make sure your images are as high-quality as your ingredients. Consider your plating, your lighting, your focus, and make sure your background is as appetizing as your foreground.
Food photography on your website can make your customers hungry, show off your brand and concept, and increase conversion. While your website should contain all of the information your customers might need, your food and beverages should still take center stage.
4.Link your social media
Linking your social media accounts to your website, and linking your website to your social media profiles, can allow you to bridge the gap between your online platforms, and it can increase the likelihood that potential customers will interact with your digital marketing materials.
Links to your social media should be near the top of your homepage, or they should be in the footer. This is where most restaurant websites put them, so your customers will know to look for them there.
Your social media links should include Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You’ll want to make sure that you stay on top of whatever social media you link, posting at least two to three times per week. Linking to an account that is updated sporadically, or an account that hasn’t been updated in months, will send mixed messages to your customers. At best, they may think your restaurant isn’t hip or trendy. At worst, they may think your restaurant has recently gone out of business.
If social media isn’t your forte, consider focusing your energies on one platform, and consider using free restaurant social media posts from DIY-design services like MustHaveMenus to fill out your feed. These free templates are easy to customize and come in a variety of styles to fit any brand.
And don’t forget about review sites. Most diners check restaurant review sites before making dining decisions. Make it easy for your customers to say yes to your restaurant by linking to your Yelp or TripAdvisor right from your homepage. This can also increase the possibility of customers leaving reviews, which can help you climb the Google, Yelp, or TripAdvisor rankings in your area.
5.Offer online ordering
After COVID, online ordering is more important than ever. More than half of your customers are ordering takeout at least once per week, and if you aren’t offering your customers the option, then you are likely losing business to your competitors.
To get the most out of your restaurant’s website, you’ll want a page dedicated to collecting online orders. Make this page as easy as possible to find and use, and you’ll want to advertise it via your social media and your website’s homepage.
There are a lot of different ways to collect online orders. You could link to a third-party ordering system like Grubhub, Postmates, or DoorDash. This is quick and easy, but these third-party systems will charge a hefty service fee for their services.
While third-party apps may have a place in your business model, skip their takeout ordering service for your own online ordering system. You can find many different types of software that can be integrated directly into your website and your POS system, making collecting orders a cinch. Don’t forget to include your phone number in your online ordering system, just in case a customer has a question or an issue, this way they can still order over the phone.
6.Offer online reservations
If your restaurant takes reservations over the phone or in-person, consider adding a dedicated webpage along with a plugin or link to an online reservation system.
Online reservation systems have a lot of benefits. They are fully automated, which puts your customers in control and frees your hosts and servers from fielding unnecessary phone calls, allowing them to focus on providing high-quality service.
Reservation systems are also far easier and faster for customers to use. By decreasing the steps and time it takes to reserve a table, you are increasing the likelihood that your customers will do so.
There are plenty of reservation systems out there. Yelp and OpenTable both offer them. Both are streamlined, easy-to-use, and allow your guests to reserve a table with a single click.
7.Create a digital menu
If you want to get the most out of your restaurant’s website, your menu needs to be easy to find from your homepage, and it needs to be easy to view on different web browsers and different sized screens.
Ditch the PDF menu and replace it with a digital menu that is optimized for all of the ways your customers might browse your site. Digital menus also allow you to post photos and descriptions of your food. They make updating your menus quick and easy. And they allow for a contactless dining experience for customers IRL.
Instead of having one long digital menu, you might “chunk” your menu into smaller menus across multiple pages. You could include a drink menu, a beer menu, a lunch menu, a dinner menu, a dessert menu, and a seasonal menu. This allows your customers to find exactly what they are looking for without having to scroll past dishes they aren’t interested in.
Depending on your location and your customer profile, you may also consider offering a downloadable PDF menu. While it isn’t the only menu you’ll want to post, it might be nice to offer a printable option for customers who order food to go on their lunch break.
Creating a digital menu can be a lot of work. Depending on your skill as a graphic designer and web developer, you may not have the time or patience. Luckily, there are options that can help. Checkout this menu management software from MustHaveMenus to get your online menu up and running in no time.
8.Start a blog
Starting a blog can offer a lot of marketing potential. Think of it as just another marketing channel for you to engage with your customers. Also, Google’s search engine loves blogs, allowing you to boost your local SEO and outrank your competitors. The best part–it doesn’t have to be a ton of work.
One to two blog posts a week can be enough. You can create the posts yourself, or you can pass on the responsibility to a wordsmith on your staff. The posts don’t need to be long, nor do they need to be incredibly detailed. Remember, most consumers have very short attention spans when surfing the web, and they would rather see beautiful photos than long blocks of text.
Additionally, a blog can provide a lot of marketing opportunities without sounding “salesy.” You can use it to post about anything you want to generate buzz around, and you can link your posts to your social media, pulling your customers from a short-form marketing channel to a long-form one, where you have more time to appeal to your customers and their taste buds.
For your first few posts, consider these topics:
- Your local suppliers
- Upcoming events
- Cooking tips
- House recipes
- Seasonal menu choices
- Current specials
- Your staff
- What’s on tap
- Favorite cocktails
- Foodie trends
These ideas are more than enough to get your blog started. You can also check out another restaurant’s blog for ideas. You don’t have to wait for inspiration. You can write about whatever you want your customers to know, whatever you think could help drive customers to your restaurant.
9.Share your story
Your customers may enjoy hearing about your restaurant’s story, especially if it’s an intriguing one. So why not create a page on your website dedicated to it?
An “About Us” page can help you explain your history, concept, and brand to both potential and long-time guests. This is where you can share the story of your restaurant’s owner, head chef, head bartender, or any other employees you might like to spotlight.
If it’s important to your concept, you could also explain the history of your cuisine. Or, if you are located in a historic area, or an area of general interest, you could tell your customers about your building’s history, ambiance, and unique charm.
While an “About Us” page might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of a website and a restaurant’s brand, it can help differentiate your business from all of the others in your area.
10.Highlight your strengths
Ultimately, a website is just another way for a business to tell its story. A website is a place where you can share anything and everything, from text and menus to images and hyperlinks.
So if you can share nearly anything, why not focus on your strengths?
Maybe you have a really killer whiskey selection. Maybe you have a fantastic brunch menu. Maybe you churn out submarine sandwiches faster than anyone else downtown. Whatever is that thing that your restaurant does better than its competitors, make sure your potential customers know about it.
You can highlight your strengths via images, webpage content, blog posts, and even customer reviews. Find your thing, like your expertly-curated rotating tap list, and organize your website around it, owning it both in person and online.
While there are many more things a restaurant could do with its website, the ten suggestions above are things most restaurants should do. None of the suggestions are overly time-consuming or difficult, and they don’t require learning code or understanding complicated site maps.
Building a website is creative and iterative, meaning that your website is never done, once and for all. A website should be updated constantly, restocked with fresh content to match the season, and filled with weekly blog posts.
But keeping a website up to date doesn’t need to be stressful. Schedule a bit of time each week to plan, brainstorm with your staff, write blog posts, and update content. Keep your website informative but simple, updated but easy to navigate. If you can do this while conveying your business’s personality, you’ll know you’ve made a site that can boost your local SEO and drive customers.