Restaurant websites are like the street-side menus propped on easels of yesteryear: They provide patrons with a tantalizing first impression of the ambiance, the food, and the service your restaurant offers them. When someone is looking for the right place to grab a bite or go on a first date, chances are they’ll skim through dozens of restaurants’ websites before settling on the one they’ll call for a reservation. As a result, a restaurant’s website needs to be able to grab a visitor’s attention (and whet their appetite) in a matter of seconds – before they bounce to the next culinary spot on their list.
Without further ado, here is our 9-step recipe for creating a stunning website for your restaurant:
#1) Know Your Audience, Know Your Restaurant
The first step in designing your restaurant’s website is to know what makes your restaurant unique, and what kind of clientele you want to attract. Try picking one architectural element and one menu item or key ingredient, and use these two features as the aesthetic backbone for your website. Picking out a couple “key” design elements will help your website stay consistent while establishing a branding language your customers will be able to grab onto instantly.
#2) Hire a Professional Food/Architecture Photographer
With free website builders, there is no need to fork out thousands of dollars on hiring a web designer to build your restaurant’s website for you. Take the money you’ve saved on your website development and invest it in a great food and architecture photographer. Make no mistake: Beautiful photographs of the food you serve and the ambiance your restaurant creates is crucial to leaving good first impressions.
#3) …And Put Down the Stock Photography
Imagine your customers’ disappointment when they arrive at your restaurant after consulting your website only to find that the images of your food and your space don’t even remotely resemble what you’ve advertised online. Restaurant-goers want to know that they are paying for something special – something that will become your restaurant’s signature. In most cases, using stock photography to illustrate your restaurant makes your website appear impersonal – and lazy.
#4) Keep Colour and Texture in Mind
Just like your menu, your website should communicate the colours, the textures, and the flavours that make your food special. More than simply showing potential customers the dishes you hope to serve them, think about the basic elements and ingredients that break down your culinary style.
#5) Your Menu Does Not Belong in .pdf Form
It never ceases to amaze us how many restaurant websites, even ones for some of the best establishments in the world, choose to make their menu available only through a downloadable .PDF file. Not only is this a cumbersome way for a potential customer to see what you have on offer, it’s also slow: On average, PDFs take longer to load than text on a web page. Instead, place your menu directly on your site using a text window.
#6) Stay Simple
Many restaurant websites make the mistake of over-complicating things, which leads to a top-heavy user experience that is tricky to navigate, and slow to load. Keep things simple by sticking to the basics, and avoid adding too many pages on your navigation bar.
#7) Try a One-Pager
People tend to skim through several restaurant options in rapid succession before deciding on an ambiance and cuisine that suits their mood and their wallets. Using a one-page design puts all your most important information in an accessible, scroll-able format. Visitors can skim through your information quickly, without having to skip from page to page. One-pagers work particularly well for visitors looking at your website from mobile devices, as they’re more prone to scroll as opposed to click on new pages.
#8) Make You Location, Hours, and Contact Info a Priority
Restaurant customers need to be able to see when your restaurant is open, where it is, and how to contact you for a reservation, but all too often, restaurant websites hide this information on different pages or strange locations. Be sure to place basic contact details like your restaurant’s address, phone number, and email in a highly visible location on your landing page, such as the top right corner or the bottom of your page. Use a Google Maps geo-location widget to give visitors a quick view of your location in relation to where they are.
#9) Connect to Real-Time Customer Reviews
More and more, restaurant-goers rely on social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, FourSquare and Yelp to search through user-generated reviews, and to find a place to eat that is conveniently located and priced to suit their needs. Adding social media widgets to your website helps create trust with customers by showing them that you are listening to what they say about your food, your service, and your ambiance.
IM Creator’s social widgets make adding real-time tweets from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram a breeze, but you might also want to look further afield. FourSquare and Yelp both offer widgets that can be easily embedded onto your website, so that real-time reviews and live check-ins are made visible on your site.
FourSquare: FoursSquare has its own API to create an app for your restaurant. A little bit of HTML know-how might be useful here, but FourSquare offer all the tools necessary to get started, available here.
Take heed of rule #6, though: A website crowded with social credibility can take away from the basic information you want to portray, so if you install extra widgets on your site, use them sparingly by choosing just one – usually the app that your customers use most.