A strong website is not the only reason for a restaurant’s success, but it can definitely help drive customers through the door if created and supported properly.
In time past, restaurants lived and died on the quality of their menu and the ambiance their customers received during their dining experience. The restaurant and how it was marketed online was of little concern for many restaurateurs and chefs, but as the age of the internet and smartphones marched onward it became increasingly important to successfully present your restaurant online to engage customers and drive them through your restaurant doors.
So what specifically do you need to make a restaurant website a business asset instead of a waste of time? The honest answer is it depends, each restaurant and the markets they operate in are different, but there are a few key takeaways that I’ve seen when it comes to building successful restaurant websites.
Online Menus - Just Say No to PDFs
Your menu is the focal point for your restaurant as hungry patrons will usually have an understanding of what type of food they want to eat before they know where they want to eat - or they will have searched for “restaurants near me” through their smart device and will verify they will want to visit your restaurant after seeing what you serve. That means it is imperative that when your potential customer visits your website the menu is clear and easy to access. When putting your menu on your restaurant’s website it is important to make sure it is as usable as possible - this means ditching the bloated PDF files and going with a menu that is typed online according to restaurant engine.
Have you tried accessing a PDF from your phone? It’s a user experience nightmare.
An added benefit from writing the menu content directly on your site is that search engines will have an easier time understanding what food items your restaurant offers - meaning if you are serving exotic burgers made from emu roast and someone is looking specifically for emu burgers - they are much more likely to find you.
Mobile Responsiveness - Get Found on the Go
Statista (a website dealing with various statistics around internet use) shows that in 2018 over half of all internet traffic (52.2%) was on mobile devices - meaning that if your website isn’t mobile responsive in 2020 you are missing out on over half of your potential customers. For restaurants this is especially important as typically their customers are making quick decisions on where to eat while they are out doing something else, which I think is illustrated by the following situation.
Imagine going shopping for a colleague’s birthday party and as you are finishing up your capitalistic endeavor you find yourself getting hungry - so you pull out your smartphone and open up your mapping application to find “restaurants nearest me.” This leads to a myriad of options and you diligently click the map pins and are directed to each restaurant’s website. If any websites are not optimized for mobile devices they are immediately discarded in favor of websites that provide a better user experience - there are a lot of restaurant options in today’s world and any roadblock to usability makes it easier for users to discard that choice.
Hours of Operation & Contact Info - The Most Important Details
Outside of the food your restaurant has, the two most important pieces of information for your potential customers are when you are open (when they can buy your food) and your address (where they can buy your food). Setting up a Google Business account will allow you to ensure that in the above scenario (regarding finding a restaurant via a mobile device) you show up on the map app on their device.
On top of the standard hours and location information - another important element to include is your restaurant’s phone number. This allows your potential customers to reach out and reserve a table for a special occasion.
Social proof is key when it comes to restaurant digital marketing - and the strongest form of social proof is customer reviews. In fact, 94% of United States restaurant-goers are influenced by reviews according to Small Business Trends (an online business publication). This should go without saying, but that means that it is imperative to provide a positive dining experience that customers will want to write a review for. Ensuring that it is easy for a customer to leave a review - perhaps by providing a card with any relevant information the customer would need to leave a review (waiter name, preferred review website, URL or a QR code).
(Bonus Tip) Building an Engaging About Us Page
Diner reviews can also key users into the general ambiance of the restaurant - and provide users an idea of what to expect regarding the typical patrons that are commonly found therein. This information can be reinforced through the use of an engaging “About Us” page. FSR magazine (an online restaurant marketing publication) explains that the about us page can provide the emotive connection between your customers and the owners of the establishment - people tend to like doing business with other people (not faceless brands).
For a restaurant in the digital age building, a strong menu made up of delicious dishes is only the beginning when it comes to being successful. Creating and cultivating a strong brand that supports the dishes on the menu and entices users through the doors is crucial and a strong digital presence is a key component of any successful brand in the digital age. Following the five tips above should start you on the path to building a successful digital home on the internet for your restaurant brand.
If you’re looking for some cool brands in the Denver restaurant scene - check out this Cool Concepts article for restaurant branding inspiration.