A website that conveys the restaurant’s story and experience can go a long way to enticing diners through its doors.
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.
Understanding who your customers are and why they patronize your restaurant is key to developing a successful online presence. Asking yourself what are the key pieces of your restaurant that make it unique and stand apart from other dining options and what about the dining experience excites your customers - these are ways to help find out what to highlight on your website that will entice users into becoming diners. In the grand scheme of restaurant websites there are two primary reasons people are coming through the doors, the food being served and the ambiance around the meal being created.
Showcasing the Food
This should go without saying, but the biggest differentiating factor between restaurants is the consistent quality of their menus. The food that is served at a restaurant is central to a successful restaurant and an amazing dish can bring people in from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. On a website, this means showcasing the menu in a way that helps elevate the dish and get user’s instantly craving what your serving. The Guardian ran a piece about Jamie Oliver’s restaurants and how its wait-staff are told to describe food to help evoke a certain image in the customer’s mind (read more at The Guardian), and choosing the right adjective to describe a menu item online can really help connect the food being served to customers lifestyles. In addition to just listing menu items and ingredients, utilizing high-quality photos of dishes can further entice users to visit your restaurant, allowing users a glimpse of the mouth-watering options the restaurant offers.
There are some technical considerations when displaying a menu online, the most important being DON’T USE PDFS (OR IMAGES) FOR MENUS. This is still a big problem across restaurant websites and provides a terrible user experience. Most mobile devices do not display PDFs well and a high number of your users are mobile users looking at a mapping app that is taking them to your website. Providing a responsive menu will not only be more accessible for mobile users, since it is text-based it can provide additional benefit via organic SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Chef’s have spent a lot of time crafting a perfect recipe - make sure your restaurant website tells its story the best way possible.
Selling the Experience
Outside of the food served, the ambiance of the restaurant and the experience diners can expect should be conveyed consistently across all marketing (digital and otherwise) channels. What does that mean exactly? Take a look at Tilted Kilt website and Guard & Grace’s website, obviously these restaurants provide very different experiences and cater to very different customer groups. Imagine you were visiting town with your significant other and went to Guard & Grace’s website, thinking it being the perfect place for a nice date, but when you arrive you find that the restaurant provides an experience similar to Hooters - That probably wouldn’t sit well with you. While usually not as pronounced as that, this type of dissonance typically doesn’t result in a positive for the restaurant. Walking through the front doors of the restaurant and landing on the homepage of the website should feel similar.
Another important element of the restaurant experience is the staff. Showcasing your leadership team on an about page is a great way to provide some additional personality and insight into the restaurant’s culture. Providing customers the faces behind the food can help them connect with and provide an instant understanding of the types of folks that potentially patronize the restaurant.
When it comes down to it consistency is crucial - especially when conveying the restaurant’s ambiance - make sure it provides a consistent story that the customers can look forward to experiencing.
Why You Need to Tell Your Story Online
Understanding what makes your restaurant unique and successfully telling that story through its website is one of the ways a restaurant can utilize its online presence to help drive traffic through the doors. By telling the restaurant’s story online you are allowing your customers to have a better understanding of what to expect from both a culinary and cultural perspective. Telling a compelling story around the restaurant and providing amazing food to back it up means customers will always be clamoring for a seat at the table.
Looking for some hot tips on how to put together a restaurant website? Check out my article “4 Tips for Creating a Tasty Restaurant Website” to get started on your way to building a solid online presence for your restaurant.