An important part of restaurant science exists not in your physical restaurant, but in the digital world, on the information superhighway, through a series of tubes. Okay that’s enough of the cheesiness, I am talking about your restaurant’s website. This week we are going to take a look at what basic elements a restaurant website should include as well as some suggestions for layout and pages to get better results from your customers and potential customers.
When designing a website it may be exciting and you’ll want to include
a whole bunch of elements, you’ll have a wide variety of different opinions on features and layout, but while this is exciting it’s not actually all that helpful. You need to instead start with the guest because your website isn’t for you, it’s for your customer.
So what do the majority of customers want when they visit your website. Chances are it’s one of three things: the menu, your hours, or directions and contact info. In larger cities you may add making reservations to this list.
Things your customer is not looking for when they first visit your site: flash intros, a giant lengthy background on the history of your restaurant (no customer has ever read this), random sliders with pictures of your food, stock photos of people enjoying food and drinks at a restaurant that is not yours, and if you still have a flash site you should probably just delete your site and have no site at all because you at least won’t be getting negative rankings.
So, what should be on the home page?
- Clear link to menu ‘above the fold’
- Phone Number
- Social Links
- Social Updates
- Upcoming Events
- Reservation Submittal
Start with the name of your restaurant and a quick, large, visible link to your menu or menus (food, drink, lunch, dinner, if you have multiple). This is the number one thing your potential guests are looking for.
It’s likely a good idea to have your phone number listed clearly as well, with a mobile link so that it can be clicked on to bring it up on a guest’s phone so they don’t have to type it in. This will allow them to immediately call about any questions they have or to make a reservation.
All of this should be ‘above the fold’, or in other words you should be able to see the restaurant name/logo, phone number, and a link to the menu page without having to scroll on both computers and especially phones. We’ll talk more about responsiveness in a bit.
After applying the above elements, I would make sure that you have your address and possibly a map listed in the footer of your homepage with your phone number relisted at the bottom. This is the location guests tend to look for it first. Your address should be linked to a map or directions, preferably through Google or Bing maps.
Make everything easy to find for your customer and actionable when clicked from a mobile phone.
Other elements you may wish to include on your homepage include social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and social reputation (Yelp, TripAdvisor) icons with links or a feed of posts from one of these sites. You may also consider adding a small element that shows upcoming events or a calendar if you are a restaurant that has special events several times a week. If you have a reservation service through your website, you could put the reservation submittal on your home page as well.
You will also have navigation to lead customers to pages other than your menu and homepage. We will explore other pages in the post later this week.
In the end, only add an element to the homepage if it provides quantifiable value to your customer or potential customer. If it doesn’t, put it on a different page or eliminate it entirely. Keep your homepage as simple and clean looking as possible.
We will pivot back a little bit from the homepage to website as a whole. We touched on this earlier, but I’ll lay it out more sternly now, if you do not have a responsive web page you are likely turning away hundreds if not thousands of potential customers every year. A responsive website is one that adapts, scales, and renders the page to show up properly on computers, tablets, and phones. Visitors to your site should not have to zoom in and out to see different parts of your page. For this industry, more than almost any other, your page has to show up properly on mobile devices and tablets. When your potential customers are out determining where to eat they’ll take a look at your details on Google or a social reputation site and then click over to your website. If your page doesn’t show up well fit for their devices or if they have to struggle to find the information they desire,(menu, hours, directions) they will immediately leave the site and go to the next restaurant. You just lost a customer.
If you have a flash website it will not show up on phones at all, so your restaurant is invisible to the majority of potential customers looking for your restaurant. If you don’t know what Flash is, good, don’t learn it. Flash is dead. Chances are if your site was built in the last decade it was not made in Flash.
Your website should be simple to use on any device and a customer should be able to get to any page on your site in three clicks, and important pages (important to them) in just one.
Having a responsive page has become standard and is a requirement for all restaurants that wish to succeed.
I think we leave it off here today. Later in the week will look at pages other than the homepage and see what different features and pages you should be incorporating into your website.