Your restaurant’s website is your most important and effective marketing tool. A well-made webpage will attract customers who use the web to search for restaurants. It will help you build your mailing list. It will help you promote menu specials, discounts or events. And you can also use it to get feedback from customers and thereby improve services. Which is why, when it comes to restaurant websites, the question is not ‘why’, it’s ‘how’.

“How do you create a great restaurant website that doubles as a marketing tool?” The answer is simple – by following the 10 easy steps listed below.

All you need to do is ensure that your site: 

1. Is built on responsive design

‘Responsive’ is a design principle that focuses on enabling webpages to respond automatically to the device they are being viewed on. It uses variable pixels to optimize size and content of the website to match the screen. By incorporating a responsive design for your restaurant’s website, you can ensure that mobile as well as desktop users can visit your site and get a good experience from that. This is important as a visit to the website for many is the first contact they will make with your restaurant. A good first impression is important.

For best results, make sure that you design your page for mobile devices first and then scale it up for desktops as more and more people are searching the web from their phone instead of their computer.

2. Is simple, clean and accessible

Simplicity really is the ultimate form of sophistication. Simple restaurant sites eliminate all extraneous features or information and aid navigation in two key ways:

– simpler sites have fewer pages, sections and sub-sections

– simpler sites are clean (less cluttered), enabling visitors to find navigation links faster. In addition, simpler websites are quicker to design and build, easier to debug and maintain, faster to load, “scannable” and occupy less server space, which means they incur fewer costs.

3. Makes use of custom visual content

Visual content is more powerful than text-based content in attracting attention. It is also more effective in being retained and recalled by the human brain. Studies uncovered by psychologist Jerome Bruner reveal that close to 80 percent of people remember what they see (or do) in contrast to only 20 percent remembering what they read, and a mere 10 percent remembering what they hear.

Read more: Your restaurant’s social media strategy – this is how it’s done

The takeaway? You can drive traffic to your website and your restaurant by incorporating original, conversion-optimized images of your restaurant (interior and exterior), menu items, chefs, staff and more. Remember to include call to actions (such as visit your restaurant/blog/social media page, for more information, for great discounts or to book) for maximum impact.

4. Has a professional photo gallery

Merely having a photo gallery will not cut it anymore in the mega-competitive restaurant business. Savvy businesses have started adopting several visual marketing strategies, including the use of professional photography for showcasing their dishes, facilities and more. Best practices include taking original images and including social sharing options for each image.

5. Is fast to load

KISSmetrics, an analytics and conversion tool to optimize online marketing initiatives, found that 47 percent of visitors expect websites to load within two seconds. A whopping 40 percent abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load and move to a competitor’s page instead. In addition, slow-loading websites are ranked poorly by Google, Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines, thereby reducing traffic to your website and customers to your restaurant.

By cleaning up your homepage and removing clutter, you can boost load speed. However, since you are expected to have several high-resolution images, optimizing for speed can be a tricky affair. Using Google’s website speed tool will help you analyze different speed metrics.

6. Uses an interactive menu system

Interactive food menus featuring restaurant ordering systems are the next generation of restaurant website technology. They allow visitors to place an order directly via the website from any device and pay for their order online. They also boost website conversion rates (sales or other positive action) because the menu is incorporated directly within your website. There is less friction for the transaction process to occur, as the customer does not have to visit a third party website to complete the sale.

Read more: How to promote your restaurant’s menu

You can boost conversion rates with appropriately placed call-to-actions across your website. Customers should be able to act on these call-to-actions easily and swiftly. There’s another advantage to interactive menu systems – some of them are commission free. Contrary to online food portals, which charge you for every order successfully placed, some interactive menu systems take zero commission on individual orders and ensure you incur no additional hidden costs.

7. Has a review section

Reviews authenticate your restaurant and give it a human touch. Results from the Local Consumer Review Survey by Search Engine Land found that a whopping 72 percent of online shoppers trust reviews from strangers as much as they would trust personal recommendations from family and friends. By including a review section, you can reduce the resistance visitors may feel from trying your restaurant.

Being mindful of the reviews on the “big three” online review sites – TripAdvisor, Google Plus and Facebook – will boost your trustworthiness even further. Be sure to acknowledge positive reviews and respond to negative reviews with professionalism and respect at all times.

8. Has a blog

An integrated blog will allow you to provide a seamless user experience between your blog and website, and vice versa. This will prevent visitors from leaving your website to read your blog. It will also increase your blog readership, because the blog is right there, on your website. There are other benefits of having a blog as well. For instance, a blog is an excellent tool to attract additional visitors provided it has been optimized for search. Since blogs add more content and links to your website, they are helpful in search engine optimization as well. Having a blog is also an effective way to strengthen your position as an industry expert.

9. Has social sharing capabilities

Incorporating social sharing features on your website is a great way to boost exposure for your restaurant. Such features should be targeted primarily at your menu, photo galleries and blog, so that people can easily share compelling, high-quality images of dishes, interior/exterior of your restaurant plus blog posts. The easiest way to do so is to include visual social media sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google Plus. This can be done using various plugins. You can use Google Analytics to tap into the sharing patterns of visitors and optimize your website’s content to boost sharing capabilities even further.

Read more: 4 quick tips to boost your restaurant on social media

10. Is optimized for search engines

Without search engine optimization (SEO), your website will not be able to attract enough traffic. Nor will it be able to satisfy visitors that land on your website.

Since most visitors tend to choose between the first five organic links displayed on the first search engine results page, it is vital for your restaurant website to be featured on the first search engine results page at the very least. A mix of on-page and off-page SEO will help you get there. Use SEO analytics to see what pages are ranking well and which are not.

So, there you go. 10 tips to get you started on creating the best website for your restaurant, attracting more customers.

If you like to read more about restaurant websites or how to market your restaurant business online, visit the Recipe Social blog.

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Lisa Andersen
Lisa Andersen Content Editor
Part of Planday’s content team in Copenhagen, Lisa is into yoga and loves good writing. Her experience includes working with communication and PR for international grassroots organizations in Argentina and Bolivia.