When visitors find your restaurant website they are usually looking for a place to dine for themselves or have the responsibility of finding and booking a venue for a group of people. Either way, the pressure is on, and, being busy people, they want the exercise to be over as quickly as possible. This is one reason restaurant websites should be designed very differently to other types of websites.
Too often restaurant website design misses the target, failing to offer essential information the viewer needs to make an effective decision about your business. What's more, just leaving one bit of information out, or hidden so it's too hard to find, might mean you lose and your competitor gains.
So here is a list of essential items your restaurant website should contain to ensure there are no unnecessary leaks:
1. Restaurant Phone Number
Have you ever visited a restaurant website, decided to dine there, but then couldn't find the phone number, or had to click to search around to locate it? You might be amazed how impatient visitors can be - if it's too hard to find, they'll quickly look elsewhere.
2. Restaurant Trading Hours
Trading hours are important for potential and returning customers alike. Visitors often need to check trading hours to ensure it fits with their plans. However, I took a brief survey of 10 websites randomly selected from an online search and found 2 of the 10 failed to provide this important piece of information.
So now that you know just how important this information is, where should you put it on your website? My favourite place is either in the header or on a sidebar that appears on all pages.
3. Restaurant Address
Many website visitors will simply move on to your competition if they can't find your restaurant address easily. Is yours hidden on a random page? If so, consider adding it to every page so your potential customers don't have to search for it.
Additionally, if your physical venue is hard to find, consider providing directions on your website. Always include a printable Google map.
4. High Quality Images
Restaurant venues and food are visual in nature - and people looking for a place to dine rely on your website images to form an initial impression. My advice is, don't skimp on the images - get a professional photographer experienced in restaurant and food photography into your venue for at least 2 hours and spend the time and effort to make the best first impression you can. This is gold as far as website conversion goes, and I'll be writing more about getting the photo shoot right in a later article.
5. Reservation Information
Once people decide they'd like to dine at your venue, how hard it is for them to take the next step? Are there clear instructions how to book? Can they book via email and if so, how long will they need to wait until they get the confirmation? Should you use a 3rd party booking company like Dimmi (in Australia) or Open Table (in the UK or USA)? These companies provide instant bookings so customers don't have to wait until you get back to them, taking the uncertainty out of the booking process.
6. Up-To-Date Menus
One of the main things people check when looking at your website is the menu - is yours up-to-date? There's no excuse for redundant, out of date information on any website - make sure you are using a website platform that allows easy updating and update your menus on time, every time.
7. Database Opt-in Form
Does your current website allow people to sign up to your email list? If not, you're missing a huge opportunity to build your business as well as increase its value. I have one restaurant client who collects information from their customers - including date-of-birth. He runs a birthday email promotion that automatically sends to his database 3 days before people's birthday, offering them a discount if they celebrate at his venue with their friends.
The response rate is 10%. So, for every 100 emails sent out (remember, it's all automatic - he doesn't lift a finger to do this), he gets 10 bookings, usually for multiple guests.
Restaurant Website Design Guidelines
- Restaurant phone number - check that your phone number can't be missed - best place - in the header of your website
- Trading hours - again, they need to be easily located without having to navigate away from the page the visitor is on
- Restaurant address - should be on every page - not just on the 'Contact Us' page
- High quality images - get the best images your budget can afford
- Reservation information - check to ensure it is dead easy for people to book via your website
- Menus - should always be up-to-date
- Opt-in form - preferably on every page - give people an inventive to visit your restaurant