It can be a confusing world out there for restauranteurs trying to figure out how to solve their website issues. There are numerous articles telling you what’s best for the online portion of your marketing plan, some of them being contradictory to one another. The issue, is that you are too often being provided with “best practices” advice from internet marketing agencies with a broad industry client list. They assume what’s good for one type of business is also good for another. We sincerely doubt that a website design that functions and converts well for an industrial pipe fitter translates over to that of a restaurant. As an owner/operator or marketing manager in the food services industry you will want to apply advice from a website design firm that focuses solely on you and what you do. In the spirit of this assertion we have laid out five steadfast laws that are essential to the success (traffic and customer conversion) of your website.
Five Restaurant Website Best Practices to Increase Traffic and Improve Customer Conversion
1. Location, Location, Location (on the Homepage)
As a restauranteur you already know the importance of this from a brick & mortar perspective. Without a great location it can be hard to bring customers through the door. Without this location explicitly displayed online, on your website’s homepage, the challenge is the same. Online searchers neither have the time or patience to figure out anything on their own. They are searching for a restaurant that is convenient for them to visit or order for delivery from. If they are not delivered this message (your physical location) within a split second of arriving on your homepage their lack of an online attention span may kick in and you will have lost them to a distraction. Convey your establishment’s address (or multiple locations) not only on your contact page, but on your homepage as well. Remove all guesswork from the visitor experience.
2. Photos, Photos, Photos (of Your Food and Establishment)
This once again applies predominantly to your homepage, because we assume that you already are (or intending to) incorporating this on your menu pages, right? Visitors need to be tantalized into visiting your restaurant from the moment they arrive on your website. You must seduce them with mouth-watering images of your most popular dishes and your venue. Patrons want great food and they want to consume it in a great atmosphere. Is your website giving them the adequate visuals to convince them that your restaurant will provide for these two demands? Restaurant websites need to incorporate an expansive “above the fold” header image (slider or static) that allows visitors to view theses photos up front and center upon online entry.
3. Ease of Navigation (Intuitive Guide to the Pages on Your Website)
Your website navigation menu should be highly visible, logically ordered, and above the fold. The headings of the items within the navigation should be clear and explicit. Use industry standard identifiers such as About, Menu, Reservations, Location/s, Delivery, and Contact. Some restaurants try to get a little too “cute” with these items (i.e. Bites instead of Menu, etc…) in an effort to convey a brand personality but we suggest saving the witty banter for interactions between your servers and seated customers.
4. Explicit Details on Reservations (where applicable) and Hours of Operation
Immediately convert visitors into customers by providing them with easy access to make a reservation (if applicable) on every page of your website (especially on the homepage). The reservation request form should be quick and easy to fill-out, requiring no more than a name, number in their party, time, and preferred contact (phone number / email) so that you can promptly confirm or request time adjustments to their request. If you don’t accept reservations, make that politely explicit as well, doing so in a manner that encourages patrons to visit your establishment without concern of being able to get a table within a reasonable wait-time. Also make sure that your hours-of-operation are clearly stated on your home (the footer area is fine here), location, and contact page, including conditions for long weekends and holidays.
5. Mobile Friendly Design (Smartphones and Tablets)
Lastly, one of the most important best practices of restaurant design involves accommodating the trend that will dominate the online landscape of our world in 2015 and beyond – traffic arriving from mobile devices. Your customers are searching for information on restaurants in their area while on their smartphones and tablets. Google will give preferred rank to those websites that are optimized (functionally and aesthetically) for mobile devices AND searchers will arrive at and only stick-around on websites that deliver an easy-to-navigate experience from their handheld device. Those websites not built with responsive design will fall to the wayside this coming year. Be sure that you land in the former category.
We may be accused of leading the witness here with the above best practices. We do indeed intend on informing you that all of the above “online laws of restaurant customer attraction” are accounted for by our website templates. The features of these templates address every scenario that is applicable to the online marketing plan for your restaurant business. Nonetheless, you can apply what you’ve learned here to your preferred course of action, whether it be with your existing developer, or with The SEO Chefs, your restaurant industry website experts. If you need us, we’re here for you.
Related article: 6 Common Restaurant Website Problems