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What every good restaurant website should have

It seems to be a universal truth that any aspiring designer will find themselves waiting tables in a restaurant or serving drinks at a bar some point early in their career. Freelance design and part time jobs go hand in hand after all- god knows we put the hours in before Gorilla Design was born.

Our insider knowledge of the industry is part of the reason we relish restaurant web design projects. We thought we’d share our recipe for success with you.

So what does a potential customer want to see when they land on your restaurant website? We think it boils down to a few key things.

1_ Make it mobile friendly

This buzzword is thrown around a lot- it’s not complicated it just means making the user experience for mobile visitors a pleasant one. Google recently revealed that 88% of keyword searches for ‘restaurants’ come from mobiles so it certainly needs to be considered. In it’s most basic form this means that the content on your site- the text, the images and the menus should adapt to be readable on a smaller screen. Everyone who owns an iPhone has experienced the annoyance of trying to use a site where the navigation buttons are too small to press and you need a microscope is required to read it. To avoid this customer repelling scenario be sure to tell your web designer that your site must be ‘mobile responsive’. Here at Gorilla we believe that mobile browsing is the future so every new site we build is mobile friendly as standard.

2_ Please, no more PDF Menus

One of the biggest mistakes restaurateurs make on their websites is the use of slow to load cumbersome to navigate and generally ugly PDF menus- if you are guilty change it and change it now it’s killing your website.
Imagine a potential customer lands on your site and wants to see what deliciousness you have on offer. They navigate to your menu page, one click, they look for a link to your menus (or worse array of different menus!?) two clicks, now they must patiently wait while a new page loads a 50 megabyte PDF at snails pace- or as is sometimes the case, fails to load at all!

To make things worse Google is biased towards properly formatted web pages over content hidden inside PDF’s. This means that your lovingly crafted menu descriptions are probably not going to appear in Google search results, losing precious traffic to your site.

Surely in this day and age there is a better way? Of course there is.
The solution we often implement gives each menu item or dish it’s own ‘post’. Without getting too techy here’s just a few of the many advantages:

1_ Customers can view your menu instantly without having to wait for a PDF to load.
It is search engine friendly which will improve your website traffic.

2_ Each menu item is ‘responsive’ so it will intelligently resize itself to fit the screen on mobiles- no more nasty zooming in and out to just to be able to read clearly on smart phones.

3_ Menu items can be instantly filtered. A customer with a sweet tooth comes along, they click the dessert ‘filter button’ and as if by magic your menu sorts itself to display your dessert list.

4_ Dishes can be updated individually, so if you want to make one price change for example you don’t have to edit the entire menu. Instead you can log into your site and edit it in seconds- even from your smart phone.

5_ And as an added bonus ‘Specials’ can be added in minutes and upsold on your homepage.

3_ Are you open?

Making these prominent on your site is essential. This may sound obvious but it’s amazing how many sites hide them away on the contact page. They should certainly be prominent on your homepage and it’s also good idea to feature them in the footer of every page of your site. Remember the more you make your customers click to find basic information the more likely they are to leave your site.

4_ Google maps, free and easy

If you haven’t used google maps yet you probably don’t get out much. It’s a brilliant and free way to navigate and your restaurant website should be using them. By including a Google map on your site customers will never fail to find you even if you are tucked away in quaint little side street. Its particularly effective for mobile visitors because with the touch of the button the google maps app will give your customers turn by turn directions from their current location.

5_ Your restaurant deserves professional design

Your website is your effectively your shop window to the world. Remember the care and expertise you employed when you were designing the interior of your restaurant- every detail was carefully considered right?
You should show your website the same love. The very best restaurant sites give the user a taste of your dining experience and leave them wanting more. The pros know that every time your restaurant ‘brand’ comes into contact with a customer it should be uniquely and unmistakably ‘you’. Put simply, your menu design should be consistent with your website design and your website design should be consistent with your interior design. This is the difference between the amateurs and the restaurant moguls. There are plenty of ‘DIY’ ways to build a website but this is often the design equivalent of cooking all your food in the microwave. Hiring a good designer is a kin to employing a good chef, you can rest assured that both have spent years honing their skills which means they produce spectacularly better results.

6_ Let your guests book online

We are not saying you must solely use this system, in fact we have no doubt there will always be a place for the more friendly and human ‘call for bookings approach. The idea of booking systems scares a lot of restaurateurs probably because they are worried it might cause double bookings on a busy Saturday night. Fear not, online booking can easily be implemented and seamlessly integrated into your phone based bookings and it has many advantages.

1_ It encourages visitors to your website to make instant reservations and unlike the phone there’s zero chance of your line being engaged.

2_ It actually enables you to manage bookings better. The best systems alert you when your restaurant is fully booked, when guests cancel and can even accommodate ‘members only’ bookings. They also allow you to input reservations you take by phone, and make it super easy to switch guests to different tables to accommodate the inevitable group bookings. Not only this but you can print stats reports to give you insight into how and when your guests are booking.

3_ By far the greatest advantage they offer offer manual bookings is the marketing potential.
If you ask every guest who books online to sign up to your email newsletter then pretty soon you will have built up a pretty substantial email list. We often help our restaurant clients to send out special offers or seasonal menus to the customers their online booking systems have accumulated. This is brilliant way to get new customers into your marketing funnel and is one of the most cost effective ways to keep in touch with them.

Hopefully these few quick tips will point you in the right direction with your new restaurant website. If you need help building your new site, would like advice on how to use social media to fill more seats or just want to say hi, then get in touch with us here

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