Image credit: El Nariz/Shutterstock

Restaurants are a dime a dozen. In the Uber, Amazon and OpenTable world, customers are trained to search, click, glimpse and repeat. To grab a potential customer’s attention, you must offer a seemingly personalized experience.

Good servers are great at making people feel at ease. They realize they contribute greatly to guests’ experience but are careful to ensure that service isn’t the only element. Successful wait staff adeptly assist patrons when they require it while giving diners their privacy during other moments.

The design of your restaurant’s website should do the same. It should appeal to your target customers while providing the information they are looking for quickly and efficiently. 

The first step to a great website design for your eating establishment is to ensure it is mobile friendly. I’m not talking about a “functional” mobile website. Your site should be optimized on mobile, first, and then properly adjusted to look great on a desktop.

The mobile-first approach means prioritizing mobile users who are very likely to call you for a reservation at the tap of a finger or to set their navigation straight to your restaurant’s door in a matter of seconds. Here’s why this is important:

  • More searches happen on mobile than on desktop.
  • According to Dan Engel on Mobile 1st’s blog, 57 percent of mobile users will leave your site if it takes too long to load.
  • A properly optimized site allows customers on mobile to interact with your website and business more easily (booking, calls, messaging).
  • Google has started to rank web pages based on the content it provides using the mobile version of websites (this is very recent)

Once restaurant owners understand the importance of designing their website for mobile users, they then ask: “What content should we include on the home page? Isn’t room more limited on mobile?”

As with everything in life, the answer depends on what the owner is trying to achieve. Do you:

  • need more customers?
  • desire better customers?
  • have too many canceled reservations and want help fixing that?
  • have a packed restaurant on the weekend but an empty one during the week?

Once you, as a restaurant owner, have determined what you’re trying to achieve, it’s time to determine what drives a typical customer to select your establishment when eating out.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Specialty meals that aren’t available anywhere else
  • Niche restaurants or trendy restaurants
  • Location of the restaurant
  • The ambiance of your restaurant
  • Affordability (great value compared to competitors)

If any of the points above ring true, you’re in luck; your website then should reflect what customers are potentially hoping to get by visiting your establishment.

Posting a menu on your home page is great if you offer unique meals or if you outshine competitors on variety or price. Displaying information about your location or directions to your restaurant is useful if you want to emphasize the neighborhood in which you are located.

If your restaurant is hip or known to create a certain ambiance, creating short videos of past events can effectively convey that information to diners.

Once you and your staff are happy with your website, above all else, keep it up-to-date. An easy way to do this is to assign the responsibility to the same team that creates or refreshes your menu. If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress, you may want to do this in-house. If you prefer a scheduled approach, you may use a dedicated website maintenance service focused on small businesses.

Stay true to your customer and your vision. Make sure your website is welcoming and engaging to potential customers, not a hindrance. Share what makes your experience memorable and unique so customers know what to expect before they even set foot on your premises.

Phil Alexandre

I have a background in engineering. After working for ShipTrack, a software company that provides delivery management solutions for retailers, carriers and manufacturers, I set up shop to help small business owners make better decisions in how they adopt technology. Progress is everything and business owners get overwhelmed. My background helps me understand the problems that small businesses face while also being able to offer cost-effective solutions.

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