When you’re creating or redesigning your restaurant’s website, the goal is to get people in the door. And there’s no better way to nudge people into a seat than to have them make a reservation with you. Designing sites that increase reservations at your restaurant isn’t a one-dimensional process, but it can be done, and when you’re finished, you’ll see your work pay off with a full dining area night after night.
Marketing Challenges for Restaurants
If you’re in the restaurant business, you are very aware of the need to constantly market yourself to get new customers and keep your old customers coming back for more. However, with all of the day-to-day challenges of keeping your restaurant running, prioritizing marketing can be a real challenge, especially if you don’t have a background in this area. Below are some areas where you might feel the tension of these challenges in your own restaurant.
When someone looking at your site views your menu, the menu design itself influences their opinion of your restaurant before they even see what you have to offer. If your menu is huge, it’s overwhelming and communicates that you create a lot of dishes to a lower standard than if you were to serve just a few dishes of the highest quality. Additionally, if your menu design is unappealing, customers will assume that they’ll have a bad experience at your establishment. Your website isn’t the only space where you should strive for quality design.
The Customer Experience
The success of your restaurant’s brand does not rest solely on the quality of the food that comes out of your kitchen. When guests visit your restaurant, they expect a positive and enjoyable experience from the moment they walk into the door. If your guests have a bad encounter, if the atmosphere is bad, the restrooms are dirty, or, of course, if the food is bad, their experience is tainted. And if they have a bad experience, it results in poor reviews—either in print or by word of mouth—which will kill your business if it keeps happening to other guests. Everything you do within the walls of your restaurant affects your marketing. If you aren’t meticulously conducting quality assurance checks for every aspect of your business, you won’t see growth. Or worse, you’ll see a drop in sales.
No Formal Marketing Plan
It’s no secret that the food industry is cutthroat and that every minute of your day is filled with managing the food, the customer experience, your employees, and your building, plus more. You can’t afford to let anything slide, but you’re also overwhelmed with keeping everything running smoothly.
For many restaurant owners and managers, there is such a huge focus on the day-to-day operations of your establishment that the marketing plan takes a back seat. Marketing goals are often vague (e.g., “Increase brand awareness”) and aren’t concrete targets your team can work toward. When you have no digital marketing plan, your website will almost certainly suffer as a result.
Underutilizing Social Media
One of the most common marketing challenges for restaurants is social media. While your socials could be one of the greatest marketing tools your restaurant could utilize, it often goes under used and mismanaged. These days, you are expected to have Instagram accounts for your restaurant, and many local eateries have Facebook as well. Never or rarely posting not only means that customers don’t get to see what you’re serving up, but it communicates a lack of care for such a huge platform. That transfers over to what customers believe about the quality of your food and service.
6 Essentials for a Best-in-Class Restaurant Website
Create an Emotional Connection
When guests come to your restaurant’s site, they want more than basic information about the food you serve. Here is your chance to create positive brand awareness and an emotional connection with your guests. It’s on your site where you can really establish your brand and tell a story.
A best-in-class website for your restaurant fosters an emotional connection with customers. It shows them through pictures and with words why they should want to spend a meal with you. Your website is a great place to give guests an introduction to your restaurant and provide an endearing backstory. Use this space to connect with restaurant guests and compel them to find out more by making a reservation to dine with you.
Allow for Reservations on Your Site
Make reserving a table easy for your guests. Provide call to action buttons to do all the work for your guests (e.g., “Click to Call” or “Click Here to Make a Reservation”).
Most of the time, people will not want to make a phone call to reserve a table; they’ll usually opt for making an online reservation. Using an app like Open Table makes reservations a breeze for you and your guests. Plus, when you register with a reservation company like Open Table or many of its competitors, your restaurant is in their database and will show up when hungry folks are searching on the app for a place to eat.
Providing a way to make reservations takes the burden of calling in off of the customer, but it will also make your website more reputable, easier to use, and will help boost your rankings.
Provide the Menu
Your menu is more than just a piece of information. It is a marketing strategy in itself. Your menu must capture your restaurant’s brand, and it must be beautiful. Many times, a desire to check out the menu is the main reason customers will visit your site in the first place. Make sure it’s easy to find and easy to read, including on mobile devices. Once you’ve covered these things, make sure your menu is SEO friendly.
The goal of every piece of written content on your restaurant’s website is to boost your SEO and get picked up by Google’s web crawlers. Having your menu optimized for SEO is easy and is a free way to drive hungry eaters to your site. PDF menus are great for your website because Google’s ability to crawl PDFs is fantastic.
When creating your PDF menu, be sure to include your contact information and address, providing reference citations for your restaurant which Google loves. You’ll be benefitting your SERP rankings by doing something as simple as adding your listing on your menu.
Make It Quick and Convenient
Creating a top-notch website for your restaurant is truly a balancing act. You want to engage with customers and tell your story while providing them the information that they’re looking for. You don’t want to get so caught up in the back story of your business and all of the pictures of your food that guests get lost in text and images and can’t find what they’re looking for. When designing your website, you want navigation to be simple and clear cut while still putting important information in front of site visitors. Make sure your navigation menu is easy to use and outlines the major categories guests are searching for.
Social media, especially Instagram, is a huge aspect of today’s restaurants. Instagram is the perfect balance of visual and written marketing that captures the attention of your patrons with images and provides information via captions on those images.
The benefit of marketing a restaurant is that you have visual imagery of your product to capture people’s attention and draw them in. We highly recommend having an experienced or professional food photographer capture pictures of your dishes for your site in the context of your kitchen or dining area. This will allow guests to see what they can expect from your dishes, and it’s a more professional presentation than a poorly lit and slightly blurry picture that you took on your phone.
Providing links to your socials on your site is a great way to build community and make even more connections with your guests. As a local restaurant, this is especially important. Having socials on your site gives guests more access to your content and allows them to share your restaurant on their social medias, making marketing that much easier for you.
Design with Mobile Users in Mind
Keep in mind that your restaurant’s website is not for you; it’s for your guests. When designing your site, think about what they want and why they are there in the first place. Keep in mind that most of your website’s guests didn’t come there to read articles about the origins of your love of food. They probably came to view your menu, see your hours, or make a reservation.
Ask yourself the same questions they might ask. What’s the pricing? Can I see pictures of their dishes? What are the hours? Is there an option to make a reservation? Make all of this information easily accessible against the backdrop of beautiful, on-brand design.
Additionally, your site must be optimized for mobile users. This is not an option in your industry. Make sure that images are appropriately placed so that they’re viewable on a phone screen and that the call to action buttons are big enough so that making a call or reservation isn’t a frustrating experience.
You’re aware that the success of your restaurant doesn’t start or end in the kitchen. A lot of strategic planning and behind the scenes work makes your restaurant succeed. When it comes to increasing reservations, the process is very similar. From the website design to strategic calls to action and even your menu design within your site, there are a lot of moving pieces that come together to increase reservations and therefore sales. We’ve outlined where your restaurant might have some weaknesses, and we’ve shown you how to optimize your site design to see conversions. You have the information you need to increase your reservation rates; go for it.