5 Keys To Great Restaurant Websites


Posted on April 16th, 2016

Restaurant websites have so much potential to be amazing, but rarely turn out that great.

Restaurants can use edgy, modern design. They can use gorgeous photos of food and drinks. There is a natural social media integration with so many guests using Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, Foursquare, and more. Restaurant websites can include reservations, special events, videos, mailing lists, and ever-changing menus. Each of these elements gives a restaurant the ability to impress visitors and appear stronger than their competition.

In reality, most restaurant websites are boring, old-fashioned, static, and work poorly on smartphones.Budget plays a role, as does the vision of the owner and the creativity of the website designer. Restaurant websites don’t have to be expensive, however.  The trick is to know what key elements make a restaurant website great and focus on those parts.

Here are the 5 keys to great restaurant websites…

Great Restaurant Websites Must Be Modern

Consumers have different expectations for how different types of businesses present themselves. More and more, they expect great things from restaurant websites. Fortunately, modern restaurant websites don’t have to be complex or expensive.

Why are modern websites important for restaurants?

Think of it like this… we all know what a new car looks like versus an old car. There are basic styling cues. Based on how new, clean, and expensive-looking a car is, we form an opinion of that driver without ever meeting them. Websites for businesses work the same way. Our goal is to have potential customers form a high opinion of your restaurant before ever eating there.

Here are some simple principles of modern design for restaurant websites:

  1. Keep it simple. Don’t add anything that doesn’t need to be there.
  2. Have a clean, simple logo.
  3. Use great images. Pictures are worth 1,000 words. Food pictures are worth even more.
  4. Never use Flash. EVER.
  5. Use o more than 2 fonts.
  6. Use clean, flat design.
  7. Incorate parallax scrolling.
  8. Use ghost buttons.
  9. Try a one-page layout.

Great Restaurant Websites Must Use High-Quality Images

One of the easiest ways to make your restaurant website look better is to use high-quality (even professional) image of your food. It sounds obvious, but very few restaurants actually do it. Even just 10-20 great photographs can make a huge difference. Plus, you can reuse them in social media and other marketing. Take a look at these examples.

Great Restaurant Website Menus Must Be Easy To Update

One of the biggest concerns that we hear is that restaurant owners want to be able to change their menu easily. Too many restaurants either have their menus hard-coded into their pages where it is never changed, or they use PDF attachments to change their menus, which are not easy for consumers to view. There is a better, simple solution.

For most of our restaurant clients, we use WordPress to build the menu section of their websites. WordPress is great for restaurant menus because it is simple and intuitive enough for restaurant owners, managers, and chefs to easily make menu changes. Plus, we design those menus to be fully-responsive and easily-read on all screen sizes.

Great Restaurant Websites Must Me Responsive

More than half of the visitors to a restaurant’s website will be using smartphones. Yet, amazingly, most restaurant websites don’t function well on mobile devices. Given the trends, restaurant websites should be designed primarily for mobile use.

Some mobile restaurant website considerations:

  1. The site should load quickly. Make sure all images are compressed and delivered through a CDN.
  2. Make sure there is no unnecessary animation or flash animation.
  3. Make sure the menu is easy to read.
  4. Simplify the navigation to just the things that matter most like the menu, reservations, directions, and calling by phone. Simple is always better.

See how simple a mobile restaurant navigation menu can be.

responsive restaurant website

Great Restaurant Websites Must Convert Visitors Into Customers

The first goal is obviously for a website visitor to book a reservation. The second goal is to convert that visitor to a follower on your social media and a subscriber to your restaurant’s mailing list. If they aren’t coming in to eat today, we want them to come in tomorrow. And, we want them to share it with their friends.

The basic rules for converting restaurant website visitors into customers are:

  1. Visitors should see a phone number or phone icon right at the top of the screen to call you.
  2. Reservations should be easy. Try adding a widget from OpenTable or SeatMe. Make put it at the top or have clear navigation to get to the reservations section in one click.
  3. Icons for Instagram and Facebook should be clear and prominent, especially on mobile.
  4. The mailing list subscription box should be clear and prominent. Consider using a popup with a coupon to reward subscribers.
  5. Include a map with a link for driving directions.

Sounds easy right? So how do designers screw this up? They add a bunch of extra noise that gets in the way. Don’t start thinking that more is better!

Affordable Restaurant Websites

At the end of the day, an awesome restaurant website doesn’t have to be ridiculously-expensive. By keeping things modern and simple and resisting the urge to add unnecessary features, you can keep your overall cost down. Keep in mind that it’s all of the additional hours of revisions and consultation that drive website prices up. Remember that fancy, elaborate, expensive websites won’t necessarily bring in more business than one that follows the simple keys above.

If are looking for a new restaurant website, let us know. We would love to help!

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Greg Fielding

I am a longtime web designer and developer who has worked with businesses throughout the Bay Area and across the country. I live in Alamo with my wife, our six kids, three cats, and a dog (who is more like a fourth cat).