What makes a good restaurant website?
After reviewing hundreds of restaurant and restaurant websites for our work here at Lowcountry Style, we can tell you exactly what to do and most importantly what not to do when you are designing your restaurant website.
In our guide on restaurant web design, you will find the top seven mistakes you don’t want to make. Even if you already have a website, you better fix these restaurant errors quickly.
It’s 2021, why is your restaurant website so hard to use, outdated and lacking any original thoughts? Maybe as a restaurant owner you just don’t care, because it seems that way!
How many times are you visiting a new city or maybe just out and about exploring in your area when you decide you want a bite? Try searching your phone and you’ll soon fall down a rabbit hole (and you thought Alice was shocked) into some dreadful user’s adventures and some tasteless designs. It can be enough to kill your appetite.
I love to go out to eat and drink a lot. I enjoy the experience of new culinary exploits. You would think a restaurant, a pub, or even a food truck would appreciate a person like me. But they show such little love (and often make my task even harder) because many restaurant and pub websites are just plain awful.
Don’t we all love to discover new places to eat or drink? But what can we learn about a restaurant, cafe, or pub from its website? Location? Should be an obvious. Menu and Cuisine? Should be a definite. Contact information? I would hope so. But should there be more to it?
How can we be as positive as possible that if we choose this restaurant we’re going to have a terrific time there? A well-crafted website can really help to convince me a great deal. But so many times, when it comes to a website, we find it’s not a strong suit in the world of eateries
Many restaurant websites fail to meet the needs of their users. They disregard usability in favor of….well, I’m not quite sure. Entertainment? Ambiance?
Shouldn’t it be simple? Focus on meeting the needs of the users (in our case, visitors to your website) to help us be successful when visiting your website, and hopefully, ultimately, your establishment.
Allow me to explain.
Why Is Your Website So Bad On A Mobile Device?
In this day and age it’s a given that most people access the internet from their smartphones rather than from their PC or laptop. And, yes, I imagine many are doing naughty things (not pointing fingers but….Anthony Weiner). However, probably the second most frequent thing they’re doing (if they’re like me) is trying to find a great place to chow down.
Exasperatingly, most restaurant, pub, and food truck websites are still not optimized for mobile devices. This can make it futile to pilot these swamps on the go. It’s even more problematic if you’ve had a few cocktails and you’re walking down a street peering at your screen trying to figure out where, exactly, the great burrito place is. My dear restaurant owners, don’t you want Guy Fieri to eat at your Pierogi Cafe one day?
I Don’t Need Your Cheesy Music And Pop Ups!
Yeah, yeah, yeah (props to the Beatles), it seems so many restaurants want to entertain you with “sophisticated content.” Maybe they should think more about getting you in the door so you can order the porterhouse for two with a magnum of Chateauneuf du Pape.
Absolutely, I want to see what your place looks like but that doesn’t mean I want to see a table of eight in their cups at 2:00 am on January 1. And, for those that still play annoying music (which caught me by surprise as I fumbled to mute so the people in my office wouldn’t hear that that I was planning my evening out….at 10 in the morning), please, enough already.
Why Is It So Difficult To Get Simple Answers?
Look, people go to restaurant websites for various reasons. No, it’s not to see souvenir t-shirts or mugs. It’s probably this: can I go to your restaurant for lunch, right now? Can I go for dinner in two days?
If I have to click around to figure out when you’re open, you have failed. You have failed in common sense. You have failed in this thing called restaurant life, and you need to either shut down, or call your web designer (or probably find a new one) and put your hours on your website.
If you do this, you will feel amazing knowing that you’ve gotten one step closer to passing Restaurant Website 101. I mean, do I really have to go to Yelp or Tripadvisor for basic information?
Also, please, can I get a Google Map? Don’t bury it. Don’t leave it out.
And I really have to move on if you only have a Facebook page. If you would like people to come to your establishment, you must actually have an actual website, at the very least. You’re supposed to be a business, not like my ex-girlfriend who makes pita chips for family and friends.
I know you didn’t ask me, but here’s some advice: stick to the five W’s.
- Who: your restaurant
- Where: your location
- When: your hours
- What: your menu
- Why: your story
Where Is Your Menu?
So, finding your business hours is difficult and then you want me to engage Long John Silver to find your menu. Why can’t restaurants let us know what they have to eat? Pubs (a fave) are notorious offenders. Ok, I get it that some places think being a “mystery” creates its own ethos, but as a visitor, I am an outsider and have no clue what you offer. Maybe it’s a philosophy to you, but to me, a would-be patron, it’s just a mixed signal.
I recognize that fact that there’s such a thing as “pub food,” and I can usually guess what’s going to be offered at a pizzeria, but I also know that all eateries can have their own spin on even the basics. I want to know what your menu looks like. So do all of the other visitors to your website.
I understand that it might just be easier to use the simple boiler plate of Menupages (not the prettiest site) and Yelp to find your location and hours. But that sure doesn’t make me feel welcome.
Why Has Your Website Not Been Updated In Forever?
How many times have you arrived at a restaurant’s website to find their content embarrassingly outdated?
Why, if you even have a menu, is it listing summer specials when I’m looking out my window at 15 inches of snow and you’re about 10 miles from me? Why am I being shown Christmas events when it’s March? Why are you promising an event that has already passed? Suddenly, I might begin thinking, “Hmmm, maybe they don’t care about their business. Better not risk taking my date, wife, partner there tonight.”
Is this rocket science? If you’re not going to keep your events page updated, why have one? How about just putting a sample menu instead of having one that is dated for September, 2017. Yes, blogs can be great, but why is your most recent entry 10 months ago?
There is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a restaurant’s wine list or a pub’s craft beer list and seeing a bottle or a draft worth traveling to a neighboring town for then noticing a small notation in the corner: last updated 8/14/2016. I get it, it takes time to update your website.
Just remember, the restaurants and pubs that are usually doing a booming business take great pride in having a repeatedly updated website. At the very least, they are constantly updating social media with what is presently being plated up and poured.
Why Can’t I Make A Reservation
Yes, please! If you somehow navigate the forage within a restaurant’s website (without saying “screw it” and going to another site instead) you actually might want to make a reservation. Not so fast though, it’s not always easy.
I go to a lot of restaurants and am always surprised that many say, “Sorry, we don’t take reservations.” Well, maybe I don’t want to eat at a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations (not talking to you, McDonald’s).
Please, my dear restaurants, just set something up with anybody: OpenTable, Resy, EatApp….whatever! And remember that great old Walker Brothers hit, “Make It Easy On Yourself.” Can I please spend more time eating and drinking at your place instead of figuring out how to eat and drink at your place.
Where Is Your Online Ordering?
Online ordering is more than a trend; it’s a way of life for modern diners. Yes, there are numerous issues with delivery apps, performance control, etc.
That’s a story for another day (shame on you Grubhub). But from a customer perspective, a huge mistake is not allowing me to order online and pick up at your restaurant. Sometimes I want to eat your delicious food at home. And, please, make sure it’s on the Homepage.
Ok, now to the politics, I understand that many restaurants work with third party delivery services, but you also need to accept orders directly from your customers on your website. No ifs and or buts. If I am on your website already, why would I want to open another browser?
So here is the drill:
- I want to spend approximately one minute on your website, maybe three minutes if I’m studying your menu
- I want location, phone number, and hours, all accessed without scrolling.
- Menus, including drinks, (hopefully not a PDF) easily accessible with price
- No distractions (Seriously, no distractions)
- Ability to order online
- Link to make reservations
I love restaurants (as well as pubs, cafes, taverns, diners, chophouses, food trucks….even saloons!) but, sometimes, they don’t reciprocate. There is an iconic R&B song by Ray, Goodman & Brown it goes like this:
“I found love on a two-way street
And lost it on a lonely highway
Will never die
So I’ve told
But now I must cry
It is finally goodbye”
Please, I want to come to your restaurant. Perhaps even this weekend. If I get lost on that lonely highway of your website, I might never get there.