12 Essential Features for Effective Restaurant Websites

12 Essential Features for Effective Restaurant Websites

Owning a restaurant requires more than just having a dynamic location, eye-catching décor, and mouth watering food. In today’s world, you must invest in digital marketing, or in other words, online marketing. One of the main digital marketing tools a restaurant owner can use is a website. A restaurant website can help you attract new customers and retain your loyal clientele.  

Your Website – An Essential Tool in a Restaurants Marketing

Whether your restaurant is a fine dining, casual, family style, fast casual, fast food, or a café experience, a restaurant owner depends on customers to stay in business. You could have the best food in town, but if people don’t know about your restaurant, you’re only going to attract so much foot traffic. Therefore, you must invest in marketing to help patrons find you and entice them to come in and taste your cuisine.   

Of all your marketing tools, your website is the most important mechanism to engage and maintain customers. Basically, it is your online real estate – your online presence. Your website helps to convey the essence of your restaurant while providing customers with pertinent information about your business, like your address, hours of operation, and your menu. A well-designed restaurant website will strengthen your brand and your brick-and-mortar existence in your community.

However, a poorly constructed website can reflect badly on your business – no matter how great your restaurant, food, and service are. An awful website design can turn off potential customers before they even set a foot in your door. Therefore, you need to ensure your restaurant website design is top notch if you want to gain new customers and grow your business.

At Indianapolis web design company Fusion Creative, we’ve noticed from our experience that top restaurant websites are visually stunning, easy to navigate, easy to read, informative, and mobile friendly. Additionally, restaurant websites should contain the following 12 essential features to attract potential customers.

No. 1: An Actual Website

You might be surprised by how many restaurants that don’t have a website. They think they can rely on only having a Facebook page. Or, worse yet, they just have a Google or Yelp listing. While social media and review forums are important marketing tools for your restaurant, you don’t want them to be the primary means for potential customers to learn about your business. After all, a negative comment or review can keep people away from your door.

Even a onepage website is better than no website at all. At least a onepage website gives your restaurant an online presence. However, Fusion Creative doesn’t recommend having a onepage website, because it’ll struggle to rank for keywords with Google due to the lack of content. Therefore, successful restaurants should invest in an actual website with multiple pages, where they can control their restaurants marketing.

No. 2: A Website Design that Matches Your Restaurant Concept and Ambience

The concept (e.g., fine dining, family style, or fast casual) and the ambience of your restaurant convey the type of experience your customers will have while dining with you. Accordingly, your restaurant website should reflect the specific concept and character of your business, too. That way potential customers will know exactly what to expect when they walk through your door. Consequently, a café website would have an entirely different graphic design compared to an upscale restaurant that caters to a wealthy clientele. Remember, consistency in your branding is key!

No. 3: A Mobile Friendly Design

Did you know that over 50% of Internet users view websites on a mobile device? That means the chances are high that someone is looking for restaurant websites while on their smartphone. So, you should ensure your customers can easily access your website through a mobile friendly layout. In other words, your website should adjust to the screen size it’s being viewed on. Afterall, you don’t want your customers to become easily frustrated trying to view your website. Otherwise, they might just exit and go elsewhere.

No. 4: High Quality Photos

All truly beautiful restaurant websites should tempt the eyes – not just appeal to the taste buds. If you want to attract more customers, your restaurant should invest in a professional photographer to create stunning photos for your website. High-resolution, well-staged photos of your food can entice potential customers to come in for a taste. However, low-quality, cell phone-type images can have the opposite effect – keeping customers away from your door.

Don’t forget to include photos of your restaurant’s exterior, the interior ambience, and your staff on your website, too! Potential customers want to see the whole experience they can expect when they visit your establishment.

You can feature your photos throughout your website, on your menu, and in a photo gallery.

While some websites may feature motion graphics or animations with movements, which are mesmerizing to watch, Fusion Creative doesn’t recommend them. Motion graphics can slow the loading speed of your website, which can easily hurt your Google rankings.

No. 5: Hours of Operation and Contact Info

One of the top reasons people visit restaurant websites is to find the hours of operation and contact info, such as a physical address, email address, and phone number (especially if they want to make reservations or ask questions). In addition to including this information on a contact us page, make sure it’s visible at the top of your home page. You don’t want to lose potential customers, because they don’t know where to find you or when you’re open.

You may even want to consider linking your address to Google maps, so visitors can easily get directions no matter where they’re located. Additionally, a click-to-call link for your phone number can enhance a user experience and make it simple for people to reach you.

No. 6: Menus

Another reason people visit restaurant websites is see what’s on the menu. Make sure you feature your menus (e.g., breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, kids, and alcoholic beverages) on your website. While you could include PDFs of your menus on your site, remember, most people will view your menus on their phones. So, they don’t want to use up data downloading menus if they don’t have to.

Ideally, your menus with prices should be pages on your site, so visitors can easily access and review them. Also, you should include appealing descriptions of menu items.

No. 7: Online Ordering and/or Reservations

In the restaurant industry, online ordering options for delivery and/or takeout are fast becoming the norm, especially at many franchise restaurants. Interactive food menus enable visitors to place an order directly via the website from any device. Also, customers can pay for their online order with a debit or credit card through a secure website. Even if you don’t want to offer online ordering, make sure your website tells customers how to place take out and/or delivery orders if available.  

Additionally, many restaurant websites make it easy for their patrons to make reservations for upcoming dinners or events. Customers can simply complete a online reservation form via a third-party reservation system like Yelp Reservations or OpenTable. If you decide a reservation system is not for you, at the very least, you should include your phone number on your website. Therefore, people can call you to make reservations, if required.

No. 8: An About Us Page

Your restaurant’s About Us page is your space to tell people your story. Some things you might talk about include:

  • Why did you open your restaurant?
  • What type of food do you serve?
  • Were you inspired by your grandmother’s recipes from the old country?
  • Do you only use locally sourced ingredients?
  • Do you have unique décor?
  • Do you offer entertainment certain days of the week?
  • Do you offer free WIFI?

Your About Us page is your opportunity to tell people what makes you unique and sets you apart from your competition.

No. 9: Social Media and Review Site Links

Many restaurant websites include buttons with links to their social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Social media marketing is a great way to engage your customers on an ongoing basis. You can use social media to keep customers informed about special promotions or events, loyalty programs, how to purchase gift cards, and other restaurant news. Just remember to be consistent with your social media management, so your restaurant stays top-of-mind with your customers.

Another part of a robust Internet marketing strategy is social media advertising (SMM). With this strategy, you can use paid advertising on social media websites to increase awareness of your restaurant, broaden your customer reach, drive traffic to your website, and develop long-term customer relationships.

Great reviews are an additional way to gain new customers. They can help potential patrons decide if they want to eat at your restaurant. So, you may want to link to review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Just make sure you stay active on review sites. Respond to reviews, especially negative ones, in a timely and professional manner.

No. 10: Consider Having a Blog

A restaurant blog can be an excellent content marketing tool for your business. It can help you attract more website visitors, especially if your blog has been optimized for search engines. You can use your blog to feature stories about your cuisine, special events, staff bios, community service endeavors, and awards you have won.

Not sure why you should have a blog? Check out of one of Fusion Creative’s recent posts about 9 benefits of writing a blog and how it can help your restaurant.

No. 11: Optimized for Search Engines

SEO helps your restaurant website increase your visibility and attract visitors. By using keywords in your site’s content, search engines like Google determine how your content will rank during a specific search. Typically, people will view the top results which appear during a specific search. By optimizing your website for search engines, you increase the chances of your website being seen, especially compared to non-optimized sites.

To drive traffic from the search engines to your website without needing to rank in Google, you could invest in PPC management (also known as pay per click management). The downside to PPC management is it’s much more expensive than investing in content marketing and driving traffic to your site through organic search engine rankings.

Digital marketing agencies, like Fusion Creative, specialize in general SEO and local SEO strategies to help your restaurant get the online results you need, so your customers can find you. By utilizing SEO, you can ultimately establish your restaurant as a leading establishment in your area while building a loyal clientele.  

No. 12: Analytics Tracking

Since a restaurant depends more on foot traffic or phone calls, it is more difficult to determine actual sales from your website. But with analytics, you can track who visits your restaurant website. You can find out information like where they’re visiting from, what devices they’re using, what pages they’re visiting, how long they’re on your site, and what keywords they’re using. You can use this information to align your content to better performing keywords or to take advantage of Google advertising. You can even determine how well your website is performing in comparison to your competitors.

Consider Hiring a Professional Web Design Company

Worldwide, from New York City to Los Angeles to Japan to the United Kingdom, every restaurant should have a website, so they have online exposure. But just like you’re the expert when it comes to food and your restaurant, you need to hire a professional web design company like Fusion Creative to create your restaurant website. We can build an appealing website that includes the 12 essential features described above and much more.

Beautiful restaurant website designs don’t have to break the bank. The average restaurant website cost is typically between $6,000 and $10,000 depending on its size and complexity. Most web designers just use website templates, which are a premade webpage or a set of webpages. They then customize these templates with your content, images and other style elements. In fact, WordPress themes are very popular nowadays. They make up about 33% of all websites on the Internet.

If you want some design inspiration, Fusion Creative invites you to view the website design examples we’ve created for some of our happy customers. Just visit our case studies and click on each customer profile for more info and design examples of each website.

But a website is more than just your design. Even with the sexiest restaurant website, you need to convert clicks into customers. Therefore, the agency you hire must understand how to help you achieve high conversion rates, so you obtain more new customers. Fusion Creative specializes in helping businesses fill their sales funnel through an intentional strategy aimed at identifying and nurturing the best leads and helping to convert them into actual customers.   

It doesn’t matter if your restaurant specializes in backyard burgers or cuisine of exotic locales, a website is a must-have to help you gain greater success. Are you ready to discover how Fusion Creative can help your restaurant attract more customers with a well-designed website? Have your website project manager contact us today to book a free strategy call. We’ll be happy to discuss various strategies to create a beautiful, effective website for your restaurant.

And you never know … you might even win a restaurant website award in addition to a loyal clientele following.

About the Author David Gafford

David works every day to help businesses turn clicks into customers. He's the CEO of Fusion Creative - a digital marketing agency located in Indianapolis, IN.