I have a pet peeve — restaurant web sites which don’t work.
There is no doubt that it is hard to produce a “good” web site. “Good” means a site that gives people the information they want, entices them to visit the physical business, and doesn’t frustrate them into going away. Every business category is full of examples of bad web sites, but restaurants seem to be particularly vulnerable to the kinds of mistakes mentioned here.
Why is that? There are some common factors that apply to many restaurants and conspire to create a similar outcome. Restaurants are often small businesses, mostly single-location, where the owner-operator wears many hats. There is rarely a full-time marketing person available to guide the choices, and often the web site is produced by the owner, or the owner’s friend or relative.
But even if the owner hires a web design firm, the “who is the customer?” problem rears its ugly head. The web designer’s job ultimately is to make the restaurant owner happy. The owner needs a web site that will attract and keep customers. But it’s very easy for the owner to get caught up in the excitement of the new design, and approve (or request) bells and whistles that seem nifty but add nothing to the overall value of the site (I’m looking at you, auto-playing background music).
One of the hardest things for a web designer to do is tell the customer that less is more. There’s a natural desire to do things that the customer wants to pay you for. After all, the customer is always right, right? But if the customer is caught up in the moment, it’s the designer’s (thankless) job to talk them down and convince them not to go overboard.
That’s the “why”. What’s the “what”? Well, why do you go to a restaurant web site? Here’s why I go:
- Find the phone number
- Find the address / get directions
- Find the hours
- Look at the menu
- Look for current specials
Notice some of the things that aren’t on this list: listen to music, watch a video, look at a 3-year-old coupon, download a gigantic photo of prime rib on the front page instead of any useful information, be frustrated by a Flash-only web site which doesn’t work on my mobile device.
Here are 5 tips that are guaranteed to improve a restaurant web site:
- Make sure the front page of the site prominently displays all of the following (or has a prominent link to the info):
- Hours of operation, including holiday closures
- Phone numbers for: Reservations, Take-out/delivery, general questions
- The address with a link to directions and/or a map
- Links to menu information and specials
- If you do some special preparations (vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free dishes) mention that fact here
If you put these 5 tips to work, your restaurant web site will instantly be better than most. Don’t believe it? Google a few and see what you get.
Here are a few sites which get it right:
- Frontier Restaurant: http://www.frontierrestaurant.com/
- Pizzeria Luca: http://www.pizzerialuca.com/
- Lumpy’s Burgers: http://www.lumpysburgers.com/
If you want help creating, hosting, or tweaking a restaurant web site, please drop us a line via our contact form or give us a call at 505-232-7992.