"Amanda steps out with her officemates for lunch, and no one has a strong opinion where to eat. She picks up her phone and searches for Mediterranean restaurants, and lucky you! Yours appears near the top of the list.
While the well-placed photos of dolmas and falafel look enticing, what isn’t alluring is the long wait as she downloads a full menu. After waiting ten seconds for the list of appetizers to appear, it’s on to the next restaurant from the list."
If you own a restaurant and this happens to you, congratulations! You just lost several customers, perhaps permanently. With so many restaurant choices available in many areas, and with information available at the press of a screen or button, your website needs to offer what people want – and quickly.
So… what exactly does a restaurant website need? Based on informal surveys and offering this question as a part of my "Responsive Design and Development Gotchas" talk, here are some suggestions in no particular order:
Yes; I'm starting with the obvious.
Again, this should be obvious. If your website doesn't display - and work - well on a phone, it might as well be invisible.
People visit to learn about the food. Please, please, please don't force potential customers to burn through their data plans and download a full PDF, which on a small device requires pinching and zooming to read! And as per the example above, what if the connection speed is slow?
While you should offer a PDF, list your items in plain text so they can be quickly scanned. Include prices, though some higher-end restaurants will skip this. Along that note, if you offer specials, especially for lunch or early birds, make sure people notice them!
If applicable, call out vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free options. Or, if you have more detailed nutrition information, a link to that might prove very useful.
Don't hide your phone number. If you offer enough details, people may not have to call except to make a reservation or for call-ahead seating. And speaking of making reservations, if you offer them through OpenTable or an alternative, provide direct links to those services.
Location (Location, Location…)
Listing your address is not enough. Why not show a map with a link to a mapping service (i.e. Google Maps) so people can easily find directions to your establishment? It's very annoying to copy and paste text to a map application (especially on a mobile phone), so forcing your visitors to do so is just asking them to leave.
Along the same note, is parking a concern near your restaurant? If so, perhaps mention the local parking situation so people don't have to search for a lot, causing them to potentially decide upon another restaurant along the way.
If there are mass transit options, a location / directions page would be a great place to mention if your restaurant is near a particular subway / train station or bus stop.
Let your customers know when you're open – don't force them to find this information on Yelp or Google. If you want to be really helpful, mention holiday hours as well. And don't just say "open 11am – 10pm" if the restaurant closes between 2:30pm and 5:30pm for cleaning and dinner prep. You don't want people walking by and finding the lights off and/or door locked!
Other things to mention?
- Is your restaurant smoking or non-smoking? Though many places in the United States have 100% smoke-free laws, some allow smoking in bars or if the clientele is exclusively over a certain age. Local laws differ, and not everyone visiting your restaurant may be local and know the laws.
- Are there side dining rooms or large areas for groups? This can be a major selling point if someone wants to bring along fifty of their closest friends.
While some restaurants forego the cost of a website, relying on potential customers to find them via Yelp, reviews on Google, or a Facebook page, having a domain can strengthen a brand and provide people more details on all offerings. Unfortunately, just having a website does not cut it anymore, thus you should offer an experience that informs and delights those looking to dine. Make it easy to be found. Announce when you're open and if you offer time-based specials. Don't rely solely on bulky PDFs for menus. A few simple changes can help keep "Amanda", and others like her, from bypassing you for the next dining establishment.
Do you have any other suggestions that would enhance the customer experience for visitors of restaurant websites? Please offer your suggestions in the comments.