Your customers will want to know who you are—and what you serve—before they'll be willing to give your restaurant a try. There's no better way to take on this task than to design a website for your restaurant.
When it comes to design, everything matters. The fonts you choose, the images you select, and the content you include will all tell part of the story of what your restaurant is all about. That story must appeal to your target market.
User experience matters, too. If you plan to offer menus to browse, online ordering, online reservations, or any other functionalities, you must ensure that they're clear, simple, and easy for people with a wide range of web savviness to use.
In this article, we'll help you design a website that will hit all of these key points.
What's my story?
There is a specific reason you choose to start your restaurant. You carefully selected a style of cuisine and menu items to support it. You had reasons for choosing your location, hiring specific staff members, and operating under the name you chose. Try writing a story around those reasons, aiming for a narrative that's three-to-four paragraphs in length. This story will make you a character worth supporting and your business one to champion.
You might decide to include your story on your website. Some owners do, and they build a community of loyal patrons because of it. But even if you opt to keep the story private, you can use it to select design elements on your site that match the heart of your message.
What does this mean? Here are some examples. For images, you might include photos of your team, your background, the region your menu is built around, or any other aspect of your story that feels important to emphasize. The colors of your site should tie back to your story, too. If there are colors that are important to the nationality of your menu, you may want to find ways to tie those in.
Let's talk more about content.
Whether or not you choose to tell your story, you should use space on your site to explain the concept of your restaurant and what diners can expect when they have a meal at your establishment.
Few people will pour over every word on your site, especially if you share paragraph after paragraph on the minute details of your restaurant. With this in mind, try to match your content to your audience's preferred styles of taking in information: Keep paragraphs short and to the point and use videos when possible.
Writing tone matters. In most instances, a polished, professional tone is best, especially if you want your restaurant to be taken seriously. However, if your place is casual and your people are lighthearted, you should show that through the words you choose. Be relaxed and casual, but continue to get the points that matter across.
One more tip: Don't underestimate the importance of good grammar. Run spell check and ask a well-read peer to proof your site for errors before you post your content.
What should I put on my site?
Beyond your story and messaging about your restaurant, there are a few elements that will help you win over your audience. Let's run through these briefly:
So many people who seek out your site do so because they want to know what you serve. With this in mind, be sure to keep your restaurant's current menus on your site and make them very easy to find. Your menu can be a simple PDF file, a page on your site, or an interactive tool that allows site browsers to learn more about dishes, see photos, or place online orders.
Lots of diners today hope to see dietary information, such as calorie, sodium, or fat content, and allergen information. You can decide whether it's feasible for you to include those items.
Some restaurants develop their own capabilities for online ordering, but it's far easier to use a readymade tool, like the ones listed below. Check out the chart for a quick snapshot comparison, and click the logos for a video that shows you more about each option:
If you have a tool in place for taking online reservations, you can link it directly to your website. It's best to work with the organization that provides this service to your restaurant to learn how to integrate it. You may also find some easy-to-follow instructions on that organization's website (and examples of how others have integrated it, too).
If you don't already have an online reservation service in place, consider these options:
What about design?
As we said at the outset, design matters. The style and visuals you choose will cause an emotional response in your audience.
There are countless resources that can help you with this step (including Templately), though if graphics aren’t your strong suit, we recommend working with an experienced web design professional. However, the following tips can help you develop your brand imagery strategy:
Consistency is important for building brand recognition. Your site doesn’t need rigid uniformity, but you should ensure that your logo, font selection, color story, and image elements have a similar look and feel and will appeal to a broad section of your target audience.
Use color thoughtfully.
Every color can elicit emotions. For instance, green often exudes peace, earthiness, or prosperity; white conveys modernness and simplicity, and blue can hint at serenity, assurance, and tranquility. Study a color theory resource, such as this one, and select a dominant and secondary color for your site’s headings and imagery that will help you set a compelling tone and a clean and purposeful aesthetic.
Allow for white space.
Break up the visual elements on your site. By incorporating some white space, or visual emptiness, you can draw your viewers’ eyes to key elements of the page without making them feel overwhelmed by a bevy of content.
It can be tempting to overdesign each element of your site, but doing so may overstimulate—and overwhelm—your audience. Try sticking to a small selection of colors, fonts, and style choices that will convey your brand image clearly and effortlessly.
Feature high-quality photos of your most popular menu items.
Food is at the heart of what you do. Show off what you serve. Hire a photographer who can help you take great photos at just the right angles.
You may also want to take photos of your site, tables, manager, or team. We said earlier that these photos can help site viewers connect with your story and visualize themselves within it.
Here are a few web designers who have lots of experience helping owners design a winning website for their restaurants:
You can also find readymade templates that are great for many restaurants (look into GoDaddy and some popular WordPress templates), but of course, a professionally designed site is often well worth the cost.
Your website will need a web domain (the place you claim on the internet). We can help you work through this task. Check out this article for some simple tips and suggestions of a few great web hosts:
Make sure your site can be found. You've likely heard of search engine optimization (SEO), which helps businesses rise to the top of search engine results. Turn to an expert for help with this task. Here are a few SEO teams that have specific experience in helping restaurants with SEO challenges:
With a great site in place, turn your attention to your social media pages. We have a few great articles that can help you with this task:
Then, be sure to log into your owner's portal for more articles and a step-by-step roadmap you can use to start your restaurant. You can also refer to our restaurant guide for how-to guides and recommendations.