Your business can’t escape the digital world. BentoBox gave us some essential tips for building and maintaining your restaurant website.
Today, your digital presence is everything. With so many options for diners, depending on word of mouth is not enough to maintain discoverability and keep your business running successfully.
Experts at the leading restaurant website and marketing platform, BentoBox emphasized the importance of building a “digital storefront.”
“Word-of-mouth marketing is no longer as simple as hearing about a restaurant and going to try it out,” Brian Leigh, Director of Content Marketing at BentoBox, said. “There is a touch point between those moments. If someone hears about a restaurant, they want to research it before they go and try it.”
We get it. You’re in hospitality. So this growing expectation to put on a digital marketing-slash-webdesigner hat—on top of everything else you have going on—seems impossible.
In all honesty, you don’t have to be an expert to see results from building your restaurant website. Just keep these fundamental tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to growing your consumer base and outranking the competition.
Bring a Hospitality Mindset to the Design Process
“We call it your digital storefront because it is,” Leigh explained. “A website needs to capture online traffic the same way your business’s exterior and interior design captures foot traffic and makes people want to come in.”
You know how to showcase your brand through the atmosphere and service you provide in your physical restaurant space. Apply the same mentality when approaching the design of your restaurant’s website.
Think of your site as online hospitality, and much like in-person dining, a good user experience comes down to well-thought-out design and navigation.
Let Your Website Be a Reflection of Your Brand
“You can’t stress enough the importance of a first impression,” Leigh said. “Really optimize the landing experience when someone gets to your website. From a brand perspective and messaging perspective, you want visitors to understand who you are and what you’re going to serve.”
Strong branding on the homepage serves as the host, graciously welcoming guests and getting them situated. It’s vital to establishing customer expectations.
Represent your brand elements through copy, fonts, colors, formatting, and, most importantly—imagery—so potential guests can get a feel for the atmosphere and vibe of your establishment.
Whether professionally or paying a staff member or friend, investing in photography is a great way to showcase your restaurant and will pay off in the long run.
“[Great photography is] going from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have. In order to satisfy that branding, word-of-mouth, touchpoint, where you’re trying to bring people on premises, show your space to give a sense of the experience.” Leigh continued, “Show your food, right, your best food. Show your plated dishes. Give them a sense of what they’re going to get both on-premises and off-premises. It goes a long way. It really does.”
Offer Simple User Navigation
A key component of good service is anticipating customer needs. Doing this in the digital space comes from the streamlined site navigation.
“I think drawing up user navigation is important,” Leigh shared. “Not everyone needs to be a UX/UI expert, but at least start to try and think through the mind of your customer if they come to your home page. What are the sections they want to navigate to and make it clear and organized on how to navigate there.”
Approaching user navigation with a hospitality lens—you can anticipate that visitors likely are looking to find information about:
- Your menu
- Location and hours of operation
- Reservation requirements and how to make them
- Online ordering options
Since potential customers visit your site for various reasons, you want things to be easy to find and not obscured by unnecessary design elements.
“Less is more,” Leigh explained. “Instead of something on the nav that says, ‘explore our fantastic menu,’ you know ‘menu’ is going to be enough, it’s intuitive, and then you’re just trying to guide people through your site.”
Drive an Action Online
Your site can and should serve more than just information. You want to encourage potential customers to take action, from placing an order to booking a reservation or inquiring about an event space.
Remember, since millennials have become our economy’s top spending generation, a seamless digital experience is expected.
If your site feels outdated or isn’t in line with the eCommerce experiences everyone is accustomed to, you’ll miss out on potential customers. Leigh shared. “eCommerce has become the biggest mode of ordering worldwide across all industries. If you don’t have that, customers will not convert.”
It’s essential to drive action on your restaurant’s website and pay attention to the user experience in making that action. If the process feels cumbersome or glitchy, the customer will choose the restaurant that made the experience easy.
“Restaurants need to do more with less. Less time, less staff, less everything—and setting up a website correctly allows you to streamline your operations and drive more revenue with marketing automation,” Leigh shared.
By encouraging customers to act directly on your website, you gain another avenue to build and own customer data critical to potential marketing and growth efforts.
Data is essential in reaching new customers and providing more meaningful service that leads to customer loyalty.
Owning your digital presence through your restaurant website is a powerful tool; there’s a lot to consider when optimizing your site—but you’ve got to start somewhere!
Keeping these fundamental aspects in mind as you create, rebuild, or even simply maintain your website is critical to growing your consumer base and business profitability.
If you’re looking for help or want a platform tailored to your needs as a restaurant, check out BentoBox. Their solutions make the website design process more accessible with tools to create a better online experience, increase discoverability, and optimize online ordering and data management.