Mind Your Design


Better Restaurant Websites and Social Media Tips

by: | November 4, 2011

Let’s face it, most restaurant websites suck. Surprisingly, it’s not necessarily the restaurant’s fault, either. Not everyone who puts together websites for clients knows what a good restaurant website needs. People visit restaurant websites for very different reasons than they would an e-commerce site. Unfortunately, this is why there is a pandemic of terrible restaurant websites out there.

The trouble doesn’t end with just their websites either, though. Without a social media presence, your restaurant is practically invisible.

There are basically three things people are looking for when they look up a restaurant online— the hours, the menu and what other people think of it. With your website and with social media, you can make it easy for your customers to find these answers. The easier it is for them to find, the more likely they are to dine with you.

Your Website

Hours – Instead of making a page just for the hours, display your hours prominently on your front page and on the footer on every page on your site. The goes for your address and phone number, too.

Menu – This is the second most important piece of information people will go to your website to see. Again, you need to make it easy for your customers to find it. If you have a page with your items listed, make your page prominent in your page navigation. If your menu is a downloadable PDF, make the download link very easy to see on the homepage. And while we’re on the topic of the menu, if you have any specials, put them on the homepage for all to see.

Reviews – Of course you think your restaurant is great, but people aren’t looking for what you think of it; they want unbiased reviews. That being said, if you’ve won any awards locally or have any good reviews by prominent critics, let your visitors know! Display any positive press or awards prominently on your homepage.

Here are some strong examples of restaurants that demonstrate these suggestions:
Jam Restaurant: Chicago, IL
Farinella Bakery: New York, NY

Social Media

Simply displaying your hours and menu on your website won’t solve your website woes. Unfortunately, “build it and they will come” doesn’t work in today’s online space. The good news is there is a plethora of tools you can use in addition to your website to generate more visitors to your restaurant or bar.

Use these tools to display your hours, menu, specials, reviews, and any other information they’ll allow. Investing time into putting information into these hubs will pay off in terms of SEO and in people wanting to try your restaurant.

Here’s a list of some of the tools you should be actively using.

Local Business Hubs:

  • Google Places – This should be your first task. Your restaurant should come up as a result when people type in your type of food for the area (pizza, chinese, Italian, etc.), and your location on the map should come up immediately when someone searches the name of your place into Google.
  • Yahoo Local – Your listing shouldn’t just come up on Google, put it on Yahoo too. Don’t search engine discriminate.

Review Sites

When someone looks up your restaurant, Google will automatically pull up reviews and give your establishment an overall starred rating. This is beneficial to you. More reviews mean more action and buzz in the minds of viewers, and people don’t like being left out of buzzworthy things, so they’ll be inclined to visit.

Menu websites:

  • Menu Pages
  • All Menus
  • Local menu listings. If your city has a popular local menu listing (maybe through the local paper or alternative weekly), find it and get on it.

Don’t stop there!

Now you’re on a roll. There are local food bloggers out there who write reviews about local restaurants. Invite them to eat at your restaurant and post a review online.

Facebook and Twitter

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools for restaurants. One positive experience can translate into a “like” that can go to broader audiences than even your website sees. Create a fan page and a Twitter account and post about specials, new menu items, happy hours, events and more.

It’s unreasonable at this point to expect people to come to your website to consistently check on what’s going on – give them the information where they already visit every day, and you’ll increase the chance that they’ll see it.

Here are great examples of restaurants using social media well:
Hawkers Streetfare: Orlando
Mellow Mushroom: Winter Park

Did we miss any sites or hubs here? Let us know your favorite in the comments!Marketing Zeus

Here are even more online business directories for your restaurant to consider using to improve local search results.

Posted in: B2C, Branding, Content, E-Commerce, Facebook, Lead Generation, Link Building, Local, Mind Your Design, Optimization, Social Networks, Twitter, Usability, Viral Marketing

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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