Websites for restaurants have many needs in common with websites for general retail shops. But there are many other ways on the internet for customers to find out about restaurants – Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, and Zomato, for instance. Because there are these online options, some restaurants opt to just have a listing on those sites, and to forego the trouble of setting up their own website.
However, relying on listings managed and updated by others is a quick way to lose control over your restaurant’s public face. Fake negative reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have caused a lot of trouble for some business owners. Restaurant owners need to have control over their own information and the best way to do this is to establish an official website.
The following are five key points to keep in mind as you set up a website for your restaurant:
- List your opening hours!
Believe it or not, there are restaurants that do not list their opening hours on their website. If I don’t know whether you are open for lunch or not, chances are I will go to a restaurant that tells me for sure that they are open for lunch. Are you closed on Sundays, or another day of the week? You better let people know that. If a potential customer shows up with their family (or friends who are in town) but your restaurant is closed and they have to drive somewhere else, how likely is it that they will attempt to drive out to you again if they are unsure of your schedule?
Equally important is an exact address of your restaurant, as well as a map. In many suburban areas of the United States, restaurants are located among several buildings in a large business park that retains a single address. I have spent up to 20 minutes driving around a maze-like business park trying to find the specific building in which a restaurant is located. If your restaurant is not obvious from the road, you need to include a more detailed close-up map on your website that customers can reference in order to easily find you. Also, including your specific area and city/town name will increase the likelihood that, when people are searching the web for restaurants in your area/town, your restaurant’s website will be among the top results.
- Menu and Prices
While many larger chain restaurants will be known to customers for their cuisine, it may not be as obvious for your restaurant what type of food to expect, unless it is something like “Joe’s Mexican Cantine” or “Bella’s Italian Grotto”. When potential customers are looking at a listing of restaurants and click on your restaurant, chances are the first thing they are going to look for is what type of food you serve. Generic phrases like “good old-fashioned American fare” or “made with locally-sourced organic ingredients” are great marketing slogans, but you should include a page with your menu listed, so that people know ahead of time whether there will be something for everyone in their party when they get there. Have a kids’ menu? List that, as well. Vegetarian options? Also important to note on the menu. People will also want to have an idea of the prices, so they don’t show up and suddenly realize that the least expensive entrée is $20.00.
- Search Engine Optimization
As you develop your website, think about what type of customer you want to attract and be sure to incorporate key words in the text of your web site. Want to make sure vegetarians can find you? Be sure to include the word “vegetarian” or phrases like “vegetarian options” or “vegetarian-friendly” in the text of your home page. Does your restaurant offer a specific cuisine, such as “Vietnamese”? Use the term “Vietnamese restaurant” on your home page! Be sure that you use the specific words and phrases customers will be searching for on your website. Once your website is set up, you also need to be sure to list it on all of the major search engines. See if you can get a listing on some of the local tourism websites, which often include listings of local restaurants on their pages. When other websites link to you, your ranking will be higher in the results found on search engines. Your goal is to have your website be the first listed when people search for your restaurant name, and to be among the results on the first page when people search for restaurants in your area, for your cuisine type.
Are you affiliated with OpenTable, HostMe, or another online restaurant reservation service? Be sure to link to it from your website. If you simply take reservations through your own staff, ensure that your website has a phone number listed for people to call to make their reservations.
Needless to say, whenever any information changes on your menu, you will need to change the information on your website. Have a page for special events if this is something you offer – pub quiz nights or sporting event celebrations are especially important. And if you have a Facebook page or Twitter profile, don’t forget to include links to those from your website. Encourage your customers to “Like” and “Follow” you on social media, and to spread the word about their dining experience.