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Basics of restaurant website design

New web design trends come about every year, month by month, and even day by day. Sometimes because new technologies allow better features, and sometimes because different industries have different needs and requirements from their websites as their businesses grow. Audience tastes play a big role in what makes a great restaurant website design, and as the user’s needs evolve, a website needs to change accordingly. Usually it isn’t one single aspect that brings about a new trend, but a mixture of all three scenarios.

This constant evolution has been changing the way the internet looks for decades, and not only that, it has changed the way users behave and how business owners’ perceive how to use their websites as a successful channel to drive growth in their brands.

Why is a website important for restaurants

Restaurants, like many other businesses benefit from having an active branded website that receives regular updates. The homepage is basically a noticeboard for what is new and exciting at your restaurant. A website is a must-have for any restaurant serious about attracting more than just walk by traffic. Think of it as an extension of your physical restaurant and it needs to represent the restaurant in a way that shows potential customers what they can expect from a visit. A beautiful website represents a beautiful restaurant.

Search engines like Google allow their users to run local searches for restaurants and other establishments near them. When this happens, you have to consider how your restaurant is shaping up against the competition. Design and what you are saying about the restaurant need careful consideration. SEO (search engine optimisation) is a must in order to rank the highest you can. But it doesn’t end there, potential customers expect to see a website because they want to see what your dishes look like, what the interiors look like and if there is anything special about your restaurant compared to the one down the street. Sometimes an Instagram profile isn’t enough.

Once a potential customer visits your website, there’s a lot of expectations to fulfil. They expect your site to be error-free, to load quickly and to be easily navigable while staying aesthetically pleasing. Not only that, they expect to be able to book a table or even order food directly for delivery, which requires some e-commerce integrations.

It’s surely a lot of work remembering all these different facets and putting them into practice, so to give you a clearer idea of what users generally expect from your website, here is a list of our top considerations for the best restaurant websites.

High-quality photography is essential

No matter how much work you put into getting the most functional website you can, if a potential customer is scrolling through your site and the images they see aren’t high quality, the best thing you are going to achieve is making your visitors feel like your restaurant may be nice to visit “some day”. The chain restaurant that opened up down the street will be bumped up on their list of places to try out. The chain doesn’t have better food than you, nor a better customer experience, but their website visuals are gorgeous, mouth-watering and really showcase the vibe of their restaurant.

More and more restaurants discover that sometimes the key to better conversions (turning visitors into customers) is better photos. As a result, websites are full of beautiful high-quality photos showcasing the best parts of their restaurant. You are showing your food and your restaurant to a new audience, let it shine the way it should with slideshows of your menu and other inspiring photos. If you don’t have the time to learn how to take better photos, let the Forager team create a style guide for you to help shape your photography database.

Adopting UX design best practices

Current internet users don’t have the patience they used to have in the 1990’s and 2000’s. They probably didn’t back then either, but they didn’t have a choice. A website shouldn’t be a puzzle or a mental exercise, information must be easy to find and the website easy to navigate. That’s why we see more and more restaurant websites designed with UX design principles at the forefront. This applies to the website that is visible on desktops and mobile devices. Use specialised tools to uncover problems that could be affecting the way users interact with your website. Everyday, websites are making small edits to their design thanks to this.

You can begin to achieve this by outlining clear sections, adding easy navigation and removing all the clutter.

Visually appealing and effective menu cards

Somewhat related to the previous trends, menu cards or menu sections of websites have evolved too. Restaurants are now using all the freedom a website gives them to create visually appealing menu sections on their websites that are easy to read. This has also given an advantage for your comfort too, since the menu will be easier to update.

The key here is clarity. You want your menu to be very visual, but not at the expense of readability. Your visitors must be able to read your menu and see what they are going to be running to taste for themselves.

Branding and personalisation

Restaurants are all unique, and they need a website that is just as unique. Not just a copy of the restaurant down the street. A website needs to showcase the characteristics that make it special. Put your restaurant above the competition. You put in the work each day to make sure the food and customer service is the best it can be, and your online presence should be doing the same.

Branding has had a huge impact on shaping restaurant web design trends. In part because having a list of best practices to follow at hand is amazing at building effective websites. Sometimes though, it leads to them all looking the same. To avoid this, restaurants and other businesses combine these best practices with carefully crafted style guides and branding work to create the right aesthetic to set them apart from the competition and connect with their customers on a deeper level.

To achieve this, you need to start with understanding your own business and see what sets it apart from similar restaurants. If it were a person, what would be its personality? What do your customers like about it? What do you like about it? Are there any colours or shapes that you would associate with your restaurant? Those and other questions that dive deeper into the emotional perception of your business will help you to develop a clear idea of the results you want to get.

Forager Media Group offers comprehensive branding services. We’ll take care of making the questions and analysis to develop a style and strategy you could use in future web design projects or in other materials like social media profiles.

Booking integrations

Restaurant owners discovered that, if they want to turn their websites into an effective channel to get new customers, they had to give them a more active role in the sales process. Now customers don’t have to search for a phone number or address and then remember to call later. Instead, they can click on a button that says “Book Now” right there in the corner of the website and after a few more clicks they’ll have a table waiting for them at your restaurant.

Some restaurants even offer the option to order food directly from their website, so customers only need to go there and pick up their orders once they’re ready. This and other variations have become so common that customers expect it.

Not adding this functionality to your website is adding a step more to the list of steps your visitors have to take before becoming a customer, and as we mentioned before talking about user experience, the more complicated things are for your website visitors, the less likely they will become customers.

Takeaways

Trends will continue changing as time passes, when it comes to the internet, this can happen fast. You don’t need to be on top of everything, you just have to keep your visitors and potential customers in mind and be ready to make changes to make things better for them. A happy and hungry website visitor is one step closer to a new customer.

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