{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

While most restaurants now seem to at least understand the importance of having an online presence, many of their websites leave a lot to be desired. 

Common problems include Flash overkill, difficulty finding menus and prices, and out of date offers and information. 

I have 10 suggestions how restaurants both large and small can improve their online presence... 

Add clear contact details

One thing many customers will visit a restaurant website for is to find the phone number for bookings and enquiries. Don't make people search too hard for it. 

In fact, why not display it clearly on every page? This website has the contact number and email address at the top of every page where it can't be missed: 

Restaurant website contact

Show menus in text format

Too many restaurant websites display menus as PDFs, which just means that it takes customers longer to find, while making it very difficult for mobile users to view them. 

Some are presented in even odder ways, such as this Flash-based menu for the Tontine restaurant in North Yorkshire. 

Restaurant website menu

It may look good, but it's not that easy to turn the pages, and the text could be too small for some users to read. Also, it is completely invisible when viewed on a mobile device. 

The menus on the Arbutus website are even harder to view. The text is too small and you can only view it in a tiny window:

menus4

Canteen provides an example of how this should be done: 

Canteen

Add reviews to your site

Customers love the reassurance of reading reviews, and a couple of favourable reviews will help them decide to make a reservation. This restaurant in St Ives has a page of positive reviews and awards: 

restaurant website reviews

If you haven't had any reviews in the local or national press, then there's always the option of adding user ratings from sites like Yelp or Qype. As on e-commerce sites, linking to less favourable reviews may well make the positive reviews more credible. 

If reviews can be shown in full, or a link provided to where the article can be viewed, this will be more convincing than extracting favourable quotes and displaying them out of context.

Provide quality photos

Customers like to get a feel of a restaurant, so a gallery showing the layout of the dining room and a scattering of the dishes on offer can be very persuasive. Also, quality food photography can stimulate visitors' taste buds and push them towards a booking. 

Let customers book online

If people have arrived at your website to check out your menus, then they are clearly considering a visit, so why not catch them there and then by allowing them to book a table online. 

This feature is not the preserve of larger or chain restaurants, as there are plenty of third party booking services available which can provide this functionality for small businesses. 

According to Livebookings CEO Niklas Eklund, while 70% of customers want to find information and book online, just 7% of restaurants are offering this service. 

Optimise for local search

If people are searching for somewhere to eat in your area, is your restaurant's website turning up in the search results? Try a few searches related to your locality to see where you sit on Google. 

There are plenty of ways restaurants can improve their rankings for local searches; optimising related keywords, adding your business to Google Maps, and making sure you are listed on sites like Yelp and Qype, which generally rank well in Google. 

Make sure mobile users can view your site 

Thanks to smartphone usage, the numbers of potential customers searching for somewhere to eat on their mobiles while out and about is growing. If your restaurant is ranking well in local searches, and has an accessible website, this can provide a clear advantage over competitors. 

It is probably too much to expect every small restaurant to have a mobile optimised site, but by designing a simple website, avoiding the use of Flash, and following some of the other tips here, then you can attract mobile internet users. 

There are also plenty of apps and mobile sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon and Qype which can direct mobile searchers to your restaurant. 

Make use of social media

I'm seeing more restaurants advertising their Facebook and Twitter profiles, and it makes sense to use these sites to promote your restaurants. Smaller businesses may find it harder to build a following but by using the personal touch and keeping people informed about new dishes on the menu, special offers etc, it can be effective. 

Avoid flash overkill

Restaurants seemingly love Flash for their websites, and there are plenty of examples of this. Setting aside accessibility issues for a moment, it can be great for presenting photography of the food or restaurant, but there are plenty that go too far. 

One prime example of this is Sketch. Its all-Flash website is a nightmare. First you need to click enter, then a pop up window opens up with a picture of an egg. It also starts playing music which cannot be turned off: 

sketch1

Users then need to click on the egg to open up the site, which is a mess: 

sketch2

It may well be very clever and stylish, but it's a usability nightmare. Apart from the irritating ticking noise which can't be turned off, the menu options keep moving which makes it hard to click on anything, and the text is way too small. Actually viewing the menu and finding out more about the restaurant takes real effort. 

Keep it up to date

Running a website as well as a restaurant can be time-consuming, but it's vital that restaurateurs keep their online content as up to date as possible. 

Quite simply, if information is clearly out of date, then many visitors will simply assume that it has closed. 

Reviews should be as recent as possible, otherwise customers won't take any notice, while it's not a good idea to show an old menu in case customers are disappointed when they arrive to fine a completely different one. 

Graham Charlton

Published 23 November, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Avatar-blank-50x50

rob

ALl good stuff.  You can do a repeat one for hotel websites which are generally awful.  An 11th point would be: drop the mood music

almost 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Funny you should say that Rob, as hotels are another on the list. 

almost 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

click asia summit

Thanks for the suggestions and i hope to see many restaurants who weren't doing anything much for their websites, following these useful guidelines. All the points are equally important if restaurants want to achieve a higher ranking on search engines with their respective websites.

almost 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Gravytrain Online Marketing

Excellent article Graham.

Sketch is a marvelous restaurant with a first class chef but that website is absolutely shocking. I can't imagine the process they went through to achieve that look!! Best stick to cooking...

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Richard

I work with a lot of restaurants and I  try to use all the above points. The problem is that using a PDF menu - or worse scanning one - is not seen as a problem. Thankfully I have one client that is now giving me pretty much a free reign.

Generally speaking though most restaurants go for a really cheap option using stock images (and I've even seen them with the watermark), or mobile phone pics, Flash, music, and no data capture.

Spending £150,000 on opening a restaurant is ok, but money on a website, especially one that will work hard for them is all too often a no.

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Richard

Just remembered, linking to web reviews can be really risky. Several clients have had real issues with, especially, TripAdvisor although it some cases it's suspected to be rival businesses. I've approached Tripadvisor but nothing, similar with Facebook - nasty unfounded comments and even groups. As we know there are currently hotel groups taking on TripAdvisor, and yes the web is about free speech, but there has to be a way of filtering the vindictive out.

over 5 years ago

Corrie Davidson

Corrie Davidson, Social Media Manager at Sisarina, Inc

All good points that we try to convey to clients as well! 

Personally, I hate having to wait for flash intros or the frantic search for the "off" music button. When I go to a restaurants website I want contact info, location and menu - preferably with prices!!

And if its a delivery or take out joint - let me order online rather than having to call and you'll get my business at least once!

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Tom Freeman

A really useful checklist, thank you Econsultancy. As a restaurateur I can confirm that finding the time to keep your web presence up to date is tough! Having said that, we've had great success promoting our daily specials via Twitter and Facebook. I think these social communities can provide some great viral coverage, especially if you've got a unique concept that resonates with an existing tightly knit community (e.g. gluten free pizza, or cornmeal crust pizza). It would be great to hear some recommendations from E-Consultancy on booking / takeaway software that is available? Especially any that can integrate with EPOS systems? When I'm running around in the kitchen I don't really have time to check our email for takeaway orders / bookings... And there's definitely no excuse for hiding your great content behind Flash. We hired a local agency (Class Creative) who did us a great job on design and usability without using Flash.

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Tom Sharp, Sales and Marketing Manager at Lakeside Hotel

Interesting stuff - am marketingt manager at a 4 star hotel and about to launch a new website so will look forward to reading the tips! 

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Tony Burgess-Webb

Ten good points, like also the 11th , can the mood music indeed. Wd add 12th, make the visuals less about dark pretentious interiors and more about the food. But all this is lipstick on a pig if the restaurant staff don't listen to what is being said online, and respond/engage ...both in person and online. Re online booking, what has everyone's experience been with Opentable?

over 4 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.