Designing a Great Website: Essential to Hospitality Success

Where do most restaurant customers go to find information on where to dine? According to a study by The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, guests take to the web to discover dining destinations. And, according to the world’s number one search engine Google, approximately 95% of guests access mobile internet out of their homes, with an astonishing 90% of those using a smart phone to do so.

Now more than ever designing a great website to showcase your restaurant is essential to your success – and adding a mobile feature that will ensure you can capture that savvy guest’s attention.

A well designed website will speak to clientele and engage them both visually (artwork and photos of your food and drink) and emotionally (connecting them to the warm and inviting atmosphere you have created). Basic information and facts are the hook: Menu, hours, location, reservations. Adding the emotional and aesthetic elements are powerful marketing tools that can become critical to guide a guest to make the choice to dine in your restaurant – or not.

We asked our resident website strategy and communications guru Jennifer Motruk Loy (VSAG Vice President of Marketing + Communications) for advice on creating a restaurant’s best marketing tool … an easily accessible and effective website. At the top of it all, she says, “Start with the basics and make every bit of information very clear and easy to understand. That ensures a guest will always be able to find what they’re looking for,” and, then you can build other elements from there.

1. Start with an easy-to-use digital reservation system. This can be not only a powerful marketing tool (attracting guests that like a near-guarantee that they’ll be sat) but it also gives the restaurant a predictor on sales for operations updates.

2. Guide the guests to you; include address, hours and a map. These are important for guests determining if and how they will find your restaurant, when they will dine, and how they will get there. Is there public transportation or parking nearby? Include that info!

3. Make it easy for them to call the restaurant. Despite online reservations, and a website that might have every bit of information a guest is seeking, there is still a significant segment of the dining public that wants to talk to someone in the restaurant. It’s a nice personal touch to attract and retain guests to your brand.

4. Publish your menu. Guests obviously will want to know about the type of food you serve, but if you can give them a clear, current and regularly updated menu, you’ll hook them even quicker. There are a number of auto-populating digital apps that are available to help you keep on top of menu updates online, particularly if you’re changing your menu often.

5. Make your website Mobile Responsive. As we shared in the first part of this article, mobile sites are critical to tech-savvy guests and busy people on the go. Mobile sites should be really simple versions of your main site, have easy to use buttons, one-click reservations, phone call, map and menu options. Many digital reservations systems and programs also offer the mobile version at little or no additional cost.

6. Add a photo gallery, and consider a blog/news section or social media feed. Photos (and GOOD, professionally shot pictures) say a lot about your restaurant, convey a true identity, help establish the atmosphere that guests can expect, and in the case of food shots, do a lot to help sell your brand and attract new guests. You don’t need a lot of images to tell a story, only good ones. If you’ve got the marketing resources to add more relevant and up to date content to the site, consider a news/blog section to let guests know what’s happening, about any special promotions, about any media coverage or awards that you’ve received. And, finally, if you’re using social media (and you SHOULD be!) consider adding a feed of the 3 latest posts/updates to your site.

When you’re using digital marketing and communications to promote your restaurant start at home – you’d rather have guests be attracted to what you’ve got to say and know they’re making a great dining choice – so take some time to make it all truly effective and productive to your bottom line goals.