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Marketing

Building a Better Restaurant Website

A few of you may know that I come from an IT background and spent about 14 years in the web and eCommerce space before opening my first restaurant 13 years ago. I still manage all our restaurants’ web presence, marketing, social media, etc and thought I would share a few cornerstones of what makes a successful restaurant website.

Start with Why

This is the first question you need to ask. Why does your website exist? Why are people be visiting your website?

There are two reasons people visit your website – research and to find contact details. I discuss research more in Social Media & New Customer Acquisition where I cover the basics of sales funnels so I will just list the key elements of your home page here. It’s about keeping it simple and making it easy for your customers to find what they need.

  • High-quality visual images of your food and/or restaurant
  • Restaurant contact details – address, telephone, email
  • A clear and succinct description of what you offer
  • A clear and succinct summary of the reasons people choose you
  • Easy links to online ordering (for takeaway)
  • Easy links to eCommerce (for retail if you have any)
  • A sign-up form for your mailing list
  • Links to social media (e.g. Instagram Feed)
  • A clear menu to access other pages for more information

If you run a multi-site restaurant, you may need to move the contact details into a sub-page and have a ‘location finder’ link so people are directed to the correct branch, but this is getting more complex and I want to focus here on single or a small number of outlets. You can see how we implement this at Meejana and Sel et Sucre to get some ideas.

Remember, you are in a visual and theatrical business – people eat with their eyes – so you need good imagery to sell your food and restaurant and encourage new visitors to choose you. If you are a good photographer, great, otherwise hire a professional for half a day or a day and create some good pictures which you can then use on your website and social media feeds. I personally took all the photos on the Meejana site with a mix of DSLR and iPhone, including all the product shots for the eCommerce store.

How you write your content is also crucial. Copywriting is an art and skill in itself and can make the difference between successfully converting (closing) site visitors or not.

Make Sure Your Restaurant Website Can be Found

This is a fusion of technology and search engine optimisation. I cover SEO on my New Customer Acquisition post but you also need to make sure your pages are coded cleanly and don’t have things in that search engines object to. This section offers you shortcuts to building a cleanly-coded website without needing technical skills.

I used to hand-code websites around the turn of the Millenium and always ensured the most optimal coding for search engines so nothing got in the way of being indexed. I delivered this for a number of restaurants in London moving them up to the first page in Google.

Fortunately, technology has advanced a lot since then and there are content management systems that do the job for you so you don’t need to worry. Also, a hand-built site will need maintenance going forward which is a hidden cost.

I advocate WordPress as the go-to choice of platform on which to build your restaurant website (approximately one-third of all websites are built using it). I would also recommend buying a commercial theme from a site such as CodeCanyon. This ensures you get a standards-compliant, mobile-friendly, optimised theme for your site. Plus, the theme is maintained and your license fee includes the updates so your website will always be in tip-top condition.

WordPress provides you with easy-to-use editing facilities so you can manage your pages and content whenever you choose. One word of caution – some themes you buy use additional plug-in editors to help you create more fancy looking pages. These editors have a learning curve associated with them and may require thinking technically to implement them effectively. Our Sel et Sucre site uses the Bold Builder plugin for example. Do your research into each theme to determine if it uses any additional plugins to extend the functionality or if it uses the standard Gutenberg blocks editor shipped with WordPress. Remember that additional plugins will generate additional code which may impact your search engine optimisation.

Make A Secure Choice

WordPress is constantly updated to keep it secure, but you need to ensure you click ‘update’ to keep it safer. Given that a third of the web is built on WordPress, it is a regular target for hackers so you should take further steps to harden (make more secure) your online business presence. Here are a few key things I recommend:

  • Use the Akismet anti-spam plugin (or disable comments of posts and pages)
  • Use Jetpack to provide a content delivery network (quicker loading times) and other useful features.
  • Make an account on WordPress.com to help manage your website. With the Jetpack integration, you can set any plugins you use on the website to auto-update saving you time. Jetpack will guide you to create this account.
  • Install the Wordfence plugin. This installs a firewall and security scanner on your site and protects you against most attacks. There is a free version but the protection signature files are 30 days old. The paid-for version gives you fully up-to-date signature files. The security scanner is great as it checks your installation vs the central repository of WordPress in case something changes that shouldn’t and offers you a 1-click fix option. You can also add two-factor authentication to protect your login, and auto-update minor WordPress updates.
  • Install a backup plugin (like Updraft Plus which is free) and set your site to backup daily to an off-site location (like Dropbox). Your website host may also offer this, but a full WordPress backup of your own is very valuable.
  • Add the GA Google Analytics plugin (or similar) to integrate your Google Analytics (traffic) code. You will need to create an account with Google Analytics if you haven’t already.
  • Create a Google Search Console account also and ensure your site is verified with Google. This creates better credibility for your site and the Search Console also gives you further analysis of your site performance for mobile, site maps, and any issues that Google objects to. As they change the rules, you get an advanced notification to be able to make changes as needed.
  • Install an SEO plugin like Rank Math or Yoast to configure key elements to help your SEO efforts. Rank Math is more in-depth but both are excellent depending on your needs. Although Jetpack can also be used to automatically generate site maps (which Google loves you for), bespoke SEO-related plugins do these and also ping search engines to tell them you have updated content. I have found indexing to occur more rapidly using these plugins (the Search Console shows you this). For example, I made 2 easy changes to this post and Rank Math showed my SEO rating improve from 24/100 to 78/100.

I use SiteGround for WordPress hosting as they are one of the top companies with dedicated and affordable WordPress hosting packages. They also offer you free access to the CloudFlare content delivery network which provides additional benefits to your website performance. Packages start from a one-off website to managed cloud hosting for much larger installs and they have a great support team who can help you with anything you may need. I have used many companies over the years for hosting ranging from one-off hosting packages on fully shared and also virtual servers through to fully managed dedicated and cloud hosting with Rackspace and have found SiteGround to be the perfect fusion of support, performance and ease-of-use. SiteGround also auto-updates major WordPress versions to make sure you are kept secure.

The above list is my “shopping list” of key plugins and third-party tools to help get the best out of your website. You will need to configure each of the options for your site so the plugins all work in harmony (some have overlapping functions).

If you would like further information on any of these elements, send me a message or leave a comment below.

Would you like a website audit?

I can provide a high-level audit of your site based around these concepts. Just contact me and I will be happy to do this for you. My availability is limited, so I only do a handful of free audits every month. If you are happy with the results, is all I ask is a testimonial from you which I can publish.

Thanks for reading this article about the restaurant business. I hope you liked it! If there is anything you'd like me to discuss or write about just let me know in the comments or via the contact form.

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