Making plans to get dinner with friends can be complicated enough. People want a place that has good food (duh), good ambiance (of course), and that everyone can agree on too. That’s a tall order, and a great website can often be the deciding factor in where that dinner happens.
As a restaurant owner, your site is a perfect opportunity to turn potential customers into actual customers. Of course, it’s also a place many restaurants fall flat and drive customers away.
In this post, I’m gonna go through the top 5 common mistakes restaurants make with their websites and how to fix them. That way you get more customers, and I get another great restaurant to check out with friends.
1. Address and business hours are not available
This is something I see ALL THE TIME when looking up restaurant websites.
And it’s such a simple thing too. It’s maddening.
If this info isn’t available why would anyone show up?
It should ideally be on the home page.
Seriously, don’t make this info hard to find.
If I can’t find the address and business hours within 3 clicks, I move on to my next dinner option.
Get it together, and put your business address and hours of operation on that first page.
You want people to come to you and spend money, so make it super easy for them to find you.
The most effective way to do that is to put your address and hours in a spot everyone will see when they come to your site.
It’s the easiest way to help impatient, and hangry potential customers.
2. The menu is not available or is outdated
It’s always a let down when you hear about a new place to eat and see they haven’t updated their seasonal menu on their website since November of last year.
If your concept is going to have a seasonal menu, you should be updating the website as soon as the info is available.
This is ESPECIALLY true if your seasonal menu is part of your USP (Unique Selling Point). This also applies to holiday menus and special event menus.
You already know what you’re offering for the week, month, year, whatever. It should be a no-brainer to communicate this to your target customers.
It’s just like the address and hours info, make it super easy for people to find and you’ll be all good.
Make a quick menu template on your computer and update it every time you make seasonal or other updates to your menu. Then make sure you update the menu section on your site.
If you don’t have the time to update your menu on your site, consider hiring someone to make the update for you.
Once you have a template that you like, you should be able to make quick and easy updates to it as needed.
3. The website is difficult to navigate
Now, I get how confusing it can be to set up a website the way you want it done.
But if it’s not easy to navigate around and find what you are looking for, then you might as well not have a website. That nonsense hurts you more than it helps you.
At a minimum, your site should have links for a home page, a menu, an about us/me page and a news/press page. If you use software to take reservations, you could also have a link for that, but only if you use it regularly.
It really is that simple.
Are flashy graphics and a bazillion links to the same place fun? Sure. Do they serve the purpose of your business? No, not so much.
You want to find a balance between giving people a taste of what to expect when they visit and exactly the info they need to choose your restaurant.
Set aside 5-10 minutes to sit down and go through your site as if you are brand new and have never seen the site before.
Act as if you are the ideal customer. Make sure to take notes on areas of frustration or things that need updating as you go through the site.
After your session go through your notes.
Were you able to find the address? hours? menu? make reservations? see upcoming special events? and find and add items to the shopping cart?
If not, that’s not good news. Consider what changes you are comfortable making on your own.
Worst case scenario, you could look into hiring someone to do an overhaul of your site. I know it’s not ideal but it’s imperative in today’s web-based world where everyone is looking things up on the go.
If your site is confusing, potential customers will not spend much time on it, which leads us to the next pitfall…
4. Random info is taking up prime website real estate
This is more of an organizational issue than anything else, so if this is an issue for your site, it can be fixed.
Now, it’s awesome that you have a relationship with a local farm and shear sheep with them. However, if your business isn’t a farm, um, that shouldn’t be the first thing people see when going to your website. I’m sorry but it’s true.
This info, while a fun tidbit, doesn’t help me make a decision about eating at your restaurant. It does make me double check that I typed the URL right. Got it?
Your first page should concentrate on getting people in the door.
For everything else, adventures, sources of inspiration, promotions, etc, a blog or news tab is the way to go.
Place any info that doesn’t immediately help people decide to go to your restaurant in another spot on your site.
A section for blogging or news is perfect for this. It can be a holding place for all your adventures and/or promotions while you’re building your business.
When done correctly a blog can add to your brand identity and authority as well. Plus it allows more immediate need-to-know info to be up in front of new and potential customers first.
5. Trying to be everything to everyone
I’m always surprised when I see this happen with restaurants but I see it more often than I’d like, so it’s worth mentioning.
If you have a big, clunky book of a menu then pay attention to this one especially.
Trying to please everyone will hurt your business and the quality of the food you produce.
Usually, when I see a big menu come to the table, I know that I’m in for a mediocre meal instead of a wonderful one. And I have yet to have a restaurant like this prove me wrong.
Make sure you know what it is that sets you apart from the next guy so you can play that up to your potential customers. If you are confused about this, it will show, and it will confuse potential customers too.
Is your specialty craft focused American classics and comfort food? Or maybe you make the best Cincinnati style chili in the city. Whatever it is, don’t be scared to declare it on your site.
Clarity will take you a lot farther than you may think.
The people going to your site are getting their first impression of your restaurant by what you have for them there.
Making your USP (Unique Selling Point) crystal clear and consistent will allow customers to know exactly what you do and how great you are at it.
There are plenty of other places your potential customers can choose. This is your chance to make your restaurant shine brighter than the rest.
First off, this might be a bigger project than you anticipated, so be forewarned.
Your USP should be on the very first page and be clear throughout your site if it’s not in your restaurant name already.
This fix is a 2 parter, so hang in there.
Step 1: If you do not have a USP, this is the very first step you need to take.
Your business depends on this info, so give it some thought. Try to identify what makes your place different from everyone else on the market.
If you’re having trouble putting into words why people should choose you, consider taking some time to clarify your brand.
There are tons of free templates and exercises out there that can help you identify your USP and gain clarity on your brand message. You can pick your favorite and go through it to help you get clarity on what your USP should be.
Just make sure you update your site to show your work!
Step 2: If you have a USP but you’re still having trouble with the exact right words don’t panic.
Sometimes we run into blocks when we are too close to a project. It might be difficult for you to write what your business needs because you’ve been working on it so long that you aren’t sure if you’re on the right track anymore. Or it’s possible that it’s just not what you want to spend time on.
In that case, my suggestion would be to look into hiring a copywriter to get you up and running.
Getting an outside perspective from someone who knows how to bring in customers will allow you to focus on the day to day operations. And solve any issues with finding the right words for your site.
At the end of the day, you want to run your restaurant, and enjoy being a business owner. Getting bogged down in website issues can be tough but it’s not impossible. These tips will help you bring out the best in your website and get people through the door and enjoying your food.
What do you think – Are any of these mistakes your personal pet peeve? Do you have any questions about how to fix your restaurant website? Let’s talk in the comments below.