Creating an Appetizing Online Presence: Key Considerations for a Restaurant Website Solution

Kyle Pflueger
June 27, 2023

Having a compelling online presence is crucial for any business, and restaurants are no exception. A well-designed and thoughtfully crafted website can be the recipe for success, attracting more customers, driving online orders, and enhancing brand reputation. In this case study, we'll explore the most important things for a restaurant to consider when developing a website solution, drawing inspiration from our esteemed restaurant clients at Mithril Media.

Captivating Visuals

Just as a mouthwatering dish whets the appetite, visually appealing elements are essential for a restaurant website. High-quality images of signature dishes, inviting interior and exterior photographs, and vibrant color schemes create a visually immersive experience, enticing visitors to explore further. A great example of this is the homepage that we built for The Corner Drafthouse. As one of the best brewpubs in San Diego, we wanted to build a homepage that featured strong visuals for their food, drink and atmosphere. We paired each of these images with simple calls to action that help the user navigate to the desired location quickly and easily.

Image of the homepage for
The homepage of features strong images paired with key calls to action, showcasing both the food and atmosphere at their San Diego restaurant

Clear Navigation and Menu

A well-organized and user-friendly navigation structure is crucial for a restaurant website. As a general rule of thumb, the longer it takes for your user to find what they are looking for on your website, the less likely they are to stick around long enough to get where you want them to go. Ensure that visitors can easily find key information such as menu options, opening hours, reservation details, and contact information. Streamline the menu presentation, making it easily accessible and searchable, allowing patrons to explore the culinary delights with ease.

This is especially important for restaurants with more than one location. Users visiting your restaurant website are typically going to be looking for a location near them so making it easy for them to find the best location is an absolute must. One of our favorite examples of this is location menu and dedicated sub-pages that we built for Maker Kitchens. With several locations throughout the United States, it was important that we made it easy for users to find the location nearest to them and discover the key information they needed about that location.

Location Mega Menu and Dropdown

To help with this, we built a custom mega menu that gives visitors quick access to the various Maker Kitchen locations.

Maker Kitchens mega menu
This mega menu design for Maker Kitchens makes it easy to see all of their locations and quickly navigate to the right one

Interactive Location Map

We also built a custom interactive map using Mapbox that plots all of the Maker Kitchen locations throughout the US with the ability to click on any specific location to learn more. We have found this to be a particularly useful feature for our restaurant customers that have more than one location. The interactive nature of this feature makes it intuitive and easy for the consumer to use.

Zoomed in map showing Maker Kitchen locations in SoCal
This interactive map design is built using MapBox technology and makes it easy for the user to find their desired location

Dedicated Landing Pages

Each location also features its own dedicated landing page which not only makes the user experience that much better, but serves as a big boost for localized SEO as well! Each landing page includes details for each location along with a sample virtual tour and dedicated calls to action to book tours or ask questions about that location.

Custom landing page for Maker Kitchen Locations in Los Angeles
Dedicated landing pages for each location make a huge difference both for the user experience and for improving local SEO

Mobile Optimization

Perhaps no other industry is more impacted by the rise of mobile web browsing than the restaurant industry. Our in-house analytics show that mobile traffic typically accounts for 70-80% of traffic to the restaurant website that we host. A mobile-optimized design ensures that your website looks and functions seamlessly across various screen sizes, making it convenient for customers to browse menus, make reservations, and place orders on the go.

Mobile-First Features

One of the ways we work to cater to the mobile audience is by building mobile-first features that make the website experience feel as intuitive as possible on mobile devices. Take for example our custom mobile footer that we built for Cali BBQ. This footer features quick and easy calls to action to send an SMS to the restaurant and order either takeout or delivery.

Cali BBQ Homepage on a mobile device
The simple calls to action for texting and ordering from Cali BBQ make for a seamless mobile experience

Mobile Friendly Menu

It's hard to think of a user experience more frustrating than trying to view a restaurant menu in PDF format on a mobile device. Zoom, scroll, zoom, scroll, repeat. Yuck. If you own a restaurant, PDF menu's are great for print but with the rise in popularity of digital menus in the restaurant industry, it's never been more important to have a seamless, navigable menu experience for your patrons. We built exactly this for the folks at The Corner Drafthouse. Partnered with our friends at Rising Tides Creative, we leveraged the beautiful images they captured of the full menu (yes EVERY item is a must!) and built a mobile menu experience that allowed them to cut costs on printing and give their patrons a better experience all around.

Mobile menu design for The Corner Drafthouse
The pairing of usability and strong imagery make for a great mobile experience

Online Ordering and Reservations

Incorporating online ordering and reservation functionalities into your website can significantly enhance customer convenience. Integration with popular delivery and reservation platforms simplifies the process, enabling customers to place orders or book tables with just a few clicks, boosting both sales and customer satisfaction. We have worked with our customers to bring their own POS systems such as Toast and Square into their website experience, making it a breeze for customers to order ahead online.

When it comes to reservations, the key is making sure that the front-of-house staff is connected to the workflow. We have found that tools such as Yelp Waitlist can make this easy for both the patron looking to make a reservation and for the staff responsible for handling the requests.

Online ordering through Square for Boulon Coffee
Square provides a seamless online ordering experience for our friends at Boulon Coffee in Los Angeles, CA

Customer Reviews and Testimonials

Building trust is vital for attracting new customers. Displaying customer reviews and testimonials on your website can instill confidence and showcase the positive experiences of past diners. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews and testimonials, as they serve as powerful social proof for your restaurant. We love to integrate directly with tools such as Google My Business and Yelp to pull in reviews that stay up to date as new ones are added. And don't worry, we can filter out the bad ones :).

Example of a review section for The Corner Drafthouse
Leveraging real feedback from your guests is a great way to encourage new patronage

Engaging Content and Blog

A restaurant website can go beyond menus and reservations by featuring engaging content and a blog. Share behind-the-scenes stories, chef profiles, cooking tips, and seasonal promotions to engage visitors and foster a sense of community. Regularly updated content helps improve search engine visibility and keeps customers coming back for more. Certainly no restaurant we have found does this better than our friends at Cali BBQ Media. Owner Shawn Walchef preaches the importance of content generation for his business and has spoken at multiple conferences while also hosting multiple podcasts including Digital Hospitality and Restaurant Influencers (co-hosted with Entrepreneur Magazine).

In fact, the Cali BBQ team is so dedicated to producing quality content that we created an entire website dedicated to the content they produce. This gives us the ability to cater the the multiple audiences and user personas that are searching for Cali BBQ online.

Cali BBQ content website
The Cali BBQ Content website features segmented content by audio, video and written forms

In Summary

A well-executed website solution is an indispensable ingredient for success in the competitive restaurant industry. By considering the key items we've outlined here in this blog post, you can begin to set your website apart and make sure that your guests have a great experience both in-person and online.

Looking to find the right website solution for your business? We can help!

We'd love to discuss your next project. Drop us a line to get started!