Visitors want to see photos
One often overlooked need that many visitors to restaurant websites have, is to see what the dining experience is like before stepping inside the restaurant. They want to see if the restaurant is fancy and upscale or casual and family-oriented. This could really help inform their decision as to whether or not they’ll come in and dine. So it’s essential that you include a photo gallery on the website. It doesn’t need to include too many photos. Just a handful of shots that nicely portray the interior decor, outdoor seating (if any), showcase the scenic view, etc.
Lightbox galleries are great tool to use here. I’d also recommend having a short photo slider, right on the homepage to make a great first impression.
Integrate social media
Restaurants by their very nature are a social business. People dine out to socialize, they recommend their favorite restaurants and dishes to friends, and look to social sites like Yelp to search for new restaurants.
A restaurant website should integrate social media features to help spur on this word-of-mouth promotion. Linking some icons to your social media accounts is a good start. But here are a few ideas to take this further.
Add a Facebook Like Box to the sidebar of the website. When visitors see the faces of their friends who’ve liked this restaurant, it’s a very powerful form of social proof.
Add your best reviews and testimonials to your website. You can grab your best reviews from Yelp and other social media sites. Again, every bit of social proof helps!
Include social sharing buttons (Tweet, Facebook like, etc.) to individual pieces of content. For example, let users share their favorite items from your food menu, or share your latest blog post.
Go even further…
Here are a few more ideas that can go a long way to enhancing a restaurant’s website. I wouldn’t consider these additional ideas “must have” items for every restaurant website. In fact, in some cases, these may serve to over complicate things for the restaurant manager, causing them to lose interest in keeping their website up-to-date, which would cause more harm than good. They are however, certainly worth considering.
The most common way to take reservations online is integrating a service like OpenTable.com or FreeBookings.com, which integrates nicely into your website.
You could also setup your own online reservations system by adding a simple contact form. Gravity Forms for WordPress offers many form fields that would work nicely for this, including a date picker. Bear in mind, someone will need to be manning the email inbox at the restaurant to accept all of the form submissions.
For some restaurants, having an online ordering system could add a huge boost in sales. If the restaurant relies heavily on takeout and delivery orders, allowing customers to order food through the website is a great value add-on.
I’d recommend not building your own system for this. Although there are easy-to-use e-commerce tools out there, keep in mind that you’ll need to set up an easy integration with the restaurant’s point of sale configuration.
The good news is there are some great tools you can use right off the shelf. Zuppler provides a great solution for creating an online ordering menu.
Does your restaurant host events? You could include a list of upcoming (and past) events with photos and other info. This is a great way to keep the content on your website fresh.
Again, this is an area where you must make sure the restaurant manager is ready and willing to keep up with the website calendar. One way to ensure visitors get turned off when they hit your restaurant website is to promote an “upcoming” event that happened months ago!
This takes some commitment to creating great content, but it can go a long way to build loyalty with your restaurant. Post stories from your restaurant’s history, video tours of the kitchen, or stream live video of your restaurant events. Get creative!