Your restaurant’s website matters more than ever in the age of delivery apps like Uber Eats and Door Dash.
- Delivery apps own the relationship with your customer.
- Delivery apps decide where you show up in their app.
- Delivery apps set the marketplace fee.
Delivery apps can be a short-term boost but the best long term strategy for restaurants is to own the relationship with customers.
And a website is still the best way to do that on the internet.
Throughout this article I’ll show you how I used Squarespace to build a website for my favourite pizzeria in Toronto: Pizzeria Libretto:
- An excellent menu builder
- Outstanding templates
- Local SEO tools
- Online ordering integrations
- Easy to use
Read on even if you don’t plan to use Squarespace— there will still be lots of helpful information!
If you come away with one thing from this article let it be this: websites are functional. They help customers accomplish something. So always make sure your call-to-actions are clear and obvious.
Call To Action: Reservations
Reservations are important for Pizzeria Libretto so I made the cta really obvious with a big button in the navigation:
Call To Action: Delivery
Delivery is important too so I put a big, obvious link on the homepage and included a link in the navigation:
Call To Action: Phone Number
Finally I put Pizzeria Libretto’s phone number in the footer of the website (as well as in the locations page):
Phone, Address And Hours Of Operation
Make it clear where to find your phone number, address and hours of operation.
Sometimes restaurants place this information under a Contact Us page or a Directions page but I think the best name for this page is Locations.
When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to throw your phone number and address in the footer:
‘Nice To Haves’ On Your Locations Page
I’d also like to nominate a few “nice to haves” for the Locations page:
- Email address
- Parking information
- Picture of the storefront
It’s 2020— you need up-to-date information on Covid-19.
I used Squarespace’s announcement bar for this to link to a Covid-19 page:
Here are some tips for writing this page:
- Don’t get lost in vague, corporate language.
- Don’t just tell customers you take their safety seriously SHOW them. Make them feel safe with clear, concrete explanations of your protocols.
- Make it clear what guests can expect and also what you expect of guests. Ambiguity is the enemy here.
Momofoku is an example of a restaurant that does this really well.
Branding: Fails and Wins
Let’s talk about the most common way restaurant websites fail: branding.
Branding is really important— especially for independant restaurants. BUT branding has to be in the right place. And since websites are functional we never want branding to be at the expense of usability.
Sorry to be mean but this is not an ideal way to brand a website:
… And neither is this:
Don’t make visitors think. Keep things clear and obvious.
So where can you express your brand? The best spots are typography, photography, color and occasionally, in the language you use.
A really wonderful example of branding is Le Swan, a french diner here in Toronto:
Use Your Brand Colors
Color is a great way to communicate brand. For example, bright colors for an organic juice bar or dark colors for a sophisticated steakhouse.
Le Swan is a great example of using brand colors— a very subtle gray-green in the background and splashes of red:
Add Your Brand Colors With Squarespace
One thing I love about Squarespace is it’s really easy to implement brand colors. All you have to do can edit the color palette— this took me two minutes for Pizzeria Libretto:
What makes Squarespace especially good is that you don’t have to go any further than this screen BUT if you’d like to, their Style Editor let’s you customize the style of any element.
Now of course the most important part of branding is photography.
There’s a whole art and science behind food photography— but I’m not an expert in it. I do know a few tips though:
Make things feel abundant:
Don’t use flash:
It’s okay to have some of the prop outside of the frame
Using the correct angle is key:
To learn more about food photography I’d suggest an awesome Youtube channel called The Bite Shot.
Don't Do This With Your Photos
Try not to obscure your photos like this…
Instead if you have great photos, showcase them!
… Or like this:
Also photography should highlight whatever is unique about your restaurant. So try to avoid photos that look like stock photos of generic restaurants.
Five Things That Are Nice To Have
Let’s talk about some “nice to haves.” Things that you don’t necessarily need on your website but that you might want.
1. Nutritional Information
There are a lot of people who count calories and they’re all potential customers. Even if you serve high calorie food— people counting calories may still want to know.
2. Exterior and Interior Photos
This helps customers know what to to expect— is this fine dining? is it takeout? if it is takeout, is seating available? Exterior photos can also show customers what to look for when they’re driving in.
3. Your Story
Of course you can tell your story but be judicious. And short. Brevity is important. For Pizzeria Libretto I kept it pretty simple. Try to be honest with yourself about whether or not you have a compelling story.
4. Sell Gift Cards
It was actually really easy to sell a gift card product with Squarespace:
5. Collect Emails For Your Newsletter
Email newsletters are awesome. They are a way for you to have a direct connection to your customers.
For example, remember Le Swan? Well they started selling a picnic basket through their newsletter this summer when Covid kept people from dining in:
You could add a signup box to your website but my guess is very few people join a restaurants newsletter from a signup box on the website. Instead it’s probably better to build your list through email receipts or reservation forms.
Just remember to make it opt-in. Don’t automatically subscribe people to your newsletter. In my opinion you won’t gain anything by subscribing someone who doesn’t already want to be subscribed!
The last but very important thing to do is setup Google My Business which will manage how your restaurant displays in Google Maps and Google Search.
Squarespace has a location management tool that makes this easy. It only takes a few minutes to setup but having control of this is really important.