The Most Important Thing for a Restaurant Website

Charles Daniels - Monday, November 26, 2012

Restaurant website most important things cover imageWe recently completed the website for The Farmer's Table of Spartanburg, South Carolina and while working on the site we wanted to make sure that the design did not fall victim to classic restaurant website mistakes.  While researching for the site we found that there was one glaring error being made by at least 95% of restaurant related websites on-line.  Even large chains with hundreds, if not thousands, of stores were making the same oversight time and time again.  It seemed very obvious to us what the most important thing when creating a restaurant website was.  We found a way to fix the problem and if you'd like to see our solution please read on!

So what is this glaring lapse in judgement that was dooming restaurant websites to bland mediocrity?

They weren't showcasing the food!

Time and again we found sites with virtually no pictures of the actual food that was being prepared at their restaurant.  The saying, 'a picture is worth a thousand words', never rings more true than when it comes to food.  I can write you an essay on how delicious something may or may not taste, but it will never compare to the visual impact of beautiful prepared and photographed food. For the majority of restaurant websites we found that most just had a link to a PDF menu.  Most of the time just a scanned menu that to a search engine is a blank canvass.  We resolved to not make these same errors for The Farmer's Table.  Follow along and we will walk you through the 3 steps we took to make sure we didn't fall victim to the same downfall.

 Step #1: There has to be simple navigation

Navigation menu bar for The Farmer's Table website

Having a PDF menu only on your site leads to a lot of confusion when trying to place an order.  What may work perfectly when you are able to sit down and fold it out at the physical site can easily become unreadable when viewed on-line.  You need to have an easy to navigate menu that clearly distinguishes what goes where.

If I'm trying to see what sides you have for breakfast scrolling through six pages of a PDF isn't an ideal situation.  Making your food easy to classify and find is essential when building a restaurant website.

Step #2: You need to have a PDF version of your menu

Restaurant menu PDF image for The Farmer's Table

I know, I know.  Step #1 was not kind to a PDF menu on a restaurant website.  While it is often clumsy to read a PDF through a web browser, you need to keep in mind that some people prefer to print out menus from your site for future ordering.  Having a PDF menu available is a necessity for your design.  Not only does it give your more traditional browsers a format they are more comfortable with, but search engines are now sophisticated enough to crawl a PDF and index it for future searches.  This gives you a great chance to have the site you are building rank for your food selections.  It's a great way to have a lot of content on your site without taking up important visual real estate on the page.

To have your PDF capable of being indexed by Google and the other search spiders it has to be a real PDF that you've manually entered.  It cannot be a scanned image.  Scanned image = a big nothing for the search spiders.  So while it may be a lot easier just to throw your current menu on the scanner and hit 'Go' keep in mind that you can be hurting your potential search engine traffic.

Step #3: The food has to be the star

Food image for

There has to be beautiful pictures of your food that show how delicious it is.  

You eat with your eyes first when food is put in front of you.  With a website that is even more important as it's the only thing most people will be looking at when deciding if your food is worth the effort to get to it.  If you have a site with nothing but out of focus thumbnail images no one is going to get excited enough to get dressed and go start the car.

If you visit the Breakfast Menu Page on The Farmer's Table website you can see that we have a thumbnail image for all of the food items.  This gives us the ability to show the full breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and drinks menu without needing the browser to scroll through ten pages of images.  We built the site with a photo gallery in mind so that when you click the thumbnail image it enlarges into a full size picture of the food.  Nothing that we say about the food will sell it better than a beautiful picture of the product.  Case in point:

Apple crumb french toast image

No words are going to describe how wonderfully delicious that dish is.  Photography and food staging are vital in creating an appetizing restaurant website.  Money spent on a professional with experience in arranging and taking pictures of food is money well spent.  Second only to paying your web designer to make sure those images are gloriously displayed on the page.

You can also see in the image above that we have a text description of the food to once again cater, no pun intend, to the search engines.  Having the individual images of the food also gives gives you an opportunity to add ALT tag text to further give your site a chance to rank for local searches.

We hope that our post has helped you to improve the design of your restaurant website.  If you are looking for a web developer to build the site we would be happy to discuss it with you.  Send us an e-mail or use our contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

By Charles Daniels