12 Ingredients That Make Restaurant Web Sites Sizzle!

February 25, 2007

If your website isn’t turning Web-Surfers into loyal diners you have issues. This blog will help if you actually implement what’s listed here. This blog is also a PODCAST. You can listen in if you like…
1. Have the Right Strategy

If you don’t have a plan, you’re wasting time and money. It will pay huge dividends to develop a creative strategy from the onset and execute it with consistency. Here are a few time-tested strategies that work, as well as some that don’t!

Strategies that Work Great!

• Outsource the updates to an agency that is reputable, works fast, and fits your budget. You may also receive a lower price if you commit to a 12 or 24-month relationship.
• Hire someone in-house to update the site daily.
• Don’t try to update everything at once. Focus on specific pages or areas at a time. Your motivation may wane, so keep the fire burning by starting off small.
• Update the site on certain days of the month or week, but keep it consistent. Frequent visitors will anticipate changes and come back wanting more.
• Don’t make changes just for the sake of it. But if your brick-and-mortar changes, update your site to reflect reality.

Strategies that Don’t Work

• Don’t force a non-expert within your organization to take a crash-course on Web design.
• Don’t place an automatically updated ‘date’ display on the homepage so that it looks like you updated it that day. Get real.
• Don’t insist that the external agency design your site so that a WYSIWIG editor can be used to update it. “Make it so the Secretary can use Microsoft Frontpage to update it.”

2. Keep Your Website as Fresh as Your Food

An outdated website may be as appealing as bad sushi. If you’re promoting a website created in 2003, it’s probably time for a site-lift. If you haven’t made changes to the content in at least three months, you may actually be losing business.

If an out-of-town couple stumbles upon your site and the homepage touts an invitation to a Y2K wine dinner, they probably won’t be “wowed” into visiting your establishment. But they will wonder if you’re still in business!

3. Select an Easy-to-Remember Domain Name

What is your “dot com?” There are several things to consider when deciding upon your domain name. The following criteria will help you maximize the effectiveness of your name.

a. Keep it short.
b. Use .com (Don’t use .net, .org, or .tv etc…)
c. If your name is already registered, consider adding the city name at the end
d. A signature dish may make a good name
e. Get creative. Outside-of-the-box names are not easily forgotten.
f. Poll friends and clients for ideas.

4. Publish Your Domain Name Everywhere

If you’re embarrassed to invite customers to your website, that should signal the “we need help” alarm. It stands to reason that the best sites draw the most business. Be sure yours is one that you can be proud of. If it is, publish your domain name everywhere!

Your domain name should be on all marketing materials, including table tents and menus. Give it a strong mention on all radio and television spots. Include it on the receipts from your POS. Embed it in your email communications. You might even put it on your sign out front. Be proud of your domain name. It may be the single most important identifying mark. Make it visible to passersby, and it will drive traffic through the front door.
(did i mention this is a podcast?) Listen on line

5. Make the Most Important Information Easy to Find

According to a study conducted by the National Restaurant Association, there are three hot topics that site surfers seek:

The first is location. Make certain you have a specific and accurate map on your website. You may consider including driving directions from specific locations like large hotels and airports. You could even post the number to a taxi or limousine service that is familiar with your location. It’s important that people can find you. Also, be sure that the link or button to the map is prominent.

The second is the menu. Always put your menu on your website, and make sure the information is accurate. People peruse the menu items and pricing when making decisions. If your descriptions make their mouths water and you no longer serve that dish, you will likely have a very disappointed customer. The outdated menu—promoted on your website—may have ruined their meal.

The third is the phone number. This may seem obvious, but many times, the phone number is difficult to find. It is strongly suggested that this be boldly displayed on every page of the website. If you’re phone number is properly displayed, it’s more likely to ring!
6. The Look of the Site Must Reflect the Look of Your Restaurant

Chances are you spent a lot of time, energy, effort and money designing the concept of your restaurant. Your website should reflect that energy. A cyberspace visitor will begin formulating their opinion of your establishment the first time they view your site. It will enhance your credibility if site is consistent with the brick-and-mortar.

Maintaining a consistent look and feel— from the outdoor sign to the menu to the website—will enhance your reputation with your current customers and increase your overall clientele.

7. Use Very Few Words on Your Website

Don’t be too wordy. There are several reasons for not spilling your guts all over your website. First, the more you say, the more you have to update. The whole idea here is efficiency.

Another reason to go light on the text is presentation and layout. On the web, less is more. A low-text site gives it a clean and appealing look. Your visitors will focus more on photography, and we all know a picture is worth a thousand words!

8. Your Photography Must be Mouth-Watering

Face it. There is a difference in what your digital camera can do and what a professional food photographer can do. It’s worth the extra money to hire a professional. Your website can have very little text and still sizzle with great food and interior photos. Don’t feel obligated to photograph your signature dish just because it’s the signature dish. If it’s not a photogenic dish, “86” it from the website. Choose dishes that have high architecture. The ones that really stand out on the plate will photograph best.

Pictures make ALL the difference. But bad photos of good food are downright disgusting. Most amateurs make common mistakes, including bad lighting, bad angles and wrong choice of dish. You owe it to yourself to enlist the services of a trained professional.
9. Use Photo Galleries Extensively

If photos of your dishes make a site visitor’s mouth water, they’ll likely be hungry for more. A distinctly styled photo gallery can be a fantastic sales tool. Each time you have an event in your private dining room, get some pictures. If you own a sports bar, snap some “party pics” and put them on your site. Pictures of events help site visitors imagine their own party in your restaurant. So, help them along. You can have too many words, but you can’t have too many gallery photos.

10. Collect Email Addresses of Visitors

Email marketing for restaurants is widespread. If you’re not engaging your customers in an ongoing conversation with your restaurant, you’re losing money. Several companies, like Spillover.com, offer turnkey solutions—making it easy to collect addresses and communicate via email.

An opt-in form inviting your website visitors to join your email list shows the guest that you are active, alive and that you want to develop a long-term relationship with them. It demonstrates that you are a tech-savvy organization that is dedicated to keeping up with trends.

But don’t just ask for email addresses. Offer something in return. Print, clip and redeem coupons are gaining in popularity and are easily implemented into this process. The right offer can increase the number of email addresses you add to your database dramatically.
11. Optimize Your Site for Search Engines

Do you know what a meta-tag is? If you don’t, make sure your web designer does. These tags are embedded into the code of your website so that search engines know how and where to index your site. If you don’t have updated meta-tags, then don’t expect maximum exposure from search engines.

There are several online companies that offer search engine optimization (SEO). However, make sure you ask your web design firm to include meta-tags as a part of the development process. It is not uncommon to have someone submit your website to the search engines—saving you the added expense of an SEO firm.

12. Give Visitors a Reason to Return

So, you’ve developed a site that is inviting to visitors, but how do you keep them coming back?
Here are some successful strategies for building repeat online business.

• Offer a weekly coupon—only available online.
• Post your daily specials.
• Hold a contest or a drawing.
• Post local news to your site.
• Rotate specific downloadable recipes.
Spillover, Inc.

Spillover is a full service marketing firm that specializes in Websites, Email and Text Message Marketing for the restaurant industry. Established in 2001, Spillover, Inc. has designed websites for many notable brands and delivered custom email campaigns to over 1,000,000 customers nationwide.

Call Spillover today and make your web site sizzle and your marketing mouth-watering.



One Response to “12 Ingredients That Make Restaurant Web Sites Sizzle!”

  1. […] the average independently owned restaurant is REALLY BAD PHOTOS or none at all. Read my blog on The “12 Ingredients that Make Restaurant Websites Sizzle” One of my “Key Ingredients” is photos. So, schedule a photo shoot! I started taking food photos […]

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