Website Primer: How to Score a Website Win

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You’ve spent weeks honing your craft cocktails and your appetizers are perfect. The decor is refined and your staff highly trained. But it’s too bad would-be customers already decided your restaurant wasn’t for them after visiting your website.

Multiple factors account for how customers select which restaurants to eat at, from the type of food they offer to Yelp reviews and friend recommendations; but research shows websites continue to play a vital role in the decision-making process.

According to How Diners Choose Restaurants, a 2017 report from TouchBistro, more than half (51 per cent) of restaurant-goers look at a restaurant’s website and 59 per cent look at an online menu before ever setting foot in a dining room.

The study also found 81 per cent of millennials will look at a menu online before deciding on a new dining establishment, compared to 56 per cent of Gen-Xers and 42 per cent of Baby Boomers. “Most restaurant-goers perform some kind of activity before venturing to your spot for the first time,” says the report. “An updated menu and an easy-to-use website [are] must-haves.”

The nature of restaurant websites is changing, however, with experts saying secondary details, such as the chef’s vision and the restaurant’s history, are increasingly taking a backseat to functional information presented in a simple, uncluttered environment.

Chad Roberts, owner of Toronto-based Chad Roberts Design, says prospective customers typically visit restaurant websites for three key pieces of information: the hours/location, the menu and dress code.

“We used to build pages and pages about the restaurant, the chef’s history, but that [information] no longer lives on a website,” says Roberts, whose firm has created websites for restaurants including La Palma, Boralia and Campagnolo in Toronto, as well as The Little Inn in Bayfield, Ont.

“The website is now purely factual and current, although it has to be presented with style and taste,” says Roberts. “How you present that information has a huge effect on people’s perception.”

Adam Evans, creative director with Toronto-based website-design firm Thought Media, says websites should be easily navigable. Ideally, visitors will be able to obtain all relevant information within three clicks, or seven seconds.

“Our objective is to make sure people are directed where they need to go in the appropriate number of clicks and they’re not [leaving] the website out of frustration,” says Evans, whose company has designed sites for Toronto-area chain Pumpernickel’s.

It’s also paramount that your website be optimized for mobile, which now accounts for 52.2 per cent of all website traffic and more than half of the estimated 3.5 billion search queries that Google processes each day.

But Evans predicts websites will eventually come to be used more for “professionalism” purposes rather than customer recruitment. Instagram, he says, is slowly but surely usurping the web — both because of its large user base (approximately 10.4 million people in Canada) and the ability for restaurants to drill down and target customers by postal code, preferences, et cetera.

“For a [new restaurant] it’s a six-month to a year process with the website before it really starts to see a return in terms of traffic,” says Evans. “With Instagram, we can get people through the door within the first two weeks. It’s so much easier because you can immediately see the results of your efforts, as opposed to a website where you’re competing with everyone on Google. Over the past two years, Instagram has become your business website.”

Written by Chris Powell 

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