Tips for Building Restaurant Websites

Restaurant websites sometimes come across like a poorly cooked dish. Some feature a few too many ingredients. Their bloated walls of text, obtrusive graphics, and slideshows of images overwhelm the senses. Visiting others can feel like getting something other than what you’ve ordered. Sites may be so tough to navigate, unresponsive, or rife with incorrect details that finding what you’re looking for is all but impossible.

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo may have said it best. Writing for Slate back in 2011, he surveyed the restaurant marketing landscape and reported back on the gaudy, mobile-unfriendly websites he observed. Reflecting on sites that often bombarded users with video and music or profiled restaurant owners while hiding essential details, he wrote, “These nightmarish websites were spawned by restaurateurs who mistakenly believe they can control the online world the same way they lord over a restaurant.” Putting your signature on a menu is one thing, pasting your headshot and personal stamp all over a website is something much different.  

The industry has come a long way in a decade-plus, but operators can still fall into the same restaurant marketing traps Manjoo observed years ago. To help restaurant operators learn how to build a restaurant website that won’t send customers looking for another dinner option, we spoke to Kaycee Morin, the co-founder of a web design company called Bay Edge Media. Morin has designed hundreds of restaurant websites and learned all about the ways websites can help build and sustain attention from customers.


How to build a restaurant website: Tips from an expert


“A good restaurant website,” Morin says, “should always be up to date, easy to navigate, fun to explore, and leave your customers enjoying the overall experience.” Simply put, your website should reflect the same values as your restaurant and offer visitors a real sense of what to expect when they dine with you. 


Find a solution that offers bang for your buck

You probably aren’t a restaurant marketing expert. You may not even have much of a marketing budget to help you fake it. In that case, you’ll want to choose a platform that makes it easy and cost effective to build a site from scratch and make an impact with your target audience. 


Wix is a great option for beginners and arguably the best option for simple e-commerce integrations. It’s got more than 60 restaurant-focused design templates to simplify and enhance marketing to hungry customers. Squarespace is another easy-to-use website builder that’s earned its reputation. Though the site offers a handful of pre-designed templates for restaurateurs, it is best suited to users with at least some technical know-how. If your skills and Squarespace’s pre-designed templates aren’t enough, Squarespace offers responsive, 24/7 support and allows subscribers to “hire an expert” for an additional fee. 


Pop Menu provides additional restaurant-specific features. The solution is geared for search engine optimization and includes tools for automating all sorts of messages to customers. Whether you’re looking to engage your audience and drive restaurant traffic with the help of text messages, emails, or social media posts, Pop Menu’s features have you covered. Sociavore is a great cost-effective option for growing restaurants, allowing them to scale up their digital presence without paying more in subscription fees. Looking to make the most of customer data? You may want to learn more about Lunchbox and the custom ordering experiences it can help you create. For operators who can’t fit the full suite of tools into their budgets, Lunchbox has even introduced a free tool. 


Design with your customer’s needs in minds

Why is a potential customer visiting your website? In all likelihood, they’re interested in making a reservation, surveying your menu, finding your social media accounts, or just learning when you’re open for dining throughout the week. As Morin puts it, “A clear message needs to be established in a matter of seconds.” If you’ve got videos buffering and vital information on hold, customers will look elsewhere without hesitation. 


Operators should keep this in mind if they’re tempted to overload their restaurants’ websites with features or put an undue emphasis on its visual elements. “Websites built with the single function of ‘looking pretty’ often turn out to be terrible websites,” Morin says. You should instead aim to clearly and quickly communicate your restaurant’s values while simplifying access to crucial information. Just make sure that all your information is accurate. Feed your customers bad information, Morin quips, and “you won’t be feeding them.”


Establish a clear, consistent identity

Managing an effective restaurant marketing strategy means mastering a number of different channels. In addition to your website, you may want to engage with customers and potential customers via email, social media, and potentially other channels like text messages and print media. While each channel has its own nuances and demands its own unique messaging, everything your brand says should help to build a strong brand identity while sticking to a consistent message. 


Building a top-notch website and creating other effective marketing collateral shows customers how invested you are in other aspects of the business. Morin describes the ways great marketing can win over customers, saying, “Consumers are telling us if a restaurant genuinely cares about their own brand image they are likely putting out a great product. As the old adage suggests, “the customer is right.” 


Hire a restaurant marketing pro?

Website design solutions like all the ones mentioned above have certainly made it much easier for restaurant marketing novices to get started and build functional, user-friendly websites. Once you’ve got the budget, however, you may prefer to leverage the services of a professional. Sometimes you’re simply better off handing the reins to someone who has been there before, someone who definitely knows how to build a restaurant website. 


“The brands we typically see fade out,” Morin says, “are the ones that try and do too much all at once or try to do everything by themselves.” If you’re tired of doing everything at once and looking to outsource website-building responsibilities, Bentobox offers agency-style website design services to restaurants.


Browse for restaurant marketing solutions and more 

Bentobox, Sociavore, and the other website-building platforms mentioned above are just a few of the dozens of solutions you’ll find in our vendor database. Check it out for more details on marketing platforms, data analytics tools, POS systems, and more.



Written with help from Liz Newman.


[Photo by Jenny Ueberberg on Unsplash]