While the Coronavirus pandemic has altered, challenged, and impacted our daily routines in a variety of inconceivable ways, few trades have dealt with sheer uncertain and dubious futures quite like the service industry. Across the nation, restaurants and bars have fallen victim to precautionary procedures put in place to limit spreading of the virus. In Minnesota, Minneapolis has witnessed the closings of a diverse range of revered establishments, from the upscale Bachelor Farmer and Butcher & the Boar to local greasy spoon favorites such as The Egg & I and Curran’s Family Restaurant.
For the bars and restaurants who have been lucky enough to weather their way through the storm, a ‘new normal’ has emerged in regards to finding new ways to accommodate customers with exquisite service and dining experiences, all while providing a safe and healthy environment for customers and staff alike. In this ‘new normal’, efficient, informative, and engaging restaurant websites are crucial for providing potential customers with any essential updates or information regarding safety procedures. Even before the pandemic took hold of the country, over 90 percent of guests researched a restaurant online before choosing to dine there. Now, as new culinary challenges continue to arise daily, ensuring your restaurant website is maximizing its outreach and potential could be the difference between comfort or closure. Here are ten essential functions every restaurant website should adhere to while navigating through this ‘new normal’:
1) Provide Your Plan
The first thing guests will want to feel when checking out your restaurant website is reassurance. To put their minds at ease, you’ll want online visitors to be immediately aware of what your restaurant’s plan of action is to provide customers with a safe, healthy environment. Consider installing a pop-up or banner display that encourages guests to click on to review your current policies and protocols. Clearly lay out your takeout guidelines, such as where to park, how to pay, and where to wait for to-go food. Finally, list off all the ways your staff is complying with health safety guidelines, such as ensuring all employees will be masked while on the clock, and have excessive access to hand sanitizer and washing stations. The more information and reassurance you can provide, the less tension or apprehension customers will have when choosing to support your restaurant.
2) Remind The Rules
It’s inevitable that some customers may find this ‘new normal’ of restaurant service to be challenging and confusing. This is why clearly outlining all the rules and regulations your establishment needs to abide by on your website is important to educate and inform visitors ahead of time, so they can understand what the protocol is before arriving at your establishment. Whether it’s a landing page pointing out the do’s and don’ts of dining policy, or linking to your state’s current hospitality rules and regulations, being honest and upfront of your health safety approach is an absolute website must.
3) Stay Updated
It doesn’t matter if you’re an established, acclaimed restaurant or a recently opened pub looking for new business; keeping your website as up-to-date as possible is crucial for turning online traffic into in-person customers. For starters, make sure your listings on Yelp or Google My Business are updated with new hours of operations and all your available dining options (dine-in, take-out, delivery, etc.). Provide customers with an email subscription sign-up that can instantly inform patrons on any abrupt closings, new menu items, or revised patio dining procedures. Finally, be sure to include new photographs of your masked staff hard at work serving food or carry-out bags, so customers can visualize how your restaurant is adjusting to health and safety guidelines.
4) Accessible Menus
Despite all the new rules and regulations, one thing remains the same: It always comes down to a restaurant’s food that keeps people coming back for more. Your food menu needs to be extremely accessible on your restaurant website, perhaps even being one of the first things someone sees when scrolling down on the landing page. Be sure to indicate whether all menu items are available for delivery or takeout, as well as if there are any meals that are only available during certain times of the day. As always, clearly label whether any food items could be problems for customers with dietary restrictions or food allergies.
5) Make Ordering Easy
Your restaurant website needs to clearly state what your food order options are. If guests can order online, make sure an ‘order online’ button is extremely noticeable and just one click away from the landing page. If customers need to call-in their pickup or delivery orders, make sure a ‘CALL NOW’ button is instated and links to your restaurant’s phone number. Be sure to display any delivery-app companies your food available on, such as DoorDash, Bite Squad, or Postmates.
6) Be Socially Active
Now is not the time to be dormant on social media. Frequently updating your restaurant Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages is crucial for keeping your loyal customers in the loop, as well as increasing your odds of attracting new business. Social media for restaurants during this pandemic is a chance to personify and humanize your business, allowing you direct access to customers to ensure your restaurant will see its way through these unprecedented times. Sharing daily photos of the latest food menu items and the staff workers who are creating and delivering elegant dishes to patrons will help people remember why they chose to support your business in the first place.
7) Provide Support Opportunities
One of the few bright spots to emerge during this pandemic is people’s willingness to help others out. Even if customers are hesitant to dine-in at your establishment, they could still be willing to financially support your restaurant in a variety of other ways. Be sure your restaurant website has a gift card purchasing option for patrons looking to dine-in in the future or share with friends or family. If you have any clothing items or accessories for sale, add a merchandise purchasing button to your website. Any online opportunities for people to contribute to help support your business can make a difference.
8) Maximize Mobility
With more people staying inside these days, the more they’re spending time on their phone. And when they inevitably get hungry, their phone becomes the closest thing connecting their appetite with your restaurant website. Half of online traffic is driven through cell phones, which is why you need to ensure that your mobile website is both efficient and accessible. This also means considering partnering with any of the popular third party food-delivery services, which almost one-third of U.S. consumers admit to using multiple times a week.
9) Utilize SEO
It’s one thing to have your restaurant website all updated and ready to go, but it’s certainly another thing to ensure everyone is capable of efficiently accessing your online presence. Implementing effective SEO strategies is an essential component of internet marketing, and knowing how to execute all the ways it can organically drive more traffic to your website will only help increase business. With every restaurant upgrading their websites during this ‘new normal’, it’s important you stay up-to-date with all the latest SEO techniques and advantages.
10) Maintain Optimism
With everyone experiencing insecurity and worrisome to some degree, it’s important to maintain a hopeful and encouraging tone with your restaurant website and social media content. People will look at visiting your restaurant and ordering your food as a sense of escapism to comfort themselves during these troubling times. Be persistent in your message at how grateful you are for all the support your restaurant is receiving, as well as reminding everyone how we’ll all get through this ‘new normal’ together.
Other Restaurant Web Design Ideas
Below are just a few other examples of great restaurant website design. Try implementing some of these ideas throughout your own digital assets.
Connect the Web Design Back to Your Cuisine
Nashville Coop in St. Paul, MN uses custom graphics and imagery to communicate aspects of their restaurant — chicken breathing fire, warm color scheme, up-close photographs of the food.
Use Big Bold Imagery
Urbana Kitchen in Bloomington, MN is full of big, bold imagery that doesn’t just show off their delicious-looking food — it also captures their atmosphere; a patio, classy interior, lively customers and friendly staff.
Consider a Pop Over to Announce Specials or Happy Hours
Broders’ Cucina Italiana in Edina, MN supplies visitors with a pop-up upon arrival. This eye-catching design puts the restaurant’s newest special front and center, directly informing hungry patrons of the latest dish.
Make a Website Announcement When You Only Accept To-Go Orders
Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis explains up-front how pick-up-only transactions work through an announcement on their website.
Use Imagery to Quickly Communicate Essential Information
People can grasp visuals quickly and more easily than text — like this example from a restaurant website by Tavern 4&5 in Eden Prairie.