Restaurant websites are more important than ever, since more and more people are using their iPhones to find out what kind of food a particular restaurant has, how much it costs, whether it serves booze, how to get there and even to make their order. Not only that, but when customers are hungry for sushi, or chicken marsala, or even borsht, they use the web to find the best and closest place to get just that food.

In order for a restaurant to successfully entice their potential customers, the website has to be well-designed and perfectly functional. Grainy diner spaghetti photos or auto-play music are not what you want to be including in a well-designed restaurant website. What should you include? Just keep reading.

Best Features for Restaurant Websites

1. Beautifully-Presented Food Photography

This really should be an inclusion of common sense. The end goal of any business website is to sell — aka, conversions — right? If a website is trying to “sell” Thai cuisine, or in most cases, encourage potential customers to dine in, appetizing photos are one of the most logical ways to entice a hungry person looking for their pad Thai fix. Yummy pictures of whatever cuisine the restaurant specializes in should be a priority, and one of the first things that hit a website visitor upon loading your site.

2. Mobile Access/Optimization

We are long past the days of requiring visitors to check out your website from their desktop computers. Website visitors – especially those who seek out restaurant websites – are on the go, and your website needs to reflect that or you will lose customers. A website needs to be able to adjust to any resolution on any mobile device.

3. Include Restaurant Food and Drink Menu Within Site

How you arrange this is up to you, but everyone wants to know what dishes a restaurant has, not just what kind of cuisine it serves. Brief descriptions and photos to accompany each entrée item is ideal — you generally like to know what you’re going to eat, right? Make sure to take or hire a professional to take high quality photos of your own dishes instead of using stock photos. This prevents unpleasant surprises that can happen when someone orders something based upon a super-appetizing photo and then is disappointed when it’s not what they expected.

4. Social Media Buttons and Contact Info

Social media is essential in today’s world of marketing, no matter what the business. Be sure to link out to your social channels, and provide the potential customer with the potential to more easily establish a reputation. Contact information is also pretty much common sense. Why have a website if no one can call and make a reservation or order pick-up? Directions and a local area map are also very much appreciated by those passing through, new or unfamiliar with the restaurant’s location, and can help bring additional customers.

Examples to Emulate

Here are some restaurants that perfectly capture the great things about restaurant web design.

restaurants-bricco

Bricco is a casual fine-dining restaurant in Harrisburg, PA. Their website is kept up-to-date with seasonal menus; it’s informative, full of great photos, menu items, new drinks, contact info and everything a website should have.

restaurants-balaboosta

Balaboosta is a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fusion restaurant in NYC that puts their quiet atmosphere and amazing wine selection front and center. Though they don’t feature images on the menu, the “Photos” section gives an appetizing preview of what you’re in for if you visit.

restaurants-lemonade

This regional restaurant in California called Lemonade screams “fresh” when you see its website. Its brand, cuisine and most importantly, its food are visually presented with a gorgeous parallax scrolling design. The colors are striking, there’s a great use of white space, and the navigational tabs are at the ready.

The Don’ts of Restaurant Web Design

1. Auto-Play Music

I don’t know why, but a lot of restaurant designs seem to include this. Maybe it’s an ambience thing that’s supposed to make customers imagine sitting in the restaurant? But don’t do it — it’s much more of an annoyance than an inspiration.

2. An Auto-Play or Slow-Loading Embedded Video of the Owner (or Anyone Else)

Videos can be as equally obnoxious as auto-play elevator music. Most website visitors just want to browse the site themselves, see what the restaurant offers, be informed of price ranges and maybe appropriate attire, etc – they don’t care about the owner’s “personalized” greeting. Save that kind of thing for social media.

3. Flash

I know flash is fun to use as a designer, but, especially for restaurant websites, it should really only be used to enhance non-essential pieces of content. For one thing, lots of mobile devices can’t access flash-based content, and secondly, it causes a lot of problems, from slow loading to auto-play videos to complex navigation. You don’t need it.

There are certainly plenty of other things that should and should not be included on restaurant websites, but these are the major ones. If you stick to this list, you’ll be off to a good start.

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