About 6 months ago I was looking to book a reservation for a restaurant in my city. I knew the name, but wasn't quite sure of the spelling.
I went to Google, and I simply couldn't find the restaurant online. It turned out I had the spelling correct, yet couldn't find it in Google.
Instead, I found a ton of reviews, most of which were good (that's why I wanted to eat there).
But, in order to contact this restaurant, I relied on a telephone number in a directory rather than the restaurant's website.
I did eat at this restaurant and it was fantastic. After I ate there I grabbed a business card, and they did have a website. What a shame their SEO was so bad or non-existent.
I don't own a restaurant, but I own a small business with a local clientele. My SEO is not much different than a restaurants. Moreover, given I study online marketing for many types of small businesses (and do it for my own), I thought I'd publish an article for restaurants. Specifically an article providing restaurant marketing ideas using a website.
I'm all about a business' website being unique. But, in nearly all industries, there's basic information that is important to prospective customers. This is certainly true for restaurant websites.
16 must-have restaurant website features for both conversion and SEO are as follows:
Publishing up-to-date menus is a no-brainer. Every restaurant should have up-to-date menus on its website.
It's critical it be up-to-date. The last thing a restaurant needs is telling guests "oh, that menu has changed and it's not right on the website." That's unprofessional and won't sit well with a guest.
I would go so far as to include wine, beer, and liquor menus as well.
And while you're at it, set out the nutritional value of the dishes. Many diners are interested in nutritional content.
2. Location Info and Map
These days it's so easy to integrate Google Maps into a website. Make it easy for anyone to find your restaurant with a map. Many people search for restaurants with mobile devices. A map leads them straight to your door.
3. Contact Info
I believe all small businesses should have their telephone number and contact form on every page of their website. Restaurants included. Make it incredibly easy for your website visitors to contact you.
4. Photographs of the Establishment
Hire a professional photographer when you're busy and get a ton of great photographs. Place those photographs all over your website. Part of dining is the environment and atmosphere. Show off your establishment on your website.
5. Event Calendar
If you have events such as live music or special dinners, put up an event calendar on your website.
6. Chef / Owner Bios
Feature in a bio your restaurant's key players. Whether chef, owner, or both. If you have a general manager, consider having a bio of your GM. Spend some time writing up the bios. Perhaps hire a professional writer. In fact you might wish to hire a professional writer for all of your website's content (or at least the key pages).
7. Restaurant History
Why not include in your About page a brief history of your restaurant. Some restaurants have a fascinating history. Guests may be interested in such information. It's easy to write and it just might persuade someone to try your establishment.
8. Awards & Reviews
Don't be shy. Publish your list of awards and reviews (get permission from the reviewer first). If you can't get permission from the reviewer, then provide a link that is a popup window to the review. Why a popup? So your visitor stays on your site and doesn't end up on another restaurant's site through the review website.
9. Careers / Jobs Available
Make it easy for people to apply to your restaurant. Regrettably, many restaurants have high turnover and are frequently hiring. The more applications you receive, the more hiring options you have.
10. A Blog
As a restaurant owner or operator, you could have a lot of fun with a blog. A blog informs, entertains, and is good for SEO.
11. On-Site Local SEO
Take advantage of every page and blog post by optimizing your content for the search engines. It's not hard to do. The more content you have (hence the importance of a blog), the more opportunities you have to rank for various search terms (called keywords) in the search engines.
Be sure to create meta titles and meta descriptions for each page and post. If you aren't interested in doing on-site SEO, hire a great SEO company. Your goal is to rank well in your town, city, and state/province (or geographic area).
Don't be like the restaurant I tried to find Online and not rank well in the search engines. There's a huge opportunity for business simply by ranking well in the search engines. The good news for restaurants is you don't have to compete globally. You need only rank well for your local area(s).
12. Online Reservation Maker
Not all restaurants will want to hand over booking power to customers. That's why I consider it an optional restaurant website feature. However, if you take reservations, it's an easy way to book reservations and freeing up your staff time all in one go. The more people who self-book, means fewer reservations your staff must make.
If use a Restaurant WordPress theme, you can easily add a reservation feature using a plugin. 5 reservation plugins to take a look at include:
• Checkfront Booking
• Booking Calendar
If you don't use WordPress for your website, check out:
• Live Bookings
• Restaurant Diary
• Reservation Genie
13. Takeout Online Ordering
If you sell take out, why not offer website visitors the option to order takeout through your website. Like reservation software, you save your staff time processing orders and make it easy for website visitors to order a meal. You could even process payment online if you wish to save even more time when your guest picks up their food.
14. Pre-Ordering Service
Sometimes a guest is in a rush and would like to eat upon entering your restaurant. You could offer a pre-ordering option through your website.
15. Notable Guests
If your restaurant attracts notable guests, say so on your website.
16. Offer Gift Cards for Sale
Gift cards can be a terrific revenue generator. Sell them through your restaurant website. You need basic e-commerce software. It's easy these days regardless the platform on which your restaurant website is built.
There's no need for your restaurant website to be just like every other website. Get creative with what you can put on your site and in your blog posts.
Don't forget about off-site SEO such as getting listed in key directories and other methods. Ranking for local search inquiries can be huge for your restaurant.