10 Tips For Great Restaurant Website Design


lit up letter spelling the world eat


12 min read

When it comes to restaurant website design, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

But it’s not just the restaurant industry that’s lagging behind. The hotels sector is another example.

Maybe it’s just hospitality in general.

Why do so many restaurant websites suck?

There are many reasons behind it, and they can all be fixed.

It’s rare to see a great looking independent restaurant website. They’re never updated and always exhibit many flaws. Restaurant chains are different, they always seem to have good websites.

A lot of restaurant sites run on a platform such as Happy Tables and Restaurant Engine. Both of those providers produce decent looking template sites, but a lot of restaurants need more than what they can offer.

Google searching “restaurants near Newcastle” provides a wide variety of results.

Excluding TripAdvisor, we’re met with a large scope of independent restaurants. Each of which have their own website, and each varies a great deal in quality and usability.

In such a competitive market space, it’s important to have a stand out website that entices people to your venue.

Of course, having great food is the priority! But how will people know about all of this great food if your website doesn’t keep them engaged?

Here are ten tips to think about when creating your restaurant website design:

Tip 1: Use a Neutral Background Colour if Possible

The first independent restaurant website I click through is to a restaurant I know called Lal Qila.

It’s a small tandoori restaurant in Cramlington. The main page body is bright red and orange with black and white text dotted around the place. It strains your eyes to read it and certainly isn’t visually appealing.

Now, using a bright colour like orange or red might bring your website inline with your identity, but there are better ways to do it. Using a bright colour as a full background is never a good idea as it can be overwhelming.

People like looking at websites and reading things on a light colour such as white, cream, or light grey.

Try to use bright colours in moderation and keep in mind, your website must be easy to read.

Clarity is key here.

Adobe Kuler (as shown in the image above) is a great colour tool.

We use it daily at Canny, and urge you to do the same when exploring colour schemes for your restaurant, brand, and website.

Tip 2: Don’t Use a Splash Page

The second website I land on is Panucci’s Italian Restaurant. This isn’t a restaurant I’ve heard of before, and their website doesn’t inspire me to visit.

When I click through from Google I’m met with a splash page. It only half works.

Splash pages died years ago (around the same time as Flash.) If you’re not preloading anything, making your user click from Google through to your site, then click again to actually get to the content, is very long winded.

Don’t put barriers in the way of potential customers. Why not give them access to what they want immediately and save them from having to search for it.

Chances are, if the information isn’t glaringly obvious, people will get bored and look at a different websites (most likely your competitors).

Follow our top web design tips that will actually help grow your business if you want to make sure your restaurant website is a success.
person writing the word plan on a white notepad

Tip 3: Don’t Use Images If You Don’t Have To

The Panucci’s restaurant website uses a full image header. They could have achieved the same effect using HTML and CSS. Not only do they use up bandwidth, images slow down your website which impacts the user experience.

In the digital age, this is a massive issue as the majority of people will be searching for your website on their mobile phone.

Another issue is that images don’t allow users to highlight key information such as your telephone number or email address.

Even if your website isn’t mobile friendly, although it absolutely should be, users will stumble across it on their phones.

Using best practices will help your case.

Tip 4: Consider Multiple Devices

The next website that I visit is that of the Bay Horse Inn in Cramlington, a part of the Sizzling pub chain. The website looks a lot better than the others but still misses one important factor…

The way people browse the internet these days is completely different to the way they were using it a few years ago.

Of the three websites that I’ve visited so far, not one has addressed the fact that I could be browsing on a mobile device.

If I’m looking for a restaurant these days, I tend to already be out and about. My partner and I tend to make decisions to eat out on the fly. We don’t plan these things in advance. This normally leads us to browsing for restaurant sites on our phones, and making a decision pretty quickly.

That’s why your website design needs to grab people quickly, otherwise they’ll simply look elsewhere.

Consider the fact that your users might not be looking at your website on a laptop or desktop machine.

If your user is on a phone, make sure your phone number opens up the auto dial panel when clicked on.

Also, make sure the email address opens up a new email and that your physical address opens up in Maps.

This again, highlights reasons not to use an image to contain your important information.

You can check what percentage of your website’s visitors are viewing on a mobile phone or tablet using Google Analytics. I’d like to bet it’s more than 50%.

Why force your users to go through unnecessary bits and pieces to get the information they want? Imagery can slow mobile users down, and don’t even get me started on downloadable PDF menus!

Tip 5: PDF Menus? Forget About It!

The two independent restaurants had this bit right. The chainsSizzling Pub, Hungry Horse and Prezzo all force their users to download a huge PDF file to look at the menu.

Asking your users to download a PDF to look at your menu is ridiculous. People on mobile phones often point blank refuse. Even more so if your PDF comes in at more than a couple of megabytes. They charge a lot for data don’t you know!

People used PDF menus so they could style their restaurant menu design to align with their brand. But, PDF menus are difficult to update, and, you can’t offer updates to users that have already downloaded the old version of your menu. This practice is outdated.

Today, having to download something to look at it is crazy. There are lots of better ways to let viewers look at your menu. Your menu should have it’s own page on your website, it should look great and be up to date.

Google also can’t index PDF menus.

That means if you’re trying to drive more traffic to your website, then you should have your menu visible, rather than hidden away in a PDF.

Tip 6: Don’t Forget About TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor comes top for a lot of search results for a reason. It’s a powerful tool and a very well respected resource. For a lot of people, this is where the search process begins.

If I can’t think of anything I want to eat off the top of my head, I’ll just turn on the TripAdvisor app and see what’s local to me. If your restaurant isn’t active on TripAdvisor, it needs to be.

Some ideas for TripAdvisor are:

  • Get some professional photos taken and have them uploaded to your official Tripadvisor page (customer photos are great but you don’t control these).
  • Reply to everyone that leaves feedback, good or bad. This shows you’re willing to listen to customers and act on their feedback.

If you can show users that you’re active and you’re taking their consideration on board, you are already leagues ahead of your competition.

Tip 7: Consider Your Choice of Social Networks

There’s nothing worse than trying to choose a social network for your business.

For example, do you want to promote your restaurant on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, or TripAdvisor?

The list goes on and on and it can feel overwhelming.

After all, how can you focus on them all? Short answer, you can’t.

There’s probably less than 1% chance that your fans will follow you across more than one or two networks. Experiment with plenty in the first instance, then narrow your field depending on which one works best for your brand.

If you’re unsure which social platform is resonating best with your audience, use a social media scheduling platform such as Hootsuite. This lets you see lots of valuable insights about the performance of your posts across multiple channels so that you can see which ones are working best.

You can then invest more time and resources into these areas to yield the best results.

The channels you choose totally depends on your business and it’s about finding out what works.

Some people love Twitter, others love Instagram. Pinterest is also a popular choice, especially among women.

Social networking presence can factor massively in the success or failure of your restaurant business.

By turning social media followers into brand advocates, you can rapidly grow your fan base. This will tempt new customers to try the food at your restaurant and also to share your business with their network.

Instagram and Pinterest are videography and photography heavy networks. If you love taking photos of your food and menu, then these are the places for you.

Perhaps you have some sort of great marketing idea? If so, it would be great to hear it in the comments below. Just don’t spread yourself too thin and you’ll be fine.

Tip 8: Things That Autoplay Are Bad

Whether I click through to a website and music auto plays, or, I click through and a video auto plays, the next thing I do is hit that big red cross in the top right hand corner.

Often when browsing the web, I’m listening to music, or watching a film. The last thing I want is some horrible auto playing music interrupting me.

There is absolutely no need to have music on your website.

Videos, however, are fantastic and a great medium for promotion.

YouTube is a social channel I missed out earlier, and it should never be overlooked.

If you are going to use video, have it play only on request, not on page load, not on page exit, not on anything except clicking the play button.
Man Talking to Camera

Tip 9: Get Some Good Quality Photos!

Good quality photos will help your website succeed and add a visual element to your design.

Having a professional photographer visit your restaurant and take photos will open up several avenues.

  • First, if the photographer likes the place, you’re likely to see them and their friends back for a visit.
  • Your food will look the best it can. Professional food photographers have trained for this moment. Utilise it.
  • You’ll have a whole host of imagery that you can use. Not only will your website benefit, but so will your menu designs, social media channels and more.

A professional photographer won’t be cheap, but just like a professional design agency, they’re worth it.

Forget taking pictures on your iPhone or similar. You’re not a photographer, you own a restaurant.

To get the best imagery you need to hire a great photographer with knowledge for taking great food shots.

Choosing a good photographer is very similar to choosing a graphic design agency to work with.

Have a look through local photographer’s portfolios and see who best suits your needs. Call a few up, meet with them, get some quotes, and commission the work.

Don’t underestimate the power of imagery.

Photography is a service we offer here at Canny, and we’ve worked with various clients to capture high quality, professional photography. Don’t scrimp and scrape on this service, as photography is one of the first thing customers will see when they find your site.

Get in touch with our team to find out more.

Tip 10: Make Sure Your Brand is Present

Chains such as Dominos, McDonald’s and Papa John’s succeed because they never ever let their branding slip. Everyone knows that on Tuesday’s, you can get 2-for-1 pizzas at Dominos.

Their websites work to reinforce their brand.

They’re not bolted on the side of the brand. The colours of the site normally take direct influence from the rest of the branding. The offers they have, the language they use, are ever present throughout all their branding efforts.

Make sure that your brand isn’t just an offline thing. Think about your core values and beliefs and work out how to put your best face forward online.
plate of food

10 Tips for Designing a Great Restaurant Website

There are hundreds and hundreds of tips and ideas to get you started when thinking about designing or redesigning your restaurant’s website. This article is intended as a starting point, a launchpad if you will.

If you’re looking for more ideas, check out these hospitality marketing articles to get you thinking!

Then, take these ideas and run with them.

Maybe you’re considering hiring a web designer?

If you have any great tips for restaurant websites, or, if something in particular gets on your nerves about restaurant web design, let us know in the comments below.

Or if you need some help designing your restaurant website, then get in touch with the team. We’ve helped lots of start up, and established businesses, create a website that engages their target audience.