For people who love food, owning a restaurant seems like the best possible way to earn a living. Sure it’s a lot of work, but so is anything worth doing. What could be better than hiring a skilled chef to prepare food to your satisfaction, feeding people you love and serving the community around you? You’d build the restaurant’s foundation on quality food and quality service.

The only problem is, so does everyone else who starts a restaurant. Quality food and service are what keep people coming back, but what gets them to step foot in the door?

One essential is a website. Unfortunately, “smellivision” still isn’t a thing, so how do you communicate the essence of who you are using pixels?

Consider how you want people to feel when they come to your restaurant. Is it a fast-casual, relaxed atmosphere where t-shirts and torn jeans are the norm or are you catering to a more upscale crowd? Potential customers need to get a sense for this within a few seconds of pulling up your website.

An easy way to accomplish this is through photography. Of course, your food looks as great as it tastes, so a few shots of your top-selling entrees will do the job, right? Maybe, especially if you use incredibly unique ingredients or daring recipes. More often than not though, on the surface, your burger looks a lot like your competitor’s. Why should someone come to your restaurant for burgers instead of theirs? Maybe you use hormone and antibiotic free, the-best-quality-beef. That’s great, but it doesn’t make my mouth water, and it’s not obvious from a picture.

Find the thing that makes your restaurant unique and showcase it. Quality food and service don’t count. An easy way to get the message across is a picture of your restaurant itself. The atmosphere you’ve created goes a long way to say what your customer can expect. Maybe you’ve hung some retro posters to give the dining area a comfortable old-school vibe or there’s great tile work in the entryway, maybe you even scored a vintage tin ceiling. Pride, intention and a sense of character radiate from how you set up the dining room, the same sense of pride and intention you put into your food. All with a picture of your dining area.

Excellent photography is essential for a restaurant website to bring in customers. Once you have the photos squared away, take the same thought process you used to choose a photo and apply it to the website. Is your restaurant light and airy or dark and cozy? Downtown elegant or suburb family-friendly?

Secondly, determine what you want a visitor to your website to do: look at the menu, make a reservation or place an order for take-out? Determine the one thing. One. Only one. People on your website are already distracted, and when presented with options, they choose none of them. Create a prominent button to point them in the direction you want them to go.

One of the other main things to consider that’s different for a restaurant website is how to handle the menu. I know, I know, it’s so much easier to make changes and quickly upload a PDF when you have to make edits. The problem is, when someone pulls up your menu on their phone to decide whether they’re going to eat at your restaurant or not, they have to pinch and slide around a PDF, they’re going to decide against it. Menu PDFs on mobile are as good as illegible and may as well not even be there.

Take a look at the menu page Roundpeg did for Joe’s Next Door. It’s a simple layout and you know exactly what you’re going to get—hot and cold sandwiches. When you pull it up on your phone, it collapses to a single column that’s legible and easy to scroll through. Bonus: each sandwich has a picture you can see by tapping the red camera.


Restaurant websites must have a menu, and they must be mobile responsive with type large enough that most of your audience can read it without squinting.

Way before setting places at the table and before your first order, restaurant owners put a lot of thought into how their place will stand out from the heavy competition. A large part of that is having an engaging website with a mobile menu that lives up the effort and pride put into the food.

Ready to start working on your website? Download this workbook first.

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