A good website is no longer enough to compete in the crowded restaurant environment. To stand out to potential patrons in the age of internet ubiquity, you need a digital presence that sets your business apart from its competition. To help accomplish that goal, here are 5 steps you can take to take your restaurant website from good to great.

1. Make it Responsive

To say that we live in a world of smartphones and tablets is no longer an exaggeration. Mobile internet usage surpassed its desktop counterpart for the first time last year, and the gap is only expected to widen in the near future. Increasingly, your patrons are deciding whether to visit your establishment on the go.

For your restaurant, that means a crucial adjustment: make sure your website looks equally well on all devices and screen sizes. The process, called responsive design, allows the layout of each page to adjust dynamically so that even smartphone users can still find the information they need. The result will be better visibility in search engines in addition to improved user experience.

2. Allow for Online Reservations

Nobody likes even the chance of waiting in line. And yet, especially during peak hours, exactly that might happen for many restaurants. So why not set yours apart with an online reservation system?

A number of platforms, such as Tablein and Nextable, have begun to offer services that allow restaurants to integrate online reservations into their websites. The result is a more interactive experience that allows your audience to more easily reserve tables, and you to better plan your busy evenings.

…don’t underestimate the power of personalizing the web experience for your audience.

3. Add Your Own Style

To be successful online, your restaurant website cannot look like its competition. You need to stand out, ideally in a visual style that is congruent with the brand you’re looking to promote. Above all, that means losing the stock photos and using photos of your own locale, staff, and guests instead.

Try to use the website to convey the actual atmosphere and type of food your audience will encounter when they visit. We’re visual learners, so a large percentage of your web visitors will never bother to view your menu or read your writing if you cannot grasp their interest and attention within the first few seconds on your website.

4. Include Social Proof

Nothing is more convincing to potential guests than their peers telling them about the greatness of your food and atmosphere. Social proof in all of its forms is scientifically proven to work, thanks to our subconscious need for social validation.

Customer testimonials on your website are a crucial first step in leveraging the power of the masses. But so are social shares, especially if you decide to feature dynamic content such as blog posts or videos. The more easily your visitors can share the content, the larger of an audience will find out about your restaurant and be prompted to visit your website.

You need to stand out, ideally in a visual style that is congruent with the brand you’re looking to promote.

5. Share Behind-the-Scenes Content

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of personalizing the web experience for your audience. Especially first-time visitors, who can only rely on your website for information about your restaurant, will appreciate learning more that helps them better understand what they’re in for.

For example, you may want to share a profile (or even cooking video) of your cooks to give your audience a better understanding of how their food is made. You can do the same for servers, or even include a timelapse video of a typical night that better conveys how popular your restaurant truly is. The more of a peak behind the curtain you allow your audience to take, the more likely they’ll be to actually visit and check out your restaurant for themselves.

Do you have a good restaurant website? Don’t rest on your laurels – your competitors might as well. Instead, work to make it great, using the above tips. Ultimately, your audience will have to decide whether they want to eat at your establishment or at an alternative down the road. An effective website can make all the difference in helping them make that decision.

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