@ Home on the Web

Even if you’re using standard advertising or social media (consistently, we hope), you really should have a website. Simply because customers today—and potential customers—expect it. Your website is the go-to: Keep it exciting and relevant! But first, it needs to be both functional and interesting.

In Hand

A high percentage of people use smartphones and tablets to look online for places to eat and drink. So your best bet is a website that’s got Responsive Design. You probably can’t avoid using a professional here, but you can request a beautiful yet minimal design to keep costs low. HTML 5, for example, adapts content to viewers’ screens: no pinch & zoom, no slow load times. And be sure your site works equally well for Android, iOS, etc. Your designer should test it, but asking staffers to check performance on their phones will confirm.

Gracious Host

Finding your best hosting partner is worth the effort. Look at support you might want or need: via phone, email, live chat or online forums—and the hours of availability. Also look at loading speed: everything should come up fast; customers today won’t wait. Finally, look at expected uptime. Ninety-nine percent sound good? It is, but remember that 99.9% of one year is 363.35 days out of 365. Hopefully your host has answers and assistance when things go blooey.

Then there are services to consider. Ask about shared, VPS (virtual private), dedicated, and fully managed, and what they would mean for you. Finally, find out about storage capacity and the number of domains per account. It’s OK to push for understandable language and more than one explanation—after all, you’re paying the bill.  

Simple Musts

It’s surprising how many owners remember the bells and whistles and forget the address and phone number. And the hours of operation. That and what you serve—the type of food or your actual menu—are the very least that customers are looking for. Plus a few attractive photos of food, and possibly your seating area (note that your brother-in-law may not be the best choice of photographer). Services like catering and takeaway, a children’s menu if you have it, a separate bar: a quick list is helpful and not too complicated to design and promote.

Finally, advantages like free parking or vegan dishes or a family focus sell—make them stand out. Situate them prominently, or use a photo or separate page; a good designer will be of assistance here.

Menu Means

According to research, an online menu is a definite selling tool. And there are plenty of ways to make that happen, from using a separate web page to downloadable PDFs, especially if your offerings change often. You can even link from your website to Facebook or another social media platform and put the menu there. Be sure to update immediately, or even build excitement with a “coming soon”: No one wants to read your “holiday menu” in June.

Going the next step with online ordering creates even more opportunity—boosting your venue on search engines and giving you another chance to send a “what’s happening” message to customers.

Inte-great-ion

Have a great site? Now talk about  it everywhere: menu, table tents, placemats, window decal, advertising, social media. Put the address on takeaway bags, catering contracts, signage; you name it. If you’re ever interviewed for television, a newspaper or news site, mention your website—even what people will find there. Donating to charity? In the acknowledgment, ask to have your website address included with your business name.

On the site itself, link to your social accounts. Or to a Vine or YouTube video with a house recipe, even a wine or beer pairing suggestion—85% of folks who see a video are more likely to visit.

Team Players

Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not in this alone. Other staffers may be helpful in creating your website and overseeing it. Solicit suggestions for content, and feedback about the design. Convey your prep cook’s excitement about the new burrito. Ask a catering customer if you can post her enthusiastic comment about her bachelorette party. Make sure management has the website host’s contact number in case they’re first to see that yours has gone dark.

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