Pretty much every business needs a website in today’s digital world. If you’re not online, you won’t be on people’s radar. This is absolutely true for restaurants. Studies show that 92% of people search online for restaurants and 75% of them take a look at the menu online before making a decision. Yet, many restauranteurs are reluctant to shoulder the expense.
The first mistake is thinking of a website as an expense–it’s an investment. A quality website is an investment in your brand that will pay off over time. Your website is the foundation that most of your marketing is built on. More often than not, it is also your first impression for new customers. It’s pretty important.
More than meets the eye
There’s lots of options out there these days for designing your own DIY website. If you listen to the celebrities pimping them, you can have a professional-looking website in minutes. If only it was that easy…
There’s way more to designing an effective website than slapping a few pictures into a template. Does it match your brand? Is your competitor using the same template? Are the things people look for most easy to find? Is it truly mobile-friendly? Will search engines find it?
Then, there’s other practical things to consider. Is it really saving money if it takes your time and attention away from running your business? Do you have the extra time to learn how to design an effective website? Do you know what constitutes an effective website? Is it going to look like you built it yourself?
This doesn’t even get into the technical aspect. Things like SEO, responsiveness, analytics, and expandability need to be considered. Templated DIY websites might not have the ability to handle online ordering, reservations, email capture, social media integration, etc.
The case for a DIY Website
There’s really only two reasons to go with a DIY website for your restaurant. The first is that you or one of your employees has a strong web design & development background. The second is budget. I suspect the majority of people considering the DIY route fall into the latter category.
Make sure you factor in your time spent on your DIY website and the time it takes you away from managing and building your business. If it is still not in your budget to hire a professional, educate yourself on what it takes to make an effective website. You can start with the 5 things that should be on your homepage and read about the 7 deadly sins of restaurant websites.
If you have a limited budget for your site and no professional photographs of your food or restaurant, you need to spend most of that budget on making sure you have quality images. The images on your website will make or break it. We cannot stress this enough. A poorly-designed website with bad photography will harm your business.
The fact is, people do judge books by their covers. If you saw an ad for a realtor on a bus bench and he was wearing worn-out shoes, jeans with holes, and a ratty, stained t-shirt, would you give him a call to sell your house? Probably not.
Hiring a Professional
A quality website designed by a professional can start at $3000 and go up from there. That’s a significant investment. However, that investment will ensure that your site represents and even elevates your brand and provides you with a strong foundation for attracting new customers to your restaurant.
A good web designer knows how to guide people through your site and how to make the things that matter most to viewers are easily found. The website can be customized to your needs whether it be online reservations or email capture for future marketing opportunities.
They will also handle the technical things like SEO, maintenance and security updates, domain name, hosting, and adding the functionality you need.
If you do use a professional, make sure they are using a user-friendly CMS (content management system) which will allow you to make small updates yourself. You will also want to have access to analytics so you can glean information about the people who are visiting your website.
Your website is almost as important for attracting new customers as the quality of your service is for retaining existing customers. This is not the place to cut corners if there is any way to avoid it.
Shameless plug: Because we know restauranteurs are tight on cash and spending $3000+ on a website in one pop is not an option, we’ve come up with some alternatives. We have subscription options with a lower set-up fee (including professional photography) and a monthly charge which includes hosting and security updates. Get in touch with us if you would like to learn more about these options.