The 5 Key Components of Restaurant Website Design (And How To Get Them)

When most restaurant owners look for help with restaurant design, they are focused on having their website look good.

And while your website definitely should look good in the modern restaurant era, looks and sales are not the same thing.

The best performing restaurant websites are rarely the most interesting or beautiful to look at.

Rather, the best performing restaurant website designs include 5 critical components, which we'll dig into in this guide.

But first, let's look at your three options for designing a website in the first place.

There Are 3 Ways To Design A Restaurant Website

To design a restaurant website, you’ll have to choose one of three options. 

The first approach is to hire a professional designer to build you a fully customized website.

The advantage of this approach is you’ll get a website that looks exactly how you want it, and you have complete control over every tiny detail.

The disadvantage is it’s insanely expensive and time-consuming. The average turnaround time for a custom website is one to four months and can cost tens of thousands of dollars depending on how many features you want to add.

The second approach is to use a generic website builder. 

You’ve probably seen ads for these companies starting to pop up if you’ve been digging around on the internet, looking for ways to create your website. Platforms like Wix, WordPress, SquareSpace, and Weebly. 

These web builder services can sound like the ideal scenario—they have ready-made drag-and-drop templates to guide you through the process and claim that you can have a website up and running in minutes.

It sounds good until you get a real look at the nuts and bolts of how it works. It’s actually not easy and requires a tremendous amount of effort to learn how to use all the tools and plugins efficiently. 

Plus, these website templates are designed to assist any business in building a website. Meaning they are not optimized for restaurants. 

Sure, you can build a functioning website using a generic website builder, but it will come with headaches and limited capabilities. 

Eventually, you’ll need to call customer support, but, unfortunately, the person on the other end of the line won’t know anything about running restaurants, so they won’t be able to help you with more nuanced restaurant-related problems.

The third and best approach is to go with a restaurant-focused website platform like Owner.com. 

The first two approaches tend to only focus on displaying your branding—effectively creating an online brochure about your restaurant.

What you need is a website designer that focuses entirely on restaurants and the tools they need to succeed—features like an online ordering system, commission-free delivery, robust loyalty programs,  visible customer social proof, strategic upsells, and so much more. 

A restaurant-focused website platform will have a deep understanding of how restaurants operate and how to translate that into a beautiful, high-converting website that attracts more customers, stays on brand, and is super easy to use.

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The 5 Key Design Components Of A Restaurant Website

Whichever option you choose, you’ll need to include features that make your website a money-making machine instead of just an online brochure. 

Every restaurant website needs these 5 key design components to be effective.

  • A clean, simple, mobile-friendly design
  • A beautiful, compelling online menu
  • A high-converting checkout experience
  • Highly visible social proof
  • A robust loyalty program

Let’s look closely at each element so you can see how to design a website that your customers will love to use. For examples, we’ll show you screenshots of live websites made for and used by the partners of Owner.com

By showing you these website design examples, you’ll be able to see why each component is important to the overall user experience of your customers and how it converts more guests and makes you more revenue.

Let’s begin.

1. Clean, Simple, Mobile-Friendly Design

The moment a customer lands on your homepage, they should know how to navigate the whole website. The best way to do that is to keep your design clean and simple. Don’t muddy it up with unnecessary content or images. 

Look at the landing page for Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant.

Every component that makes up this page serves a purpose. It gives the customer relevant information with each picture and text, but it is laid out in a way that is both functional and pleasant to look at. 

Designing a clean and simple web design can enhance credibility with your guests because it reflects the quality and professionalism of your restaurant.

It demonstrates that you take your online presence seriously, which can lead to increased trust in potential customers. 

A clean and simple website also converts more easily to a mobile-friendly website. 

We’re all familiar with how much time people spend on their phones. We go to our phones for any questions we might have, and that includes looking for a place to eat. 

Your mobile site needs to be as clean and simple as the desktop version, while having the same look and feel.

Let’s look at both the desktop version and mobile version of our restaurant partner, Talkin’ Tacos. This is what customers will see if they’re on their computer at home. 

Talkin’ Tacos has a sharp website with beautiful food pictures, but let’s remember that the vast majority of guests will be using their phones to look at and order their food. 

Now, let’s look at the mobile version of Talkin’ Tacos’ website. 

You can see that the branding, layout, and function are essentially the same. The design has just been shifted, so it’s a more user-friendly version on a mobile device. 

Customers who are already familiar with one version will automatically know how to use the other version. 

Consistency adds another layer of trust for customers. If you’re willing to make the effort to make a strong online presence across multiple devices, guests will choose you over competitors for that reason alone. 

2. A Beautiful, Compelling Online Menu

The vast majority of people visit a restaurant website solely to get a look at the menu. 

This is THE opportunity to win new customers before they move on to the next site. Every high-converting website excels at three things.

  • Drool-worthy photos
  • Persuasive food descriptions
  • An easy to navigate layout

Photos allow you to clearly show customers what you offer, and crisp, clear pictures of your food make is easy to entice new guests. The days of providing a PDF link to your website menu are long gone if you want to stay competitive. 

Talkin’ Tacos does a superb job of providing mouthwatering food photos for their customers. 

In each picture, you can clearly see the ingredients, textures, and colors. The best part is these are actual pictures of the food Talkin’ Tacos serves every day. 

No photoshop magic or trick photography—just real food presented cleanly and professionally.

Guests can quickly scan the menu to see what interests them.

Why is it important to think about your customers scanning the menu? 

Because that’s how all people read digital screens. 

They scan until something interesting jumps out, then they dig deeper into the details to see if it’s a good fit to fix their cravings. 

The details for this situation will be a persuasive food description. It needs to be concise and tell a little background about the dish, like, maybe where the ingredients came from or how it was prepared.

For example, this description of the Bang Bang Shrimp tacos from Talkin’ Tacos. 

First off, the picture looks delicious, so they hit a home run right there. Once a customer clicks on the menu item for more details, a full description of the dish pops up. 

“Fried shrimp” tells us how it’s prepared, so we know it has a crispy crunch in every bite—the next attention-grabbing word is “spicy.” 

So far, we know the taco has pops of crunch with an overall spicy kick to it.

Lastly comes the pickled onions. It’s important to know that the onions are pickled because the acidity of the pickling brine is going to balance out the fat from the fried shrimp and spicy mayo. 

Each component plays a part in painting a picture in the customer's mind, so they know what they’ll experience when eating a Bang Bang Shrimp taco. 

Talkin’ Tacos achieved this with only used 8 words—bravo, Talkin’ Tacos!

Once you have your pictures and food item descriptions, you’ll need to design an easy-to-navigate layout. 

We already discussed how all people scan digital screens, so keeping this in mind is very important if you want to successfully create an easy user experience for your customer. 

Let’s look at a different Owner.com restaurant partner for design inspiration—Aburaya

As you can see, the layout is similar to Talkin’ Tacos and Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant, but the branding for each restaurant is entirely different. 

Why is the layout similar?

Because it works. 

Our restaurant partners have had huge success with using this type of layout design, and if you’re building your own restaurant site, we strongly suggest doing something similar. 

Or you can always reach out, and we’ll give you a hand.  

Looking at Aburaya’s menu, you can see that everything is spaced well, taking advantage of the negative white space, so it’s easy to read. There’s no confusion from crowded pictures and text. 

Popular menu items are always put at the top of the menu. Showcasing these as “Top Picks” is a form of social proof that influences customers to buy what others already consider crowd favorites. 

Guests often ask servers and bartenders, “what’s popular” when trying to decide what to eat. “Top Picks” easily answers that question for them in an online scenario.  

You’ll also notice the “food category” navigation menu to the left.

Customers can scan the list of food categories, then jump to the selection that’s calling to them. This layout is effortless to navigate, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to understand. 

Independent restaurants with this level of online sophistication stand out. 

The truth is, most local restaurants don’t take their online presence very seriously and are way behind with the times, relying on their outdated and clunky website features to bring in new customers.

Not only should your website bring in more new customers, it should persuade a higher percentage of customers to complete their purchase.

If you want full details on how to design the perfect restaurant menu, read this.

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3. A High-Converting Checkout Experience

A customer’s checkout experience is an often overlooked step when restaurant owners are developing their websites. After all, once a guest has selected their food items, you’ve already won them over—right?

Not necessarliy.

If the checkout steps are difficult to understand and you make the customer work for it, there’s a good chance they’ll just abandon their order and go somewhere else. This is why you need to make checking out as simple as possible.

The first step is to have prominently displayed call-to-action (CTA) buttons, like the checkout button on Talkin’ Tacos’ website.

Right next to the CTA “Checkout” button, you can see the “Cart” icon with the number of items in the cart. Guests can quickly see whether they’ve ordered enough food and drink with a quick glance to the upper right corner.

It’s details like this that customers appreciate, and it makes the whole checkout journey smoother. Otherwise, they’d have to switch back and forth between screens to see how many items they’ve ordered.

Once the “Checkout” button is tapped, customers should see a prompt like this. 

These are menu items that pair well with the food that’s already selected or are just crowd favorites that the customer may have missed on their initial search through the menu. 

It’s an excellent opportunity to upsell a customer and tag on a few bucks to every order. If customers aren’t interested, they can be at the payment screen with one click.

Now that we are at “Checkout,” you can see only the minimum number of fields required to make a payment and gather information for pickup or delivery. The fewer fields a customer has to fill out, the more likely they will be to complete their purchase.

Another critical detail is under the fields for credit card information, you’ll see “secure payment powered by Stripe.”

Displaying your payments processing partners tells guests that you’re legit and reassures them that their personal and financial information is secure with your business.

Lastly, give customers the option to save their payment details. Owner.com helps restaurants with this by creating individual accounts for customers who sign up for their loyalty program (we’ll cover that in just a moment).

See the “Login” button next to the “Checkout” button.

Once logged in, customers can save multiple payment options and even access their order history, so if they forget a favorite from the previous visit, all the information is there to recreate their perfect meal.

Allowing customers to save their payment details for future purchases can make the checkout process faster and more convenient, which can result in more conversions.

4. Highly Visible Social Proof

Restaurants need to use social proof for three reasons.

  • To build trust and credibility
  • Influence behavior
  • Stand out in a crowded market

We ourselves seek social proof all the time when we’re trying to find a place to eat or something to buy. One of the first things we do is look to see what others are saying about their dining experience. 

If the reviews are favorable, we automatically trust people's words and give the restaurant enough credibility to plan a visit. 

Let’s say you’re on vacation in Orlando, FL, and you want to take your family out to a nice dinner. You don’t just drive to the first place you see and hope for the best. No—you jump online to see what the locals and other travelers are saying.

What we are looking for is confirmation that if we invest time and money, we’re going to have a good time and eat some delicious food.

A lot of people turn to Yelp in such a circumstance, but you shouldn’t allow Yelp reviews to be the only source of social proof and a first impression about your restaurant on the internet. 

Although it can be a great first step to getting customers on your website, you’ll need to back it up with your own reviews placed right on your website. 

Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant does this with a 5-star review right when a guest lands on thier website. 

If you scroll down Ottavio’s website, you’ll see three more 5 star reviews confirming what curious customers are hoping—that Ottavio’s is a legit place to get real, authentic, and delicious Italian food.

These are the forms of social proof that all customers are looking for, so instead of having them bounce off your website to look for confirmation reviews on Yelp, Google, and FaceBook, give them the answers they are looking for right on your website. 

You might be wondering how to collect all these fabulous reviews, and I’m going to tell you right now. 

To get the ball rolling, you can look on Yelp, Google, and Facebook, but that’s only to get started. Once you have several 5-star reviews in place, you’ll need to set up a system that automatically collects and manages reviews for you. 

The most efficient way to do this is through your online ordering system. Owner.com does this for each one of our restaurant partners, so I’ll give you an example of what that would look like. 

Essentially what you’re doing is giving people lots of opportunities to leave reviews. When a customer puts in an order, we’ll place subtle review prompts so the option is available to guests if they feel inclined.

It’s not likely they’ll leave a review since they haven’t received their food, but the option is there. 

The next prompt comes with the confirmation email immediately following their order being placed. Again, it’s subtle but available. 

Last, we push a more obvious review request with the follow up email that customers receive a few hours after completing their purchase. 

This request is the most likely to get answered since the guest recently finished ordering their meal, so the whole experience is fresh in their mind.

Now that we’re asking every customer to leave a review let’s put all that feedback to work.

It would be impossible to run your restaurant and manually manage every review coming in, which is why we set up a system that automatically sends all 4 or 5-star reviews straight to your Google Business Listing to be published. 

Any 1-3 star reviews get routed to a customer service email address, so you can connect with them directly to salvage any fixable issues or do what you can to correct an error. 

Either way, 4-5 star reviews are published for the public to see, and the system is catching any negative reviews instead of customers writing them on Yelp. 

After the positive reviews are published, you can cherry-pick the most impactful customer experiences to be published directly on your website. 

5. A Robust Loyalty Program

There’s a reason why companies have used loyalty programs for over 200 years—they work!

I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic concept, but there are several reasons why you should incorporate a loyalty program into your restaurant website design. 

  • Increase customer retention
  • Increase customer spending
  • Collect customer data
  • Foster a sense of community

Customers who have an incentive to return will, over time, spend more money than regulars that aren’t a part of the program.

As time goes on, data collected from a customer's spending habits and food preferences will emerge, and you can then target specific marketing deals and specials toward that individual’s liking.

The more a customer returns, the more they’ll feel connected to the restaurant community created by staff and customer relationships. Customers love feeling like special guests, and loyalty programs are the perfect tools to create inclusion. 

There are several ways to operate and execute a loyalty program. The days of punch cards and collecting proof of purchases have gone the way of the horse and buggy—in the 21st century, everything is digital, mobile, and automated.

Third-party companies can connect with your POS system, or you might have a loyalty program built into it already.

I’m going to show you examples of the exact loyalty program restaurant partners of Owner.com use every day to grow their customer base. In fact, setting up an automated, robust loyalty program is the single biggest reason our restaurant partners grow an average of 50% in the first 90 days after starting working with us. 

There are different types of loyalty programs, meaning, tiered, subscription, value, etc. We’ve found that a point-based system works well for restaurants, and we suggest you use the same. 

Why?

Because it’s simple, easy to understand, and easy to track. Plus, customers enjoy watching points accumulate with each purchase.

For example, after every purchase, customers will receive an email like this, telling them how many points they just earned, along with the new number of total points they hold. 

As the points mount up, it begins to feel like a game customers can’t lose. The incentive to earn points and collect rewards becomes part of a weekly routine.

But what if a consistent regular begins falling off and not coming in as often?

Sending out point reminder notifications puts your restaurant back on their radar. These notifications can be done through email or text messages, like this one here. 

We all have busy lives, and it’s easy to forget about the points you have collecting at your favorite restaurant. These reminders keep customers up to date on the number of points earned and how far away they are from receiving a reward.

When it comes to rewards, only offer inexpensive and easy-to-make items for the kitchen to execute. Drinks are a fast and easy option, as well as fried foods, soups, large-batch baked goods, and dips, like queso.

The idea is to give people their well-earned rewards while your margins stay profitable. Giving away expensive proteins and costly items defeats the benefits on your side of the loyalty program. 

Focus On THIS After Your Website Is Live

Once your website is up and running, it’s time to focus on two things.

  • Earning more money from your existing customers.
  • Getting in front of new customers.

What we’re talking about here is restaurant marketing, and it is the only way to steadily grow your restaurant month after month, year after year. 

You can sell the tastiest food in the city, but food sales will decline if people don’t know about you. 

Sure, there’s a chance for a period of time you can prosper based by word of mouth, but if you’re in it for the long haul, you need to set up a comprehensive marketing campaign that consistently works long term. 

The first of these two objectives is the easiest—getting existing customers back in the restaurant is easy pickings; they already know your brand and won’t hold reservations about trying a new place.

To get previous visitors back in the dining room, you’ll need to follow a re-engagement strategy. On average, our restaurant partners see a significant bump in revenue during the first 3-6 months and have higher sales per cover thereafter so long as the re-engagement strategy is being used.

The more difficult of these two tasks is getting in front of new customers. It requires more time, effort, and creativity, but it is the only way to consistently grow your restaurant by 3%-4% per month for years while your competitors wonder how you’re doing it.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how to do it too—you can achieve these two objectives and thrive through difficult times by following this comprehensive Restaurant Marketing guide.

Over the last several years, we’ve helped thousands of restaurants grow revenue and increase profits using the exact restaurant marketing strategies inside this guide.

Those restaurants have seen sales for online orders grow by an average of 270% in just 90 days. 

Once your website is complete, restaurant marketing will be the next critical step in establishing and flourishing your online presence.  

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Take back control of your margins, customer data, and online reputation.

Our all-in-one-platform helps you take back control of your online presence, drive direct sales, save money on fees, and manage everything in one place. Schedule a demo to see the platform in action and discover why our new restaurant partners increase online sales by an average of 270% in their first three months using Owner.com.

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