How to Make a Successful Website for Your Hospitality Business

africola-restaurant-adelaide-great-websiteAdelaide restaurant Africola has an amazing website, combining simple usability and great visuals in keeping with their African-inspired theme. Picture: Africola

These days, it’s rare for diners to pick a hospitality venue at random for social drinks or dining, just as it is for travellers to turn up at their accommodation without having done any research.

Google’s “nearby restaurants” feature, along with review websites and venue discovery apps, makes it essential for every hospitality business to have a good online presence.

Yet many restaurants, cafes, bars, and hotels fail to invest properly in their own website. The result: outdated and old-fashioned websites that are difficult to use and actually repel potential new customers!

Naturally, this means there’s a good chance for your hospitality venue to shine online – and to attract more customers through your bricks-and-mortar doors!

So how do you create a successful website for your restaurant or bar? By providing the info your potential new customers need right up front on a captivating, easy-to-use website.

1. Think About Your Customers’ Needs

Who is likely to be looking at your website, and what kind of instant information are they going to want? That’s what every hospitality business owner should ask when creating their website.

If you’re a restaurant or cafe, for example, it’s likely your customers will want to see your menu, along with your venue locations, opening hours, and contact details for bookings and inquiries.

On the other hand, a potential hotel patron will be looking for the cost, availability and style of rooms, along with services offered, location within the destination, and a bookings page.

Without these details readily on hand, users may end up frustrated and leaving the website without any of the information that would get them to your venue.

2. Make It Easy to Use

labld-cafe-clean-website-designLabld’s website is sparse but includes all the basics well. Picture: Labld

So many small business owners mistakenly think the only way to get attention is to add all the bells and whistles to their website.

While it’s essential to have a well designed website, it’s just as critical to make it easy to use. At the end of the day, you want your virtual visitors to come away with the information they need, or the actions completed, that will turn them into actual visitors.

Back to the essential information they need – don’t just provide an address and phone number. Attach a map so they can visualise your location. Give them a contact form they can fill out for enquiries. Let people know when you’re open.

Set up your own online booking system that works 24/7 so they can reserve a table or change a booking in a flash.

And give them the option to order food online for delivery or pick up – whether that’s your own system or a link to the third-party service you use.

3. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Let’s be honest. Most people don’t crack open their laptop just to look up potential dining venues. They’re often already out, with friends at bars looking for a quality restaurant nearby, or lounging on the couch searching for a top-notch brunch spot for the following morning.

If your prospects are on their phone, a nifty feature is to ensure your phone number pops up in the auto-dial panel when a user clicks on it. Also make sure your email address opens up a new email, while your physical address opens up in their default Maps app.

Naturally, it’s equally important to ensure your website is responsive – that is, it works equally well on mobile as it does in a desktop browser.

4. Provide a Web-Based Menu

higher-ground-cafe-restaurant-provides-visual-menu-on-websiteHigher Ground shows their menus (day, night, drinks) in a visual, easy, crisp format, with a prominent Booking button throughout. Picture: Higher Ground

It’s astounding how many cafes, restaurants and bars still use PDF menus instead of web-based versions. Sure, PDF menus are easy to whack up, but they’re a frustration for your online visitors.

Ditch your PDFs menus for interactive, up-to-date menus that include prices and potentially even photos. Most importantly, make sure your menu has its own page that’s easy to find from the home page.

5. Showcase Your Venue with High Quality Images

In these Instagram-happy days, the aesthetic appeal of your venue is more important than ever. Photographs are the best way to convince your online visitors that your venue is worth it. In that case, your website needs to showcase the very best of your venue.

Photos are an easy way to portray your venue’s style and atmosphere. Poor photography won’t translate well on screen, so it may pay to invest in a professional photographer.

Professional photography can ensure your photographs are bright, sharp and appealing. You will get fantastic up-close shots of your dishes, along with stylised images of the interior and exterior of your venue.

Even better, getting a professional photography means you’ll have a whole stock of professional photos that you can use not just on your website, but in your menus and on your social media channels.

6. Reinforce Your Brand with Content

Every successful hospitality venue has its own brand personality – something that helps it stand out in a busy space. It could be its grunge factor, its hipster vibe, its ethical focus, or its high-end fare.

Your website gives you a chance to accentuate this brand personality by providing content that tells online visitors a bit about the venue.

The easiest way to do this is on an “About Us” page. Take the “About Us” section on the Bulletin Place website. They manage to perfectly convey the venue’s devil-may-care casual vibe, yet outstanding professionalism when it comes to cocktails, in just 43 words:

You’ll find the following core principles in each daily cocktail list:

  • Source the finest Australian seasonal produce
  • Treat it with respect
  • Concise pairings with the most premium spirits and modifiers
  • Presentation: Less is more
  • Use of potentially crap puns when naming said drink

bulletin-place-website-imageThe Bulletin Place’s simple but digestible About Us page. Picture: Bulletin Place

The “About” page is just a starter. A branded blog is another fantastic way to spread your brand message. Here you can:

  • Broadcast awards and honours the venue receives as they happen
  • Broadcast new menu updates
  • Elaborate on your ingredient sourcing process
  • Welcome new staff
  • Elaborate on your venue’s history
  • If you run a hotel, provide detailed information about iconic hotspots nearby.

All your online content is your chance to win over your online visitors and convince them they have to check you out in person.

Make sure your website links to your social channels and keep the same message across all platforms.

7. Create Your Own Review System

For decades, people have been visiting hotels based on the positive reviews they hear from friends, read in newspapers, or, more recently, see online. The same is true of other hospitality venues, such as restaurants, bars, night clubs, and cafes.

That’s why visible reviews should be an essential component of your online website. Sure, you can link to your venue’s page on TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Zomato. But it’s even better to go a step further by creating your own review system on your website.

If you’ve put in the hard yakka, you’ll start to reap the rewards with a slew of positive reviews, which can do more to win over new customers than any other content on your website.

Naturally, you can’t always control what others will say. But how you deal with negative reviews online through a prompt response can say just as much about your brand as a positive review.

Start Building Your Website Today!

The key takeaway from this article should be that everything you do for your website should be done with your target customer in mind.

Ask yourself:

  • Is your website useful?
  • Does it provide the information and the tools your online visitors need to get to your venue?
  • Does it carry your brand message to convince potential new customers that your venue is worth it?

Creating a website for a hospitality business is not a simple task. But done well, it can prove an essential tool for pulling new visitors through your doors. Learn more important tools and skills for marketing your business on the Impos blog today!