December 3, 2012

By Ed Avis   

    What makes a great restaurant website? At el Restaurante Mexicano, we’ve been having fun surfing the web looking for good Mexican restaurant sites. We found seven things that the best sites do well.

    When you are designing (or re-designing) your restaurant’s website, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. The reason they are visiting your website is to see what your restaurant looks like, check out the menu, find out how to get there, or to make reservations.

    Follow these seven tips and customers will soon be lining up outside your door:

1. Show what your restaurant looks like, inside and outside.  If people aren’t familiar with your restaurant, they want to see what it looks like before they go. Include photos that attractively reveal your dining room, bar, waiting area, and storefront. Also include nice photos of your best dishes, drinks, and staff. If you can afford it, hire a professional photographer who knows how to make your restaurant and cuisine look good.

    De Cero Taqueria in Chicago has some great photos on its home page (and giant type, which is perfect for Baby Boomer eyes):

    Rosa Mexicano in Minneapolis has some amazing, life-size photos of their cuisine and bar scene on their site. Hard to resist!

2. Include a menu. Obviously, your food is the main reason your customers are coming. Don’t make them download a PDF to read your menu – instead, make your menu another html page so it’s easy to view online. If you have specials that change, make the effort to change your menu to reflect that. People want to know what they’re going to get if they visit you.

     The Mission Cantina in Hollywood, California has an easy to read menu:

3. Include the basics, which include directions (a map is good), your hours, and contact information, and put this info somewhere it is easy to find. In the De Cero Taqueria site I mentioned above, the basics are located right at the bottom of the home page.

4. Use an online reservation system. You want to make it easy as possible for people to become your customers, right? So make it easy and quick for them to make reservations.

    See how Rojo Grill in Mineapolis puts their reservation system right at the top of the home page – you can’t miss it:

    You’ll see that Rojo, like many, many other restaurants, uses Open Table for reservations. There’s a small per-person fee, but they handle all the details and your customers will be familiar with it:

5. Testimonials, reviews, and awards can be very powerful. Remember that many people checking out your website don’t know much about your restaurant, so you want them to feel confident about it. Positive reviews, respected awards, and testimonials from satisfied customers are a great way to do that.  

    Salpicon restaurant in Chicago has an impressive list of awards right on their home page:

6. Match your language to your customers. Nearly every Mexican restaurant website is in English, but if you have many customers who are more comfortable reading Spanish, consider a bilingual site. For example, some sites have Spanish-language versions that customers can click to. The site for El Nacimiento Taqueria in Detroit is set up that way; here’s their Spanish version:

7. Finally, two things you probably shouldn’t do. Many Mexican restaurant websites have music playing in the background; when I worked in a crowded office, I always hated it when I was discreetly trying to make reservations and music would suddenly start playing. So you might lose some reservations from people in that situation. Second, I also dislike long, slow intros. When I visit a restaurant website, I like to learn the basics right away.

    This article only scratched the surface of good website design, but it gives you a starting point. Notice that I didn’t even talk about actual design – it goes without saying that you want the look of your site to match the look of your restaurant.

    A great starting point for any restaurant website redesign is to spend a few hours surfing the web and noting other restaurant sites you like. You’ll find lots of good ideas.

    Do you like your website already? Then please tell us about it! We will share the best sites we see with other el Restaurante Mexicano readers.

Ed Avis the publisher of el Restaurante Mexicano magazine. He frequently writes about the internet and social media. Contact Ed at

December 3, 2012