Restaurant and Bar Web Sites — Menus, Reviews, Maps, Photos, and Opportunities Galore!

Today let’s take a specific look at common bar and restaurant web site features, listing out what we feel are the essential features all bars and restaurants should have, and also the least applicable ones. Keep in mind that this list is highly subjective; your bar or restaurant may have highly different priorities or special needs unique to your business.

10 Most Important Web Site Elements for Restaurant and Bar Web Sites

  • Including your menu(s)!
  • Social media integration
  • Reviews (Yelp, etc.)
  • SEO aspects (meta tags, etc.)
  • Contact information
  • GoogleMaps / directions
  • Photos / galleries
  • Links to friends / favorites
  • Microformat markup
  • About us / company history

Not a bad little list, eh? So, let’s discuss…

Social media integration is a no-brainer for bars and restaurants. If you’re wildly popular and successful, then your fans and patrons will want to find your Facebook page and keep abreast of news. If you’re in the market to build fans and patrons, then social media is essential because it’s perhaps the easiest and most cost effective marketing available for this business niche.

Bar and restaurant marketing is distinctive in a few ways. For one, it’s (usually) a local marketing strategy. You’re not competing with restaurants across the country — or, even, arguably, across town. So, right there, there are many aspects of internet marketing that can be leveraged in huge ways. I won’t go deeply into general internet marketing here, though, as I want to focus on web site features. But, the more specific a company is (esp. a one-location bar or restaurant), the easier it is to optimize and rise in the SERPs.

Another distinction is that food establishments have an advantage over other businesses in that people always need food. Your customers have a built-in, biological drive to want to follow you. I mean, compare that to, say, a hardware store. So, get going on your Facebook presence, do a little Tweeting, etc. You really have to engage people — offer coupons, promote events, etc. But people will watch out for this stuff and will respond.

Yelp is critical for bars and restaurants. I can’t underscore this point enough. Like it or not, Yelp has become an essential component of restaurant and bar marketing, and you really shouldn’t ignore it. In fact, I recommend that you embrace Yelp. Actively encourage reviews from your patrons. (Of course, it should go without saying that providing outstanding customer service is #1 on your list. If you’re not friendly and service-oriented, well, you shouldn’t be in the restaurant or bar business at all!)

While Yelp and other review sites will help your SEO, there is still plenty of SEO work that you can be doing on your site. Again, I won’t go too deeply here in this article, but just know that it’s important.

And… menus! Yes, do get them on your site — and, if at all possible, don’t just pop a PDF file on there. No one likes having to download and open a separate file. Get your menu onto your site as a normal HTML page and go from there. Keep it updated, of course. But, really, this is one of the key things people want to know about your business: What’s there to order? (Naturally, this is most important for people who want to order to go!)

For similar reasons, we’ve listed “photos and galleries” on our list. While it’s great to read about what’s there, it’s even better to see it. I would propose that restaurants and bars go all-out with their online menus. Show the item, its picture, a description, and the price. Man, that would be the best menu ever! And let’s face it — pretty much no one else is doing this.

So, you’ve got your marketing in place, you’re Facebooking all day, you’ve got your menu online … what’s missing? Well, of course… you need MAPS. All of that is worth nothing if people can’t find you. So, embed a Google map, and make sure the directions are crystal clear to your location, from any starting point north, south, east, and west. Additionally, there are meta markup opportunities available to help tell search engines your location. Look into the geo markup meta tags!

Other Goodies?

By no means would the above be a complete list of things to do for bars and restaurants. After all, we haven’t even discussed huge topics like video marketing or microformat / structured data markup, for example. But, we want to keep these “essentials” articles to about 10 items. Hope you liked them!

Jim Dee heads up Array Web Development, LLC in Portland, OR. He’s the editor of “Web Designer | Web Developer” magazine and a contributor to many online publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at] Photo atop piece is adapted from “Bar Area” by Sam Howzit (Flickr, Creative Commons).