Whether you’re in the early stages of creating an online food shop, or you’re bringing your existing restaurant and branding online, the tools to create an online food business are well within your reach.
When it comes time to bring your idea online successfully, a professional website is tantamount in presenting a polished business to potential customers. While there are infinite nuances that can set a website apart from the crowd, you want to center your attention on the six fundamentals: a clear focus, seamless functionality, professional design, compelling copy, effective SEO optimization, and a plan to promote your new site once it launches.
Keep reading to learn the strategies and tips that add professional polish to your self-built site, one step at a time.
Choosing your website’s focus
A website for an in-person restaurant will look and function differently from an ecommerce store that sells food or drinks to their customer base. Before you begin to develop your website, make sure you’re clear on the primary goal of your online presence.
Do you want to book more in-person dining reservations and to-go orders at your Mediterranean restaurant? If so, you’re interested in a restaurant website. If you want to sell your food — such as a coffee bean subscription — to customers for pick-up or shipped orders only, your website will lean more towards an ecommerce store.
Hybrids between the two website models exist, so use your imagination when you think about what’s possible. For example, a cheese shop might have reservations for in-person charcuterie dining while also selling pre-packaged tastings of their most popular cheeses. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but getting clear on your big-picture goals will help you understand what to include on your website.
What to include on your food-related website
As you’re starting to imagine your website, make a list of the essential pages your website needs in order to accomplish your goals. Typically, websites for restaurants or food businesses start with a homepage, about page, menu or shop page, blog page, and contact/reservation page. This way, you’ll introduce visitors to your vision, food, and team. Plus, the addition of a blog page drives organic traffic with built-in SEO, so more diners and shoppers can find you through search engines.
Each of these core pages of your food website can be customized with information and functionalities that help your customers better engage with your business. For example, restaurants should list their menus and hours of operation, plus allow customers to schedule reservations or takeout orders online. In this instance, integrating a service like Tock allows these reservation features to exist on any webpage, making it easy for customers to interact with your site in the ways you want.
Want to explore an all-in-one option for your restaurant and add reservation management to your website?
Selling food online requires different features. Since it’s focused on selling through ecommerce, your online store will benefit from having robust FAQ pages, plus the internal functionality to ship and track goods, process payments directly on your website, or allow customers to get their orders in-store with Local Pickup.
People eat with their eyes first, which is why you should prioritize adding pictures of your food items or subscription boxes that you sell online. Product images — especially when combined with product descriptions — show your customers exactly what they can expect and could affect whether or not they purchase.
Designing your restaurant website
Web design may feel daunting, but with a few simple steps, you’ll be ready to present your restaurant website or online food shop to the world.
Selecting a website template
Choose a website template to be the foundation of your site. Showcasing your restaurant or products with an award-winning restaurant website template immediately tells any customer that you take your business — and their satisfaction — seriously. If your website fonts are easy to read, the colors match the rest of your branding, and your custom logo is placed front and center, it becomes clear to consumers that you’re a legitimate business they can trust.
Beyond looking beautiful and professional to customers, online restaurant and ecommerce store templates help your food business run better internally. With a focus on seamless built-in functionality, choosing an ecommerce website template brings your food products to life with merchandising tools that streamline your operations.
As you’re looking through the choices, remember that each template can be easily customized to suit your business — whether you’re creating a website for an existing brand, or crafting a web presence from scratch. Since nearly everything within Squarespace’s templates can be adapted to your vision, opt for a template that aligns with your industry, but don’t put too much pressure on picking one that’s “perfect.” The flexibility of the templates ensures that no matter which template you choose, it’ll be perfect for your food business by the time you’re finished.
Customizing website layouts
Once you’ve selected your template, begin customizing the colors and fonts to match your brand, and take visual layout into consideration. Just like you want to add breathing room in your navigation menu between items, your entire site should be broken out into small sections that can be easily scanned and understood. With nearly everyone on the go, bite-sized bits of information deliver pieces of content that can be consumed quickly via mobile devices.
To achieve this visual space, utilize sectioning and images to break up your pages. It’s rare to see a website that’s one solid color, from top to bottom, since color breaks between sections are visual cues that tell customers a new idea is coming. They’re crucial for offering the visual variety that creates flow on your site.
Since there are different elements to look at, customers will want to see what comes next as they continue scrolling and learning. Implementing sectioning is as simple as dragging and dropping new site blocks, and selecting the content and layout that best suit your business’s needs. To continue visually breaking up the page, each site block can be customized with different background colors from your template, or you can add dynamic photos from sources like Unsplash.
Importance of responsive design
Customers regularly access your site on their desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. If your site isn’t optimized for each different platform, they might run up against functionality and visual issues that deter them from subscribing to your list, purchasing your products, or scheduling an appointment. If you’re unsure of where to start, ecommerce website builders that offer responsive design can do this automatically, so you feel confident knowing your user experience stays consistent.
Crafting compelling web copy
Once you’ve nailed down the focus, look, and flow of your site, it’s time to write your messaging. While your business’s tone may be unique to your restaurant or online food shop, make sure you tell customers what you do well, and why they should shop with you.
The messaging on your site is an extension of your business’s vision, mission, and values. It creates the narrative flow that nurtures customers from first discovering you, through making regular purchases or reservations. Think of it as the guide that tells them which action to take next.
For example, if you’re interested in booking more reservations online, keep those prompts for reservations at the top of the page — and sprinkle them frequently throughout the rest of your website.
The world of copywriting is nuanced, but a good rule of thumb is to keep your messaging more clear than clever, whenever possible.
Establishing your SEO
Learning how to improve search engine optimization (SEO) ultimately comes down to understanding the full range of factors that influence your site’s ranking. Search engines value and prioritize websites that are regularly updated with new content, so launching and consistently contributing content to a blog on your website is one key way to improve or maintain your ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). When content has been published recently, it signals to search engines that your site is active and should be indexed often for updates.
Ensuring that your site meets accessibility standards can also improve ranking. This includes giving each page on your site a page title and description, as well as adding alt text and captions to all images since search engine bots can’t “read” imagery.
Squarespace templates already leverage key aspects of design and user experience that will benefit your site’s overall SEO. Our sites also include features like a built-in sitemap, structured analytics, and automatic redirects that are key to search result ranking.
It’s important to note that it can take search engines two weeks or more to crawl a website — if you make improvements to your site’s SEO today, you should wait to see the full return of your efforts weeks and months down the line. For more ways to optimize your Squarespace website for search engines, consult our SEO checklist.
Promoting your new website
Launching your website is an occasion worth celebrating. Since successful businesses require strong digital brand identities, publishing your restaurant site or online food store to the public is often the culmination of weeks — or months — of careful consideration and hard work.
That said, there are no limits to the promotional avenues available at your fingertips. For example, you can leverage your in-person restaurant and gain momentum for your online website by listing your new website URL on your menus or receipts. This way, customers can keep engaging, even after they’ve left your restaurant.
Email campaigns are another powerful way to tell your audience about your online launch. Even if there aren’t many people on your email list yet, allowing people to sign up via your website, social media, or in-store promotions creates a clear line of communication between your company and the customers who want to hear from you.
Social media engagement is also incredibly useful for spreading your message. Depending on your industry and ideal audience, different social channels may work better than others for promoting your products. For example, a food subscription box service may benefit from a visual platform that lets them showcase videos of customer unboxings and each care package being packed. On the other hand, a restaurant could see returns from highlighting their dish of the day in writing and publishing on a strictly text-based platform.
Choose to focus on the channel where you currently have the largest audience to leverage, and work outwards to other platforms as you feel the need. It’s not necessary to be everywhere at once. Instead, focus on developing strong momentum behind one or two social presences. Regardless of which platform fits best, make sure to link directly to your ecommerce store in your profiles, so any new customers can easily click and purchase.
Still unsure of where to start when it comes to promoting your new professional website? Get the specifics in this comprehensive guide to gaining the momentum and attention needed to book more tables, get more takeout orders, or sell more of your food and wares.
Ready to bring your food online?