I recently joined the Ohio Restaurant Association to focus on growing my business to help more small restaurant owners. I have an amazing background working for my family’s business, Young’s Jersey Dairy, for nearly 20 years and have a lot to offer other small restaurant owners in terms of marketing knowledge. I’ve learned from one of the best in the industry (my dad, CEO of Young’s) and have started researching on how to market to this group of restaurant owners in Ohio.
One of the things I’ve noticed in my research is the overuse of restaurant website templates. And not just in Ohio, all around. I’ve found one particular template that was used over 100 times. All different restaurants, all different locations – but their sites looked exactly the same. Using a restaurant website template puts yourself in a position of looking like everyone else, which is a dangerous position when you’re competition has spent the time to create something unique and original for their restaurant website.
We’ve all seen the commercials on TV, the $5 website – with “100’s of restaurant website templates to choose from.” I see the financial appeal that a restaurant owner would have here. “All I need is a website with my logo, a photo of my steak dinner and I’ll be good to go” they probably thought to themselves. Problem is, the people that you are truly trying to attract online, the discerning internet user, is going to look at your site then look at a few others and make their decision based on a few factors. Pricing and location aren’t always the top of that list. Truth is, your website is the first look into your business. While a great website doesn’t mean you’ll have the best Pasta Carbonara in town, a bad website might mean that I’ll never stop by to find out.
A bad website or a poorly designed restaurant website template shows a lack of creativity that the consumer will see right away. Just as a slow loading website will turn away customers after 2-5 seconds, a poorly designed website might turn customers away if they can’t find the information they need. From a personal experience, I know my wife has been frustrated many times while looking for restaurants while out on the road. Sites built in Flash, poorly designed navigation structures and sites that weren’t optimized for mobile viewing are all disasters waiting to happen for someone trying to find you while on the road. We’ve actually refused a glowing recommendation from a friend because their website looked so bad. “This restaurant can’t be as good as they said.”
Is that fair? Maybe not. But it’s the reality. It’s the same reason you spent time decorating the walls in the dining room, putting accent lighting outside and made sure that your waitstaff’s uniforms looked ‘just right’. Why spend time and money doing all of these things when the customer is already there, but skimp when it comes to getting the customer to your doorstep? Your website is sometimes the first contact you have with a potential customer, don’t ruin that first exposure by using a cheap restaurant website template. Please?!