On Restaurant Websites: The DMVs Of The Internet

Restaurant Websites

Here at Nighthouse we recently designed a back end plug-in that creates online menus that are much easier for restaurants to update and manage online without any coding. It also removes the dreaded .PDF menu from their sites making their menu items searchable on Google and relieves their customers from the annoying experience of digging around a pixelated .PDF image to find out what’s on the menu. So I reached out to some of my favorite local Chicago spots over the last week to get in touch and let them know how Nighthouse can help them out. I was surprised with how bad so many of their sites were! These are successful places too. So I started digging around trying to figure out what the deal was. Turns out restaurant websites are notoriously bad. Its a well known and documented phenomenon. They’re either missing crucial information, bogged down by terrible load speeds, filled with pictures that make their food look disgusting, or in each of these 6 cases, all exactly the same


Why is this industry so plagued by terrible web presence? Its hard to pin down exactly why but there are a few theories. One is that restaurant owners have a tendency to believe they can run the entire business themselves and try to design their own websites. This is something that very rarely ends in anything but tragedy.

Another theory is that these restaurants have owners who don’t understand the value that a good website brings to their business. According to a survey done by Single Platform of 1,497 U.S. adult smartphone owners. 81% of consumers surveyed have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app in the last 6 months. 92% of those surveyed have searched for a restaurant on the web in the last 6 months. And 75% of consumers surveyed choose a restaurant to dine at based on search results. The final stat really drives it home though, 84% of consumers look at more than one restaurant before choosing where to dine.

All this means that not only are most people googling where to eat, they are heavily influenced by the results they find there. With these kind of numbers its clear having a strong web presence is very important for restaurants. Its arguably existential.

If You Don’t Tell Your Story, Someone Else Will

We all know the saying, we have heard it a million times. But its true. If you don’t advocate for yourself and tell people who you are and what you are all about you leave it up to them to figure it out. For a restaurant this is a very weak position. 

I have lost count how many restaurants I have reached out to that have an incredible story on their “about us” page that absolutely no one has ever or will ever look at. No one is coming to your website to read. They’re also not coming to your website to watch an 11 minute video on your restaurant that was on the local news in 2009 that autostarts in some terribly unfortunate aspect ratio. They want to see the menu, the hours of operation, and where you are located. They’re hungry. 

On the other hand, you have to stand out as trustworthy, unique, and their best option. The way to do this quickly is with narrative imagery and custom illustration. If you can subliminally tell the story of your business while showing people exactly what they are looking for and making it easy for them to find you, you will be at the front of the pack. So many restaurants are terrible at this! Its a shocking thing when you dig into it.

The Good

There are good examples though. Parsons for instance has a great site that sums up their brand in an engaging, succinct way. They give you all the info you need while also showing the character and charm of the restaurant. All without having to explain anything. Perfect! Jimmy is another example of a great layout and execution. You know what they have to offer, you know where to find them, and most importantly you know what they’re about.


Websites are a way for a restaurant to not only have a virtual front door to funnel in new customers, they’re a very effective way to brand yourself and stand out in a very competitive business. From online ordering, QR menus, having an interface for your catering services and more. Investing in a good quality website can establish a strong web presence for a restaurant and completely change a restaurant’s business in a short time.

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