How Restaurants Should Work With Their Web Designers

Many restaurants hire professional designers to build their website, but hiring a professional doesn’t guarantee a great result. 

We talked to Jill Parks, Creative Director of Savannah design firm Sans Sheriff for tips on what to do (and not do) to give you the best chance of getting an amazing restaurant website that works for you and your customers. 

Before you build your website

  • Picking a designerWebsite design is a collaborative process. A great portfolio is a must, but you have trust and communicate with them. 
  • Know your message.  Help your designer by telling them what’s most important to you. Online ordering? Reservations? Your menu? Your famous chef? This will provide the designer with an organizing principle.
  • Invest in quality imagesIt rarely works to “sit there with a regular ‘ol camera and take food pictures,” says Jill. You are selling food; the food should look tasty. A good designer will have an unbiased, educated eye for what photos work best.

During the build

  • Be upfront about what you wantHaving examples of websites you like will help focus design discussions set appropriate expectations up front.
  • Listen to the designer. It should be “a collaboration…a give and take,” says Jill. but remember that just as “the restaurant is the expert on food, the designer is the the expert [on web design].” Trust is key.

After you launch

  • Track site analytics. There are free tools your designer can give you so you know what your customers do on your website- what pages they see, buttons they click, etc. The data you get from analytics will tell you if you built the right site.
  • Update your websiteCheck-in every few months to make sure the site is working for you and your customers. Just like you review the menu with your chef, review the analytics with your designer. You must have a way to update site content yourself or budget updates from your designer.

A website is often the first experience a customer has with your restaurant. You should take building and maintaining it seriously. If you use a designer, use one you like, trust and respect. You’ll get a lot more out of working with them.


Dos and don’ts of your restaurant website.


Jillison Parks is Creative Director of Sans Sheriff Studio, multimedia designer and creative consultant with over fifteen years of experience in graphic design, technical writing and information management. She recently designed websites for Angel’s BBQPapillote and the Moon River Brewing Company.

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Tags: designer, digital, marketing, menu, online, strategy, website


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Comment by Mahdad Taheri on July 18, 2012 at 7:09am

As someone who has worked with dozens of restaurants and designed even more websites at, the point I'd like to highlight from David's good post is that design is a collaboration. The relationships and projects that go wrong are the ones where the restaurant owner simply sees the designer as a vendor who is there to just build what they tell them to do and does not allow the designer to show their creativity and technical expertise.

If anyone is interested there is a PDF available at that I wrote which give some further factors for successful restaurant websites and digital marketing.

Comment by David Bloom on July 18, 2012 at 5:04am
Amen. And I will add to this: make sure your address is on your website as text and not an image. This means someone can cut and paste it into an email or calendar entry.
Comment by Carl Muth on July 18, 2012 at 4:43am

The Two biggest mistake3s that I see on a lot of restaurant websites.

Number One (and this is huge)  PUT YOUR CONTACT INFO ON EVERY PAGE!!!!!  Many ppl today search for restos using their smart phones and they won't (usually) go searching for your address when it doesn't come up in the first page listed in search.

Number two:  Give up the flash intro.  99.9 ppl skip it anyway.  It doesn't help in your search results. And it costs more money to produce.  And again with the smartphones, No Good.

Comment by David Bloom on July 12, 2012 at 3:58pm

Spot on. Updating content is an important part of running your website. Customer probably won't come to you often but when they do the menu and events calendar must be current.

Whether or not you use a designer, a website template service like SquareSpace, Wix, and can be a good idea. Makes it easy for a non-techie to keep the site current. But be careful; not all website creation services are equal. Some have old, dated templates and mediocre tools. Take your time and pick carefully!

Comment by Seth Gardenswartz on July 12, 2012 at 3:48pm

Good post and good overall advice. One thing to add is planning how the site will be updated post launch. I see lots (too much?) of energy going into a website build only to see it ignored once launched. The site should be easy to update and current. This is your brand's home base. The first impression is important but I always ask "why would a users ever want to come back."  If its easy to use and current it will be a good tool for users and the owner. That alone will make a very positive SEO impact.

Comment by Samuel A. on July 6, 2012 at 10:14am

"My normal SEO advice is to focus on specific searches such as for your restaurant name, or your cuisine + neighborhood. Putting your restaurant name, address and a brief description, plus an up to date menu that is notin pdf format will optimize your site for users and search engines alike. A few links to relevant content such as reviews from local newspapers is also helpful. "

That is spot on David! Targeting locally + adding your cuisines makes more sense for restaurant owners looking to attract customers searching in that specific neighborhood.

Comment by David Bloom on July 6, 2012 at 6:46am

I agree SEO is important but I worry about it very specifically. General searches for terms like "restaurant" and "what's for dinner" cast a wide net. Hard to know what the user really wants and equally hard to compete with all the websites that are relevant- restaurant suppliers, supermarkets, review sites, newspapers, recipes... In large markets, directories like MenuPages and OpenTable will dominate general search no matter what a restaurant does.

My normal SEO advice is to focus on specific searches such as for your restaurant name, or your cuisine + neighborhood. Putting your restaurant name, address and a brief description, plus an up to date menu that is not in pdf format will optimize your site for users and search engines alike. A few links to relevant content such as reviews from local newspapers is also helpful. 

Comment by Samuel A. on July 5, 2012 at 8:45pm

Good points here David. Would just like to add that your website designer should also be skilled in optimizing your site for the search engines once it is built. Or at least have someone on their team that has SEO knowledge. 




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