Running a restaurant is a hard business, and as more and more customers choose to dine at places with good design aesthetics, it’s become increasingly important to have a similarly beautiful website. But going with an agency or freelancer to build your site can be quite expensive, so it may be wise to make your site yourself.
Fortunately we’re not living in the early 2000’s, a time when cheesy Flash site creators using animated banners were all the rage. The web platforms of today can help even the most novice restauranteurs create slick, responsive sites with integrated social platforms and menu systems.
So to make things easy, here are four modern platforms from our one-click marketplace to choose from, as well as a batch of great naming suggestions to make your site as easy to find as possible.
Discoverability is all in a name
Finding the perfect domain name can be just as important as building a great site. And if you only take one thing from this post, it should be that your domain name should be the same as your company name. Most restaurants will likely try to grab a .com first, but don’t sacrifice memorability just so you can have a specific domain extension.
For example, if your company name is Bar Chris (and barchris.com is taken), don’t register something like barchrisyum.com just to be in the .com namespace. It’ll just confuse people—and besides, there are so many great alternatives available.
Option 1: Look for something local
Unless you’re in the US, country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are extremely popular and can significantly open up your naming options. For instance, if you’re looking to open a bakery in Canada, you may find it easier to find a short, descriptive domain in the .ca namespace than .com.
Option 2: Even local-er
Even more direct that the ccTLDs are the new city domain extensions. You’ll want to be careful not to put yourself in too much of a box, but if you’re not looking to expand to other cities (or you plan on registering in each new city you move to), there are a bunch of great cities with their own TLDs now. .NYC, .Paris, .London, .Moscow—the list goes on and on, and more cities will surely be added in the future.
Option 3: Try a generic term
The third option is to do away with localization altogether, and instead move to a TLD that better categorizes your domain on the web. Just as .com stands for commercial, these domain extensions actually mean something—and they can be a benefit for domain recall (BOBSPIZZA.london might not stick, but BOBS.pizza is nice and memorable):
4 DIY platforms for building your site
Once you have your name in place, here are some nice platforms to try out. All offer modern templates and great features, and are perfect for people with little-to-no development knowledge.
Squarespace (website) - “Say goodbye to Flash websites and PDF menus. Squarespace makes exceptional design and modern functionality available to all restaurants. Best of all, it’s a piece of cake to update yourself.”
Squarespace does a lot right with its simple website template system. With no design or development skill, you can create a responsive site (meaning it resizes automatically for any screen size) with beautiful photography, a great menu system, OpenTable integration, social connections and even an online sales platform.
Like Squarespace, Virb is a comprehensive site builder that has entered the restaurant market in a big way. With no dev background, you get a number of beautiful templates with menu systems, contact pages, social integrations and OpenTable.
Site Hungry (website) - “Site Hungry allows you to set up a brand new restaurant website in less than 5 minutes. Share all of your restaurant’s hours, location and contact information, menu, and social media in one place.”
Unlike Squarespace and Virb, the Site Hungry platform is 100% dedicated to building restaurant sites. And as far as ease of use goes, it may be the easiest to get up and running. The platform doesn’t quite have the full feature-set of the bigger, more established platforms yet, but I’d expect steady growth as the user-base grows.
LetsEat is another restaurant-only platform that integrates menus, photography and social together to create clean, simple sites. But the differentiator for LetsEat is its “app store.” With little effort, you can integrate services like OpenTable, Constant Contact, OpenDining, Taskvilla and SeatMe to create exactly the site you need.