Competing in the New Jersey restaurant business is tough. The tri-state area has been blessed with what we would proudly argue is the best food scene in the country. But, with that comes stiff competition.

In today’s world, when it comes to deciding where to eat, your restaurant’s online presence plays a critical role. People are no longer looking for just great food – they’re looking for a great experience. And in 2019, that experience begins on your website.

You probably already know this, but a majority of your customers have likely viewed your website, Yelp and Instagram all before stopping in for a meal.

For New Jersey restaurants, delivering a great experience to customers starts with a website that takes advantage of available avenue to bring customers in.  You also need to know how to promote your business effectively using Yelp, Instagram and Google My Business.

For your restaurant, the moment of truth is when a potential customer Googles your name. If you don’t believe what they’ll see is the best you can offer, this is the blog for you.

Here are ten factors that are hugely important to your New Jersey restaurants website, and how you can improve them to make a great first impression.

1.Eye-Catching Header

From the second someone lands on your restaurant website, they need to be hooked instantly by high-quality images showcasing your best dishes.

It’s here that we would recommend highlighting what makes your restaurant unique and driving home your unique value proposition right off the bat.

Whether that’s your signature dish or your unique history, you need something that will wow customers and impresses them immediately.

For example, an overhead shot of your top dishes with bold text that either highlights a great review or your unique value proposition is a great start.

We’re also big fans of video headers. If you’ve got a clip of your chefs preparing meals in the kitchen or waiters serving meals to happy customers, that’s high-quality marketing material right there that you’d be smart to use.

Below is a great example of a WordPress website properly showing off a restaurant with a stunning header.

New Jersey Restaurant Website

Source: Evanto Themes Marketplace

And the excellent photography doesn’t stop there – they highlight they’re most popular dishes further down the homepage.

New Jersey Restaurant Website

Source: Evanto Themes Marketplace

The ultimate goal of the header is to impress potential customers potential customers but keep them scrolling. You want them to continue viewing your site till they find a map or contact info so they can plan a visit.

But along the way, you need to fill the website in with rich content to seal the deal. That’s what the rest of this blog is all about.

2. Optimized Google My Business Profile

Setting up and optimizing your Google My Business profile is the number one thing you can do to increase your local search ranking. And best of all, unlike other SEO strategies that can take months to produce results, you will get a boost in local rankings as soon as you do this.

That’s because your restaurants google my business profile is one of the top factors Google uses when determining where you rank for local SEO.

(Side note: We’re planning on dedicating a couple of blog posts to local search so definitely be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, check out this great resource from Moz which clearly lays out all local search ranking factors.)

It’s here where you can add your restaurant’s address, hours, contact info and images. People can also add reviews to your profile.

Creating this profile will get your business to show up in google maps and when people search “restaurants near me”. Keeping it updated and building out your reviews is what will get your restaurant to show up before your competitors.

Google prioritizes this information int their search algorithm in order to encourage more businesses to register on the service. We highly recommend feeding the Google machines the information they want. It’s a quick and easy way to start showing up in local search results.

3. Menu

New Jersey Restaurant WebsiteWe understand why you might not want to put your restaurant’s menu on the website, but we still think it’s worth mentioning because this is something a majority of New Jersey restaurant websites already do.

We would argue putting your menu on the website is the correct call because it is the piece of information users want most.

So in order to provide them with that great experience we’ve been talking about, it starts with giving them what they want.

Further, if someone is considering going to your restaurant and they’re able to view the menu and find a few dishes they like, that will usually convince them.

However, if they can’t find your menu and already know of other good options or places they’re familiar with, they aren’t very likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

If you do decide you want to put your restaurant’s menu on the website, please do not just attach an image or a PDF to your website and call it a day. It’s not a good user experience and doesn’t do your brand justice.

We’d recommend building it natively right on the website, using beautiful typography that fits with your restaurant’s existing brand as well as the rest of the website.

This will look more professional, and it will be responsive, so no matter what device someone uses to see your menu, it will look sharp and be easy to read.

Bonus points if you’re able to add high-quality images to your menu.

4. Yelp Reviews

We’re sure you already know this, but your restaurant’s reputation lives and dies based on your reviews on Yelp. That’s why if you have been able to build up social proof through good reviews, we recommend highlighting those reviews right on your website.

In fact, WordPress already offers a plug-in that makes it super simple to set this up. By installing the widget, you will also expose more people to your yelp page, which will, in turn, lead to more reviews and further social proof.

Yelp reviews are especially important for restaurants competing in New Jersey. When people search for places to eat near them, the higher rated restaurants automatically show up at the top.

This is huge since New Jersey is such a densely populated state, an average Yelp page isn’t going to get you the results you want.

To build up your social proof on Yelp, it all starts with exposing more people to that page.

5. Instagram Widget

People love to talk about great restaurant experiences, and the easiest way they can do this is if you have a great Instagram that makes it easy for them to brag to their friends and family.

Better yet, they’ll be able to quickly to share your restaurant by sending your picture to someone via direct message.

Instagram is fertile soil for New Jersey restaurants due to the visual nature of the platform. If your restaurant is popular people will also post pictures of the food and tag your restaurant in them. This free user-generated content on social media is some of the best advertising you could ever ask for.

Instagram for New Jersey Restaurants

That’s why we recommend installing a widget on your website that shows your latest Instagram posts for increased social proof.

Users will also be able to follow you from your website, so it’s also a great way to build your social media following.

6. Chatbots

We have to admit, calling a restaurant is rarely a great experience.

It’s usually hard to hear the person on the other line due to noise, and when you can hear them usually the person not be very helpful. Understandable, since they have so much to do to keep up in the fast-paced environments of New Jersey restaurants.

Now, I’ve been on both sides. I waited tables during my time in high school and college and have frequented my fair share of restaurants. And it’s because of this experience that I believe there is a better solution for BOTH parties.

Enter, Chatbots.

Chatbots are all the rage in 2019, as more and business continue to adopt them. It’s going to be one of the biggest web design trends we see this year.

If your not familiar, chatbots are the little pop-ups you will see at the bottom of websites (like ours) that offers users a way to communicate with your team or automated system instantly. Just like texting.

In 2019, people don’t want to call up your business or email you. They want to communicate with you the same way they communicate with friends and family: through instant messaging. It’s just what feels most intuitive to users.

By installing a chatbot on your website, you can offer people a way to instantly get in touch with your restaurant. They can use the chatbot to book a reservation or get their questions answered. Our recommended chatbot of choice is from Drift.

chatbots for New Jersey Restaurant Website

Here’s what our chatbot looks like

But the value for you and your employees comes from the fact that you could choose to create playbooks in Drift that will automate taking reservations and answering common customer questions. So you could effectively automate most of your customer service.

Or, you could set it up so that the members of your team with the app on their phone will get the message once someone hits send. From there, they can answer it instantly and have a conversation with a potential customer in real time.

One last thing: How many NJ restaurant websites have you seen that utilize something like that? We’d wager not a whole lot.

This is another great way to stand out for the right reasons.

Think of it as an extension of your existing customer service. And if you can impress a customer before they even step through the door, you’re well on your want to cultivating a great relationship for years to come.

7. Google Analytics

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find out where most of your customers live, what they’re demographic makeup is, and how they found out about you online?

Think about what you could do with that information.

You could advertise in the towns and counties where people have already shown an interest in your restaurant, increasing the ROI if your marketing.

Further, you would know the right channels – whether that be social media, search or review sites like Yelp- and put more resources into the channels that produce results for you and less in the ones that don’t.

And then you can track it all in real time to understand what’s working and what’s not to continually optimize your marketing.

We’re talking about Google Analytics, and while it isn’t something visible on your website, it is 100% necessary.

Analytics for NJ Restaurant WebsiteWhile the above may have sounded complicated, Google Analytics has a great interface that makes it super simple to read its reporting. Plus, there’s plenty of guides online that will walk you through setting up any type of report you want, on top of the standard ones.

Not having Google Analytics on your website is like trying to fly a plane without any radar. Having it on your website makes it easy to understand how potential customers interact with your business online and what you can do to more effectively reach new people.

8. Personal Story

With so many terrific eats in the New Jersey area, you can’t count on great food being enough to bring people into your restaurant.

Food is still the most important factor in a successful restaurant. But more and more these days people want more than just a product or service.

They want to identify with the core values of the companies they do business with.

To leverage this consumer trend, you need to develop a narrative or mission that helps your business stand out for something other than food.

A perfect example of this right here in New Jersey is the JBJ Soul Kitchen.

There aren’t any prices on the menu. Rather, they offer the opportunity for low-income people to come in for a hot meal in exchange for volunteering in the kitchen. People who can afford to pay for a meal are asked to make a donation to the restaurant to help keep the lights on.

Not only is it a great way to give back to the community, but the restaurant’s mission inspires people from across the state to come in for a meal.

In 2019, people are looking for more than just food – they’re looking for a story. What’s yours?

Not only is this a great social initiative, but it has led to tons of media coverage and has certainly brought many people into the restaurant that otherwise wouldn’t have made the trip.

Now, we’re not saying to start giving meals away for free.

What we are saying is that you need to create a narrative that highlights why your restaurant is special and makes people want to come for not only great food.

9. Blog

A blog is a great way to provide value to your customers and stay top of mind. Creating your blog is super easy if you are already using WordPress to build your website on.

The way you leverage the value a blog can bring to your business is simple. You provide value to your target audiences. And for a New Jersey restaurant, this is easy.

You can write quick and simple blogs that highlight recipes you think your target audience would like. Tie it into the time of year or holiday going on for some extra relevance on social media.

Providing this type of content will demonstrate that your chefs are masters of their craft, while also keeping you relevant in your customer’s minds between their visits to your restaurant. Customers will know you have competent chefs in your kitchen and won’t have any questions about how the food is prepared.

If your recipes blog posts are good and you’re making them happy away from your restaurant, chances are way higher they’ll visit you next time they are planning a night out.

Now, writing isn’t for everyone. But a blog is just one medium.

You could simply use your iPhone to interview your chefs on what they’re making for their families when they are home. Then upload this video to your blog, write up a quick description and distribute it across social media.

10. Map & Contact Info

Lastly, people need to quickly find out where your restaurant is and when it’s open.

And it needs to be dead simple for them to get this information.

With so many other options, if they get frustrated they’ll just go back to a restaurant they’re already comfortable with.

Now, if you’ve optimized you’re Google My Business profile they’ll already have this info if they do a Google search first. But you’ve still got to have it on your website.

We recommend putting this as a separate page on your website and/or at the bottom of your homepage.

We recommend putting it as a separate page and linking to it on the menu bar so if someone does come to your website looking just for the contact info (a very likely scenario for a restaurant) they can easily find it.

It would also make sense to put it at the bottom of the homepage. At that point, they are done viewing your main content and we want to move them down the sales funnel. By providing them with your contact info will automatically consider visiting.

Bailey Canning

Bailey Canning

Bailey Canning is a digital marketing consultant & web designer based in Northern New Jersey. Right out of college, he founded Inbound Web Development - a marketing-focused web development firm that helps small businesses generate leads and grow online. Feel free to reach out at bailey@inboundwebdevelopment.com to discuss a project, or be featured as a guest on the podcast Business Talks.

Send this to a friend