The COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders across the country are wreaking havoc on restaurants and bars. With their dining rooms closed, many of these establishments have pivoted to takeout and delivery models in order to stay open through the current quarantine period, but meal delivery can be a minefield of shady apps that charge high fees for their services.
It’s grim out there, no doubt about it. And a lot of restaurants might benefit from addressing an easily fixable but often neglected part of their business: their website.
I was inspired to fire off a frustrated tweet this week after trying to order from three different restaurants and finding no information on their websites about when they were open (or whether they were still open at all), what food was available to order, and how exactly to order it. One restaurant’s website featured a pop-up advertising a weekly dance party, which it’s safe to assume is on hold for the moment. All three spots turned out to be open, but it took some sleuthing to figure that out—sleuthing that is potentially losing these restaurants valuable business.
Restaurateurs have had to adapt quickly to some monumental shifts in business, and it’s more than understandable that their tech hasn’t been top of mind while they pivot. So here’s my recommendation to the hospitality industry’s webmasters: Dump your fancy graphics and autoplay videos for the moment. We don’t need a thousand-word essay about the history of your establishment and a chef bio before we get to the menu—not right now, when everything’s been turned upside down.
For now, you can just put up a simple page with these four things on it.
Even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, these two pieces of information are woefully hard to find on way too many restaurant and bar websites. Put them at the top of the page and keep them there. If a person is visiting an establishment’s website, it’s probably because they want to know where the place is or how to get in touch with it.
This is another no-brainer that every website should display clearly at the best of times (see above). But listing hours is especially important with COVID-19 restrictions forcing changes to the schedule, often from one day to the next. Right now, diners can’t trust Google and Yelp to reflect a restaurant’s hours of operation; put them smack dab on the front page of the website and label them “updated coronavirus hours” or something, so customers know they’re current.
This doesn’t need to be pretty. If someone’s already at your website, they know what restaurant or bar they’re ordering from. You don’t need a graphical logo or fancy fonts; you need a list of dishes and drinks available, and what each of them costs. One way to do this is to make a Google Doc (for free!), and then either link to it or embed it on your homepage. If your menu changes—or if your local takeout and delivery rules change—you can update this easily and from anywhere. Underneath the list of available dishes, instruct customers on how to order your food. Ordering directly from the restaurant seems to be the best method of support, and if that’s the case, list a contact phone number and email—and check both frequently! If your restaurant has a preferred delivery app that you work with, link to it, and don’t link to any others. Make the entire process simple and obvious.
If you’re raising money to help your team of cooks, servers, and bartenders who are currently laid off or losing hours via a “virtual tip jar,” post a link to that, too!
And to anyone ordering from restaurants these days: tip well, follow safety procedures, and be kind. A lot of people’s livelihoods are on the line.