Post-COVID web design tips for pubs, bars & restaurants

As England begins to creep out of lockdown, businesses in one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic – leisure and hospitality – may justifiably be thinking how to maximise revenue once the doors to pubs, bars and restaurants are finally reopened in *touch wood* June.

Well, one of the key ways in which you can rise above the competition and raise brand awareness is by paying attention to your website. While people are currently sitting at home dreaming about the day that they’ll be able to venture out for a slap-up meal or a few shandies in the sun, they’re also browsing online and creating a mental checklist of where to visit once we’re finally allowed.

In an industry as competitive as hospitality, having a regularly updated, mobile-friendly website is a must if you want to set your business apart from the competition. Check out some of our top web design tips for pubs, bars and restaurants below.

Targeted branding

It only takes half a second to form an opinion of a business and if your pub, bar, coffee shop or restaurant website doesn’t jump out to visitors at first glance, you won’t get a second chance. Make sure that whatever appears ‘above the fold’ ie. the top half of your website, stimulates and engages with the type of customer you are trying to target. Remember, trying to cater to everyone will ultimately please no one.

Monitoring your ‘bounce rate’ using Google Analytics will help with this. Website bounce is the rate in which a customer leaves your website after landing on that first page. If they leave without exploring the website, then they aren’t seeing what they expect to see.

Establish an image and optimise for mobile

Mobile-friendly web design for a coffee shop

Are you fine dining, farmhouse-style or carvery? Whatever your brand is, make sure your website reflects this. Consider font, images, colours and tone of voice when thinking about the design of your site. With 85% of people now using their mobile phones to browse menus and make bookings (and Google using mobile compatibility as a key ranking factor when deciding where to place you in the search results), it’s vitally important for good user experience (UX) that your website functions well on smartphones as well as tablets, laptops and desktops. You can use Google’s free Mobile-Friendly test to check just how well your website is performing on mobile devices.

Consider your customer

Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What should they feel when they enter your restaurant, pub, bar, bistro or cafe? You need to make sure they feel the same way when they land on your homepage – your decor and brand should run through your website so your customers get a feel for what they will experience when they make the transition from virtual visitor to physical customer.

You should also incorporate your branding into any social media channels or marketing content – including promotional flyers, menus, adverts and e-newsletters. Brand consistency is key, especially in an industry as competitive as hospitality. 

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Hospitality search engine optimisation can be complicated and the parameters for getting to the top of search results are always changing. Five years ago, the optimum way of appearing on page one of Google was for your search terms to be included as many times as possible within your website’s copy. For many websites, this led to unnatural sounding passages of text and a generally poor user experience.

Natural search terms

Responsive restaurant web design

Hospitality and leisure web design has improved massively since then, thank goodness. Now, search engines are more intelligent and search for quality content and legibility rather than keyword count. 

Quite simply, you’ll be ranked lower if it seems that you’re using a term too often. The key is to write naturally, cater to your audience and ensure they understand the benefit of visiting your website. Google loves the human, personalised aspect of websites, so embrace your brand and be yourself. Pop in the search terms that you think are relevant, but don’t overuse them. 

Content marketing

Producing topical content that your customers want to view is a great way to bring in custom. Regularly updated blog posts and strong visual content will improve your SEO, allow you to create a brand image on social media and bring your readers closer to your journey. This way, they’ll want to visit you, not just because of the food and drink that you offer, but because they feel a kinship and sense of loyalty to your brand.

Consider your target audience

Have a think about what topics your visitors may be interested in reading about on your website. If your establishment is all about fine dining, then a news item about the wines you stock might be relevant. However, if you have a country pub website, you may want to talk more about locally sourced ingredients and your big, beautiful beer garden.

Whether posting on your website or social media channels, try to tie your written and visual content to relevant dates on the calendar, such as Mother’s Day (this is your two week warning, folks!), Easter and Graduation, and consider running bank holiday promotions where people may be inclined to spend longer in your pub, bar or restaurant.

Promo videos

Responsive web design for a cafe

Attention spans are short, and according to recent research, 49% of people would rather watch a video than spend the same amount of time reading about your business. While promo videos are an added expense to your marketing spend, nowadays an engaging, high-quality HD video can be created relatively cheaply.

What’s more, as well as being front and centre on your website, a promo video showcasing your business and its products and services can be repurposed and shared on your other marketing channels such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

The more professional your video looks the more appealing your brand will seem, helping to increase your following and build up brand loyalty.

Online ordering  

During the pandemic lots of businesses within the hospitality industry have become accustomed to providing an online service for takeout or delivery. It’s been an essential change to keep businesses afloat and all indications are that it’s a trend that’s here to stay.

This doesn’t mean you need to invest in an expensive app to take customer’s orders, but rather a mobile-friendly ecommerce website which can be significantly cheaper and quicker to set up. A good ecommerce website also has the advantage of being accessible from any device.

So, whether you run a pub, bar, coffee shop or restaurant, making sure you stay on top of your website is a must. Speak to our friendly team today to discover how we can help your business thrive in the post-COVID hospitality landscape.

Andrew Fenwick

Andrew is the creative director and founder of CIVIK. A former journalist and editor with extensive copywriting experience, Andrew now leads all web design and digital marketing projects at CIVIK.