Customers often choose a restaurant because of word of mouth. In the online world, though, decisions all start with search and trust.
When searching for a restaurant online, potential customers want to know your website is safe, your business is legit, your dishes look tasty and customers love your restaurant. Building trust with your website is paramount to online success.
You can start building online trust with honesty and empathy, but you still need to show why your business is trustworthy. Telling isn't enough. Potential customers need proof if they're going to be converted into guests.
In this post, I’m going to share 18 ways to build trust with your restaurant website.
1. Don’t Have Any Website Warnings
A website with site warnings informs potential customers that your website contains malware, phishing, scams or isn't secure (see image).
Websites that aren't secure lower trust, reduce search engine rankings and hurt business — especially since Safari and Chrome now mark all HTTP sites as “not secure." Domains that use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypt the connection between browsers and websites.
When I conduct a Website Audit and find clients don’t have an SSL certificate, I either recommend getting a free certificate from Webflow or Squarespace when I redesign their website or getting a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt.
To quickly determine if your website is secure, open a browser to see if your domain’s URL begins with https:// and a closed padlock icon next to the URL. You can also use Google Search Console to learn if any security issues threaten the trust of your website.
2. Use a Domain That Accurately Reflects Your Restaurant
Domains are IP (internet protocol) addresses that have been made human-readable. Instead of visitors having to remember a number like 315.912.7.25 to visit a site, they just enter “restaurantname.com.”
Companies should use a domain that accurately reflects their business. However, if a business is named “Taco Bob,” but the domain isn’t available, choose a close alternative that accurately describes the business like “tacobobatlanta.net” or “tacobobatlanta.com.”
Avoid the following:
- Use a custom domain (e.g. example.com)
- Avoid confusing domains (e.g. tacobob.restaurant)
- Avoid spammy-sounding domains (e.g. 123-r2f.com)
- Avoid domains that could be potential trademark conflicts (e.g. loneyplanetrestaurant.com)
Use a registrar like Google Domains. Also, consider registering multiple TLDs (top-level domains) like .org, .net, .us, etc.
3. Make Your Website Aesthetically Pleasing
Just as readers often judge books by their cover, potential customers do the same with restaurant websites. In just 50 milliseconds, they’re deciding if they can trust and respect your business.
A restaurant website might look and feel untrustworthy if the branding looks cheap. Poor photography, excessive drop shadows and reflections won’t help either.
Evaluate the aesthetics of your site and enlist colleagues, test groups and friends for constructive feedback. If you're still unsure about the aesthetics, compare your website to others in competitor restaurants.
4. Aim for Zero Usability Issues
Trustworthy sites have zero or few usability issues. They load quickly. They're responsive. They’re easy to navigate. On the other hand, sites with usability issues might fail Google’s mobile-friendly test, have slow load times, poor structure, broken links, auto-playing videos, excessive pop-ups, etc.
Review your site to ensure it doesn't have any usability issues. If you’re unsure how to evaluate your site, study the competition. What do they appear to be doing right, wrong or not doing? If you still need help, it might be time for a Website Audit.
5. Avoid Spelling and Grammar Mistakes
Typos, misspelled words or poorly worded sentence isn't going to lead to distrust, but it won't help either, especially if it occurs frequently. For example, if the about page often misspells words like "chief" instead of "chef" and uses two spaces after a period instead of one space — the target market might assume the restaurant doesn't care about details.
Use tools like Grammarly to spell check and grammar check, but also use an editor to proofread and copyedit.
6. Include Testimonials
Potential customers want to know what previous customers thought of a restaurant. Testimonials from Google, Facebook, Yelp and other relevant and authoritative sites help to build online trust.
Start encouraging — not bribing — customers to rate and review your company on authoritative sites. Add those testimonials throughout your website.
7. Include Awards or Certificates
Potential customers are more likely to trust your restaurant if it's been officially recognized by a relevant and authoritative award like the James Beard Foundation Awards, Michelin stars or the Travelers' Choice Award from TripAdvisor (see image). Not only does this position your restaurant as trustworthy, but it also signals your success.
List any relevant awards or certificates and include images. If you don't have any yet, set SMART goals and begin working toward getting the awards you desire.
8. Include Bios
Founder, chef and staff bios that contain brand-matching professional photos and short, friendly introductions connect the faces of a restaurant with its target market. Bios can elicit positive emotions with its audience and cement a restaurant as the preferred choice. How did the restaurant start? How did the founder grow the business? What are the core values?
Invite the target market into your story and take them on a compelling journey that shows why you do what you do. Include bios of people who make your restaurant a success like the executive chef at Ray's in the City (see image).
9. Link to Active Social Media Channels
Businesses with active social media channels can position themselves as authoritative and trustworthy by posting regular, non-offending, compelling content.
Brainstorm a list of unique content ideas to share on social media. Then, determine if you can produce the content yourself or need to hire someone. Upwork is a great place to start for hiring freelancers.
10. Show Your Business is Legitimate
Consult with an internet business lawyer to learn how to make your website compliant.
11. Show Your Business is Up-to-Date
Ensure your copyright notice (e.g. Copyright © 2020 Restaurant Name) in the website footer is the current year and you're not using outdated technology (e.g. Adobe Flash), nor services that are no longer available (e.g. Google+). Also, ensure your phone number, address and holiday hours are up to date.
Review each page of your website to ensure each page is accurate, without any 404 pages (i.e. page not found) and the copyright notice is up to date.
12. Avoid Stock Photography
Avoid stock photography (see image). Rather, use real photos of customers eating, drinking and enjoying themselves that provides a genuine glimpse inside your restaurant.
Take high-quality photos of customers with a modern camera or hire a professional photographer.
13. Show Signature Dishes
Photos of signature dishes show off your menu and get mouths watering. Show potential customers what you do best.
Take high-quality photos of popular drinks and dishes with a modern camera or hire a professional photographer.
14. Include Statistics
Statistics reveal the facts and figures behind the success of a restaurant. Potential customers are attracted to statistics because it gives them a quantifiable reason why a business is trustworthy. McDonald’s did this for years with their slogan, "Billions and Billions Served.”
Brainstorm a list of statistics that build online trust and promote your restaurant. Then, shorten the list to the best ones. After that, add the statistics to your homepage and about page.
15. Offer a Guarantee
Potential customers are more willing to trust a restaurant that provides a guarantee because it reduces risk. This is why Costco's return policy is a huge part of its success. Costco guarantees satisfaction on every membership and every product with a full refund. You don't necessarily have to guarantee a full refund. Rather, you could offer a guarantee like "We guarantee you'll love your steak or we'll make it again."
Offer a guarantee that builds trust and removes objections.
16. Include Contact Information
Contact information builds trust simply by being available. This means phone number, map, directions and hours of operation should be located in obvious locations throughout your website. Contact information that's available and staff who are reachable conveys a readiness to help potential customers succeed and they'll trust you more for that reason.
Review your contact information and be sure to use professional email addresses (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) instead of free email addresses (e.g. email@example.com) for anyone who emails customers (see image).
17. Avoid Excessive Advertisements
Websites should provide value without bombarding and annoying potential customers with excessive advertisements (i.e. pop-ups, banners, third-party ads, etc.). Customers like to browse, they don't like to be sold.
Review your analytics and conduct user tests to pinpoint advertisements that aren’t working. Aim for a healthy balance between content and advertisements. Guide visitors to accomplish the goals of your restaurant website — not drive them away in the process.
18. Follow White Hat SEO
White hat SEO (search engine optimization) techniques provide website visitors with quality content that's accurate, relevant and well-organized whereas black hat SEO techniques (e.g. keyword stuffing) penalize websites and damage online reputations.
Learn more about building trust online with a Website Audit.
You just learned 18 ways to build trust with your restaurant website. Remember, you can start building trust with honesty and empathy, but you still have to show why your business is trustworthy.
18 Ways to Build Trust with Your Restaurant Website first appeared on the Bento Sites Blog by Jeff Shibasaki.
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