Although tourism took a massive hit in 2020, Sydney visitors had been steadily growing, with 2019 numbers reaching up to 4m international and almost 13m domestic. It's not a stretch of the imagination to understand that a lot of people stand, walk, wander, drift, linger, gawk at, and/or take selfies at the Sydney Opera House. Almost 11m visitors a year, in fact. Including most of the neighboring Harbour City hotspots, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, Luna Park, the Botanic Gardens, Goat Island, Bondi Beach, and The Star, it's safe to say that every single visitor has been to least a few of those spots.
Besides taking selfies, what would be the most popular activity in Harbour Bay? Also, what would be these potential customers be spending the most money on in Harbour Bay? Survey says it's wine and dining. Of course.
So in light of this, let's have a look at restaurant websites near these major hotspots.
There are countless improvements that could help a restaurant website function better, and by function, we mean convert. Although they are all important in their own ways, we will cover only the most important basics before we go into more detail.
Here are some simple things that all restaurant websites need:
All phone numbers should be tappable (also should be apparent that it's a link), business hours should be on the home page, showing Google maps location is always helpful, and the booking button should be easy to find. Otherwise the user can easily find a competing restaurant with less taps than struggling to find the information of your restaurant.
There are lots of arguments for using pdfs as menus.
They might all sound compelling, but in the end, they are all just excuses for not doing it properly on the site.
On page text menus are advantageous because they are not pdfs, and pdfs should not be the answer, especially for restaurants. The vast majority of people, 80% in fact, are on their phones when they need to check out a restaurant, and pinching and zooming a menu is not a very user-friendly way of presenting the information. Pdfs should be offered only when it's printable, but restaurant menus on phones are not printable. Nobody is saving the menu on their Adobe Acrobat app to sync with their computer at home to print and look at before deciding on where they would have their dinner. Nobody.
Having the menu easy to find, and on the page is infinitely better UI (user interface, easily put, design choices that impact usability) than opening a new tab to download a pdf so people can pinch and squint at.
That was just the basics. Simply put, reduce friction (in UI, friction means any obstacle the user may face to get to their goal). We can go on for hours, but let's jump into extra details concerning the hotspot area adjacent bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Although there are plenty of domestic visitors, the majority of them are there to visit family and friends (35%), or on business (34%), so they are most likely a different market from the international visitors. They might still dine in the area, because tourist spots are still beautiful, but it can be likely that their local friends or family have a familiar place in the rocks. Basic web UI still applies, since they have to still book seats, but it's closer to more general guidelines than tourist-conscious efforts.
That doesn't mean that the following points are moot. Even being a bit more conscientious of the following can make your restaurant website more appealing.
With the revolving door of new restaurants on the scene, road works and closures, and new buildings popping up left right and centre, the Sydney CBD can almost feel like a rabbit warren of streets and laneways making it difficult for things to feel familiar, for residents and visitors alike.
This can get even worse especially for people who are not from the area, the Harbour Bay district can be very confusing to navigate, even with a maps app running. Please take extra effort to make it super clear where the restaurant is located. Especially because utilizing Google maps is one of the most common ways of finding a suitable restaurant.
It's not a treasure hunt. The treasure should be the friends we made along the way, not the restaurant. (Obvious joke)
A beautiful cinema-quality video illustrating the culinary expertise and featuring chef interviews can be visually appealing and can help potential customers make their decisions. However, user interaction research has shown that videos are only useful when users know it's there, is encouraged to watch it, can successfully view and have control over it. Sadly, if a video is the first and largest thing autoplaying (without sound, unprompted) on the users phone when they visit the site, chances are, it can actually hinder user experience.
The case is worse when dealing with international visitors as they are much more conscious about international roaming data, and video streaming is the easiest way to get a massive data bill when they inevitably return home.
When there are so many competitors, any edge is useful. If the website is slow on load, the customer experience is already compromised. Nobody wants that, right? Right?
Australia is a multicultural country with over 21 percent of the population speaking a language other than English at home, not including the swarming tourists. With this in mind, keeping things simple is good practice from an inclusive perspective, but also a design and functional perspective.
Again, this is generally a good practice to always adhere to, but due to the nature of some restaurants chasing a certain ambiance and brand, the messaging can sometimes be convoluted.
There are plenty of ways to be clear while being on-brand. Have another read of the main heading on the first heading above the fold (the screen before any scrolling), and think about what it is actually saying. Is it vague? Is it clear? Would a 3rd party be able to read the heading and know what to expect when they walk in? Would the copy help convert?
From the Eastern Suburbs to the Northern Beaches, out to the Blue Mountains or down to The Shire, no matter where your restaurant is located, first impressions last. And whether your potential customers are staying local to Circular Quay or Darling Harbour, or visiting family and friends in the suburbs, the restaurant experience starts with the website and digital presence.
Will a better website make the food taste better? No.
Will a better website give your restaurant more chances to prove how good the food is? Absolutely.
No use making Michelin star level food if no one can find it. Also, in the 2020's, more often than not, the restaurant experience starts with the website, not the food. A better website will show up more readily in searches, bring in more leads, get more people sitting at the tables, and ultimately impact the bottom line in the long run. Because it's not just about the food anymore, it's not '94.
Consider re-visiting your website with fresh eyes to identify the friction points and work towards maintaining the edge over your competitors.