Krystle Mobayeni’s Tips for Better Restaurant Websites

If you own or operate a restaurant or bar, you’ve probably spent countless hours making sure your brick-and-mortar location meets your guests’ expectations – but how many stars would they give your website? We talked to Krystle Mobayeni, co-founder and CEO of BentoBox, an online platform designed for restaurateurs, to learn more about how owners and operators can use their digital presences to improve customer experiences, grow their businesses, and increase revenues.

Why Do Good Restaurant Websites Matter?

Although setting up a Facebook page and claiming your business on Yelp may be easy ways to establish a restaurant brand online, Mobayeni says those platforms shouldn’t be the only methods restaurateurs use to communicate with guests.

The website has become really important because it’s one of the only places online that a restaurant has complete control of their brand,” she explains. “They have a direct relationship online with their guests, and they have total control over their profits as well.”

Prior to starting BentoBox in 2013, Mobayeni worked with clients in the hospitality industry during her career in digital and web design.

As I was working with these restaurants on their websites, I became really familiar with the challenges they were facing online and how the tools available out there fell short of what they were looking to do online,” Mobayeni says. “I also noticed a bit of frustration in that over the past decade, as technology has become more important in the dining out experience, all of these third parties – like Seamless or OpenTable or Yelp – came in and provided technology for diners and restaurant owners, but they really took away that one-to-one relationship that a restaurant has with their guests, which is arguably the most important part of hospitality and the dining out experience.”

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Despite the prevalence of websites and apps created with diners in mind, platforms designed specifically for restaurateurs were severely lacking. Mobayeni saw an opportunity for a platform like BentoBox after building restaurant websites on platforms that didn’t have the tools owners and operators really need.

“When BentoBox was created as a company, it became really obvious that there was a huge need for a platform that addressed these needs in a really affordable but high-quality way, just based on the number of restaurants I’d worked with and talked to,” Mobayeni says.

What Makes a Restaurant Website Better?

To build better restaurant websites, the specialists at BentoBox work with clients to customize their websites on the foundation of some predesigned templates, ensuring the final product is both aesthetically pleasing and unique to the brand; they also know it isn’t enough for a restaurant website to be visually appealing. Since the architecture is equally important, the information a restaurant website offers must be organized in a way that helps potential customers find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

“We’ve found that the top three things people click on when they’re going to restaurant websites are contact information like address or phone number, menus, or online ordering [and] reservations, depending on the type of restaurant it is,” Mobayeni explains. “We make sure that information is less than a click away. The address is always on every page; as you’re browsing the website, you can click on it and go to Google Maps or click on the phone number and call. All of these ways for the diner to connect with the restaurant are really important, and so it’s less about conveying the entire restaurant experience in a browser and more about how you can really anticipate the needs of the visitor that’s going to the website.”

Keeping information updated is also important, especially when it comes to the menus visitors often search for. Since some restaurants frequently update their menus to add or remove seasonal items or limited-time specialty menus, websites should offer the flexibility to change information without losing any formatting.

“Updating the menu is a really big thing that our restaurants use and is important to them, mainly because the tools that we have to be able to update the menu online are just very specific for menus,” Mobayeni says, explaining that BentoBox clients can easily make menu updates with HTML text formatting. “A lot of times, restaurants, if they’re not using BentoBox, end up putting up a PDF because it’s very difficult to format everything – the placing and the descriptions and the allergy stuff – so it’s just easier to throw a PDF up there, which is terrible for SEO and sucks on mobile; it’s just a bad experience.”

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According to Mobayeni, more than half of online visitors may be browsing from mobile devices, which means a good restaurant website is capable of adjusting to various screen sizes.

“Most of the visitors now to restaurant websites – and we have thousands of restaurants using our platform, so we have a really good gauge of this – they’re mostly coming from mobile, so you can’t ignore it at all,” Mobayeni says.

If a visitor finds it too difficult to navigate your website from a phone or tablet, he or she may get frustrated with the experience and seek the information from a potentially outdated third-party source. Worse, they may choose to take their business to a different restaurant altogether.

How Can Restaurants Benefit from Better Websites?

Although restaurant websites should ultimately improve customers’ experiences, owners and operators have discovered they can be powerful tools for increasing revenue.

“There was a shift toward [restaurateurs] understanding that their digital property was really an extension of their brick and mortar property and they could actually grow their business and drive revenue through this online property,” Mobayeni explains. “Being able to actually drive revenue and really connect with your guests online is another thing that makes, I would say, a website ‘good.’

Streamlining the online purchasing process is an important step for restaurateurs seeking to capitalize on gifts cards, online ordering, and private events. As Mobayeni points out, offering a secure and efficient system for accepting payments doesn’t just make the experience better for the customer – it helps businesses get that money more quickly.

“There’s actually a form that you can fill out like a regular e-commerce type of site and check out, rather than calling the restaurant and faxing your credit card over [or] scanning it on a PDF (which is very not secure) and sending that over,” Mobayeni says of BentoBox’s ecommerce tools. “We allow restaurants to be able to take catering orders online in the format of online ordering. Same thing with private events; we give them the tools to be able to take an inquiry to host a 20-person birthday and then also a credit card form to be able to put the deposit down for that. It’s really important to have those different tools in place because, as the younger generations become the ones that are spending more money at restaurants, they’re not going to be okay with not having a credit card form online.”

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Restaurant websites built on platforms that offer operating analytics can also help restaurateurs manage their brands and finances. That can be a key advantage in a competitive industry that already demands long hours and late nights.

“We have some pretty general things like website visitors and information that we pull from Google Analytics, like what people are searching, but then we also have an area where we’re pulling in the latest Yelp and FourSquare and latest press hit, or press mention online, into the dashboard,” Mobayeni says. “So you can quickly, at a glance, see what the conversation about your restaurant that’s happening online is. You can click over to those websites and respond directly to them.

Then, all of the revenue that’s being driven through the website, through our tools, is also aggregated and reported on in that dashboard as well. These are all things BentoBox does out of the box, for a lack of a better way of saying it, but if you’re going to take a general website platform or build something, you’d have to build in those things from scratch.”

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English. Passionate about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and all things geeky, she spends her free time playing tabletop and video games, collecting beer caps from craft breweries around the country, and celebrating the Cubs' 2016 World Series win. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.

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