SEO Basics for Restaurant and Hotel Managers and Owners

SEO – or Search Engine Optimization – is a buzzword that’s been around since the dawn of the Google, Yahoo, and Bing empires. It’s pretty common knowledge for anyone who sells anything online that you need it, but it’s not always common knowledge exactly what it is or how to do it.

I wrote this basics guide for hotel and restaurant managers and owners to provide a general overview of what SEO is, organic vs. paid search in SEO, and a few easy ways to optimize your site. If you’ve built or renovated your site within the last few years, especially on a CMS platform like WordPress, then chances are you’re site is already equipped with what’s covered in this article.

But if you’re curious about what makes a website ‘Search Engine Friendly’ or are considering re-evaluating your digital marketing strategy, use this article as a good place to start. Looking for some help to get started with your site? Let’s talk.

Before we begin…

A quick note before we begin: SEO is the culmination of many, many factors that include lots of key players, including – but not limited to – your SEO manager, webmaster, hosting company, copywriter, website designer, your sales and marketing team, and social media managers.

*There is no single solution or approach to optimize all websites.

SEO is a science that requires constant updates on the most recent releases of search engine algorithms and monitoring privacy and security regulations and consumer behavior. For this reason, if you’re looking to get serious with SEO, or learn more about investing in an SEO specialist, then let’s talk.

SEO should be a critical component to your overall digital marketing strategy. The SEO specialist manages not only paid marketing campaigns but also monitors your organic performance, the keyword searches that pertain to your specific target market, and the most effective content on your website. The return on this kind of analysis is gradual but imperative for long-term, sustainable growth.
If this is a service you’re interested in, let’s talk and tailor the right service for your business goals.

Overview

In its most basic terms, SEO is about making your website ‘search engine friendly’. This means, you assist Google, Yahoo, and Bing in technically reading your website, providing a clear concept for each page, producing quality information for visitors, and keeping the content fresh and up-to-date. This makes it easier for the search engines to index your website and pull it out in search results when a search query matches.

There are technical and non-technical ways to improve SEO. Even traditional marketing efforts make up an important part of SEO because they drive traffic to your website. Print ads, events, and press trips are rarely thought of as having any thing to do with SEO, and while they may be hard to measure, any method that ultimately brings people to visit your site is important for your SEO strategy.e content fresh and up-to-date. This makes it easier for the search engines to index your website and pull it out in search results when a search query matches.

In this article we’ll go over the most basic terms and aspects of SEO so you’ll be able to think critically and speak intelligently about it as part of your overall digital marketing strategy.

Index

Organic vs. Paid Search in SEO

  • Organic Search
  • Paid Search
    • PPC
    • Remarketing

Basic Ways to Optimize Your Website

  • <title> tag
  • <description> tag
  • <h1> tag
  • Alt attributes
  • Quality Content
    • Page Content
    • Blog
    • Shareable Content
  • XML Sitemaps

Other Factors

  • Page Load Speed
  • SSL/HTTPS
  • Responsive Design
  • Backlinks

Paid and Organic SEO Definitions for Hotels and Restaurants

Organic vs. Paid Search in SEO

There are primarily two types of SEO: Organic Search (unpaid performance) and Paid Search (paid ad campaigns).

Organic Search

Organic search is the best kind. With a well optimized website, your content will appear among the top results (below paid advertising) for relevant search queries simply because the search engine regards its content as valuable to the person searching. Organic search is highly swayed by the amount of traffic that visits a site, as higher traffic equates to higher value in a search engine algorithm. The more popular a site , the more highly regarded its content, and thus the more likely it will appear among the top organic results.

It not only takes technical skill to achieve high-performing organic search results but also time. While your site can be well indexed by search engines in a matter of days, it may take weeks or months for search engines to begin consistently displaying it among top organic search results. For this reason backlinks by popular websites (discussed later in this article) and social media shares can help drive traffic and thus prove your site’s relevance to search engines as an organic (free) way to improve your organic earch.

Paid Search

Paid search is just what it sounds like: paid advertising. PPC – or Pay-Per-Click – and Remarketing campaigns through Google AdWords identify keywords or phrases commonly used by your target market to display an ad at the top of the search results.

Pay Per Click Campaigns

While this may sound simple, it’s actually an incredibly complex system. Pricing for keywords is structured like an auction, factoring in the strength of the keyword(s) and the maximum price different campaigns are willing to bid for that ad.

Search engines are seeking to make the most money from your advertisements, so they seek to put the highest bidders in the most coveted spots resulting in a game where the biggest budget wins. And in this way, you can understand why Booking (and other OTAs) have championed the digital marketing game, effectively stealing the #1 stop for top hotels in virtually all global markets.

Remarketing

Remarketing campaigns share a similar structure with Pay-Per-Click campaigns, but follow the user for several days as long as the cookies that recall this data remain valid. If you’ve ever wondered why after searching for a hotel in the Bahamas you start seeing ads for the Bahamas pop up on Facebook, blogs, and even your email, this is generally from remarketing campaigns that save your search history and use it for targeted marketing.
I won’t get into any further detail about paid search, but leave it with this final thought:

As long as OTAs and review sites continue to rule the search engine marketing game, hotels (and restaurants) need to get more creative to drive and convert direct business through their website. This is probably the single-most compelling reason to invest more in an effective social media strategy – versus investing in PPC or remarketing campaigns.

Looking to up your social media game?

We provide tailored social media strategy consulting to help you build your community and turn those followers into conversions. We’ll pair you with a dedicated social media consultant, help you devise a publication and content strategy, create the content, develop strategic partnerships, provide training and monitor your performance.

Basic ways to optimize your website for search engines

There are several simple technical ways to optimize your website to render it more ‘search engine friendly’. Special tags or meta data are used to communicate with search engines and provide specific information about your content. If these data aren’t included, search engines will generate their own data based on their interpretation of your website. Likely the information they generate won’t be as precise and lose out on your organic search performance.

If you’re unsure about your website including these features, drop us a line for a free basic analysis of your website’s SEO status. We’ll be able to look at the code of your website through the front end to determine if these basic elements exist or not and can provide a tailored report for what could be done.

<title> Tag

The <title> tag is a form of meta data that is included in every page or archive of your website and must be unique. The <title> refers to the single topic that the written content and media content support. The <title> tag is also used by search engines as the clickable title in the search results. While there is no set limit for the number of characters in the <title> tag, usually about 60 characters is optimal for most applications.

<description> Tag

The <description> tag is another form of meta data that is also included in every page and provides a brief description of the page which can be pulled to display in search results. These descriptions should be written carefully and strategically, choosing words that could be linked to relevant search queries by your target market while still reading as complete sentences. Like the <title> tag there is no set limit for the number of characters but generally no longer than 300 characters is widely accepted.

*Tip: If you hire a copywriter for your website content, (s)he should write the meta data for each page as well.

<h1> Tag

The <h1> tag is very similar to the <title> tag but varies mainly in that the content wrapped in <h1> tags is visible to the reader while the <title> tag is not. There should be <h1> title on every page of your website that is displayed near the top and wrapped in <h1> tags. Search engines use both <title> and <h1> tags to identify the main topic of the page, but they shouldn’t be exactly the same – they shouldn’t conflict either. Multiple <h1> tags or a page <title> that refers to a different topic can actually hurt your SEO performance as it confuses search engines who in turn may be unable to properly index the content.

Alt attributes

Alt attributes are a meta property added to media (images, video, and audio) and links that provide search engines with additional information about the media content or link. If you examine the code that creates one of your web pages, you will see what the search engine sees; you’ll also notice that media content is transformed into links and lines of code. It’s important to add descriptions to these pieces of content help them get indexed properly by search engines and appear correctly in search results.

Quality Content

While good quality content may seem subjective, it’s one of our most common critiques of hotel and restaurant websites. The meat of your website – from an SEO perspective – is the content typed and loaded into it, so it’s crucial that this is high quality.
There are a few factors that go into what makes the content on your website ‘good’:

  • Appropriate length. An individual page is unlikely to be indexed properly if there isn’t at least 300 words of written content but even more is advised.
  • Stick to a single topic. Don’t cram too much content on a single page. A landing page that provides an overview of your room types should be just that, an overview. Leave the room specifications for a separate page dedicated to that room type. Use an <h1> heading and subheadings (<h2>, <h3>, etc.) to organize the rest of the article.
  • High quality, professional photos. For every breathtaking, full-screen shot, include a well-written alt attribute describing the image.

Copywriters are trained writers specialized in writing online content. An effective copywriter is able to wordsmith your content while naturally repeating keywords to help improve the organic search. If you’re interested in learning more about hiring a copywriter or would like a quote to rewrite the content on your hotel or restaurant’s website, reach out and let us in on it!

Page Content

Your page content includes all of the written and and media content on each page. This information should be structured with headings so that it can be easily read and navigated by a reader either curious about the topic or looking for some specific piece of information.

Blog

A blog can be a very effective tool for driving traffic to your website and improving your organic search. We wrote a post about Why Your Hotel Needs a Blog, explaining the benefits; but in short, a blog provides a consistent flow of fresh content. Search engine robots like scanning websites and coming across new content. Old content is less likely to appear in search results since search engines typically consider new content more valuable.

Shareable Content

Making it quick and easy to share your website’s content with visitors is a strategic way to let your visitors help you drive targeted traffic directly to your website. You can add social media sharing buttons to each page of your website and customize the title, description and even image for various social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.

XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are a special kind of site map made up of all of your website’s URLs in a hierarchical structure. They give search engines more information about the structure of your site and update information to help search engine robots crawl the site better. Any time a page or the site structure is modified, it’s a good idea to submit a new XML sitemap to each search engine, so they know to update the information in their indexes.

More ways to improve SEO for hotels and restaurants

Other factors of SEO

Aside from some of the technical data elements that make up crucial aspects of your website’s SEO, other factors like user experience, privacy, and security have been added to search engine algorithms in recent years. In their quest to provide the most accurate, relevant, and up-to-date information, search engines are taking into account all aspects of your website’s experience to ensure that the top results in the search query are the all-around best.

Page Load Speed

How fast your website loads is now a factor in SEO. Naturally, faster loading websites are privileged to slower sites. It’s not necessarily the case that all the top search results will be fast websites, but given the choice of displaying 2 different websites with comparable content, the faster site will win.

SSL/HTTPS

Privacy and security are two key topics right now, especially with GDPR coming into effect earlier this year. SSL (or otherwise known simply as HTTPS) is an encryption measure installed on your server that provides a level of protection for visitors to your site. It used to be primarily used for large e-commerce websites to protect users purchasing online but has since become commonplace for all websites, big and small. A few years ago Google announced that it would be a factor in its algorithm as a demonstration for their commitment to user privacy. Since then we’ve highly recommended to all our clients to register an SSL certificate for their website.

Certificates can generally be purchased through your hosting account (or any other hosting company) and must be installed directly on the server. They are typically purchased for a period of 1 year, and the most basic certificates can cost under $100 for a year. Need help? We got you.

Responsive Design

Since the advent of smartphones and navigating the internet on smaller screens, ‘responsive design’ is becoming increasingly important. Responsive design means your website content will adapt to different screen sizes and navigational habits. Smart web design will start with the smallest screen size and work up (known as mobile first design) in such a way that even at the smallest size, content is effectively presented and engaging.
Any website not responsively designed will miss out on the growing share of internet surfers who read, explore, share, and purchase directly from their phone or tablet. Like SSL certificates, Google announced a few years ago that responsive websites would be privileged to those not that are not responsive.

Backlinks

Backlinks harken back to a time when slick SEO managers and business owners could coroborate with other businesses and improve each other’s website’s organic search by adding long lists of links on each other’s sites. A site’s relevance was calculated in part by how many other sites linked back to it. This strategy was terribly abused and short lived, so now websites that link each other can actually risk being penalized by ranking lower or not at all.

Instead, having your website linked (one-way) by a popular website is a powerful way to improve organic search quickly and drive traffic to your site. Your property’s online press features on international media circuits that link back to your website, for example, are a great way to improve organic search with backlinks.

Would you like a FREE analysis of your website’s SEO?

We’ll provide a basic report of your site’s currently optimization and provide personalized feedback on what could be done to improve your organic results.

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When it comes to Instagram (or any social media profile) I’m always looking for something different to show up in my feed.

File under “Things I Get Tired Of Easily” when it comes to hotel instagram accounts: hotels sharing the same shots of guest rooms from the gallery on their website (at least when it’s the only content that’s posted); poor lighting and uninteresting composition (or lack of composition at all); pixelated or low quality images, clearly taken from somewhere else online; lots of images with text or promotions (in most cases, leave the text for the caption – if the image is interesting, then I’ll read about it!).

When I follow a hotel on Instagram, I want to see the dynamic personality of the hotel. I want to see curated content in some creative way, so I’m enticed to eventually stay there, dine at the restaurant, or explore the area.

How is this accomplished? To start with, the pictures need to be good and original. Whether the hotel works with a content creator or invites talented bloggers and influencers to shoot creative angles of the property, photos need to conjure wanderlust within milliseconds. Collaborations with other local businesses or individuals are also a winning combination for me. I love seeing native artisan pop-ups in a hotel lobby or a local, seasonal juice-turned-daiquiri served at the poolside bar. I’m more drawn to a simple, clear handle and I like a good hashtag. Actually, strong hashtag game is a must – create something that’s unique, whimsical, and on-brand.

I don’t think all this is too much to ask for. And to prove it, here are 6 accounts that have accomplished it all, and more!

1. The Dean Hotel

Providence, Rhode Island

Where “Old School meets new school,” The Dean Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island serves up a timeless style with luxe services and comfortable, beautifully-lit spaces. The Dean’s instagram is curated in a winter palette – high exposure and low saturation – highlighting stunning guest photos and beautiful corners around the city. Their playful hashtag, #explorewiththedean is a direct outlet to see the most instagrammable perspectives of Providence, the so-called Creative Capital, its museums, eateries and residents.

A perfect Sunday captured by @popcircumstance. | #explorewiththedean

A post shared by The Dean Hotel (@thedeanhotel) on

2. La Mamounia

Marrakech, Morocco

In 2008 when I visited Morocco, I wanted so badly to stay at La Mamounia only to discover it was closed for renovation. Since 1923 the historic property has hosted international VIPs, celebrities and heads of state, including Winston Churchill who called it “The most beautiful place in the world.” Today their social media game is strong, investing heavily in inviting bloggers and influencers from around the world (like my good friend Tommy Lei of MyBelonging) to sip, stay, and shoot all over the property and share their perspectives and experiences. Collaborations like these are key to building a millennial following and fan base.

3. Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills, California

The original California chic hotel: nothing takes me home to California like the iconic banana leaf wallpaper and pink stripes. And despite holding tenure for over 100 years as an icon of California hospitality, there is nothing dated about this hotel. Especially when it comes to their Instagram presence, where they know how to stay true to their brand – right down to the colors. Powerful collaborations with a number of your favorite influencers and local artists and craftsmen keep the account dynamic and light-hearted while daily highlights in their stories will leave you craving a club sandwich by the pool or a photoshoot in the corridor.

4. The Line Hotel

Los Angeles, California

Woven into the urban fabric of Koreatown in Los Angeles, the Line Hotel has positioned itself as a formidable force in the local culture and social scene. The variety of guests – primarily creative millennials who clearly know how to enjoy life – share their experiences at the place, either from bare concrete-walled guest rooms with full floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Los Angeles or the spring break-esque pool scene.

5. Four Seasons

109 properties in 43 countries

While each Four Seasons property also manages its own Instagram account, it’s the parent account that I like most because it shares highlights from all of its properties – especially the #FSJet and its collaboration with Net Jets. The seasoned luxury hotel and resort company already owned the game when they launched the private jet experience for its elite clientele, and it just got better with their posts on social media. Highlights in their stories included jet-setting between properties and crafting unique itineraries to feature several Four Seasons hotels in a specific area – like Latin America.

6. Wythe Hotel

Williamsburg, Brooklyn 

Diffuse light, exposed brick walls, and the New York City skyline are just the departure for the Wythe Hotel’s stunning Instagram account. The “original boutique hotel of Brooklyn” hosts not only visitors to the Big Apple but also townies looking for a deliciously local meal or a drink on the roof with “King Kong” views of New York. When their photos pop up in my feed, I’m immediately transported to the heart of Brooklyn, with a full beard, high waters, and craft beer in hand, savoring the best of its local culture.

Afternoon in a Brooklyn Queen. ūüď∑ @ziekofficial

A post shared by Wythe Hotel (@wythehotel) on

What are your favorite hotel Instagram accounts you’re following right now? Share them with me in the comments below or on Instagram!

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The last few years have brought major innovations in website navigation.

As more users are surfing the web and purchasing from their phones, responsive design (adaptive design across devices) is becoming increasingly important. This means the organization of web content must change with the way users navigate websites as well, so site navigation has seen major changes. Particularly for websites that contain a lot of pages and content, it’s crucial that website navigation is intuitive, simple, and clear for various users, devices and browsers.

The introduction of the Hamburger Menu¬†(the icon made up of a few horizontal lines that replaces the full menu on mobile devices) came into the picture as a solution to remove long lists of links from mobile screens. It didn’t take long for hamburger menus to be used for desktops as well. Critics attest that hamburger menus hide valuable information and can hurt conversions, citing the “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” philosophy. While this argument is valid, I think there is a place for the hamburger menu on some websites especially as the users grow more accustomed to using it.

Overlay menus (characterized by a full-screen overlay that covers the screen and displays only the menu) and Mega Menus (a form of dropdown menu with several columns and even dynamic content) are other ways of presenting sub-pages of a website in the main navigation, making them accessible on every page of the website.

Pros and Cons of the Hamburger Menu

When deciding if a Hamburger Menu is a good idea for your website, it’s good to know both the pros and the cons for adopting this kind of navigation.

Benefits of adopting a Hamburger Menu

Provides graphical hierarchy to content allowing users to “digest” smaller amounts of information at a time. Especially for properties that offer many services, room types, or just have a lot of content, trying to squeeze everything in the main navigation bar can make the header seem overwhelming and messy.

Minimalist design and less confusion. There is nothing worse than a large, beautiful full-screen image or video that’s covered up with a long string of links in the header. As long as guests have a clearly defined Call To Action (Booking) button available to them at all times, the Hamburger Menu could be an optimal solution to clean up the header and organize the navigation better.

Responsive across all screen sizes. It’s actually easier for responsive design to design a Hamburger Menu for all screen sizes. This avoids the issue of your main navigation menu wrapping to the second line on smaller screens or overlapping your logo.

Potential drawbacks of adopting a Hamburger Menu

Additional clicks can hurt conversions. For highly converting websites, such as extensive ecommerce websites or online stores, the additional click to view the menu could be a nuissance to browsing products and discourage users from completing their transactions.

Intuitive? Despite the fact it may seem like the Hamburger Menu is understood by all users, the reality is that there is still a learning curve for this relatively new UX design feature. For this reason, placing the Hamburger Menu icon in the top right corner, which is where most users search for the main navigation intuitively, can help make this feature more clear.

Thinking about reimagining your site’s navigation?

When is a Hamburger Menu Not a Good Idea?

In my opinion, high converting websites – large e-commerce websites – do not benefit from the hamburger menu and would do better with a Mega Menu. The objective with these types of websites is to drive traffic to complete transactions and every click counts. Forcing additional clicks to view the menu is counterproductive to this strategy.

Some Examples of Our Favorite Overlay Menus and Hamburger Menus

Below are a few of our favorite hamburger menus and overlay menus. What makes them our favorite? They offer a high impact appeal with big graphics and bold colors, organize the website content in a simpler way, and allow the website to be explored at different levels of investment.

The Standard

The Standard hotels are known for their grunge party culture and groovy vintage vibes, so when it comes to the website’s main navigation they went with their brand red on a clean white background. It’s slick and clear, making it easy to explore every corner of their site.

The Line Hotel

The Line Hotes are the cool, newest hangouts in whatever city they’re in (currently LA, DC, and Austin). They opted to place the hamburger menu in the top left corner to save the prized top right hand corner of the screen for the booking button. Based on studies of where user’s tend to look first at the screen, especially to interact, the top right corner is important real estate (think “Restaurant Menu Psychology”) – so hotel companies seeking to optimize conversions through direct bookings should consider this

Two Fifty Main Hotel

It’s definitely a choice to move the main navigation from the top of the screen. Almost inevitably you’ll run into the issue of missed conversions or higher bounce rate (users that visit just one page of your website before leaving). But never the less, if the design is clear, simple, and functional, who’s to say it doesn’t work? The Two Fifty Main Hotel moved it’s hamburger menu to the middle of the screen on the sides, and opens a very minimal menu. For a small hotel, this is a great solution to cover the bases and simplify the content for visitors.

Personalized Italy

An example from our own work, we recently updated the Personalized Italy main navigation to accommodate a growing destination list. In keeping with the starry brand language, user’s click on “Start Dreaming Here” to open the main menu overlay. Large colored boxes visually organize the destinations in corresponding blue hues (each selected by the client to represent a specific relationship she has with the place – explained on each destination page). The full-screen navigation dedicates an equal amount of space to each destination to encourage visitors to peruse different areas of the site they might not have explored with simple text links on the top of the screen.

Italy Hotline

Another one from our collection, the Italy Hotline menu overlay is activated only for the “Tours and Destinations” link in the main menu, while the “Gourmet Experiences” link directs the user to the food tours category.

 

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When a hotel is already dreamy, it’s not that hard to make its website dreamy too. The ingredients are simple: a talented photographer, a competent web designer, and a clear idea of what the website needs to¬†accomplish. It’s a lot easier said than done. All these ingredients need to work in harmony for the website to be a success. But¬†when they do, it’s pure magic.

Living and working in Italy, I’ve seen my fair share of dreamy locations: abandoned hill towns, castles-turned-hotels, urban retreats that close¬†you off from the chaos and create a majesty all their own. But translating that into a website is tricky. It takes the right amount of those ingredients to be successful. And that’s just what happened for the UVE Rooms & Wine Bar.

Located in the hills of the Langhe in Piedmont, northern Italy, Uve is nothing short of an elegant retreat nestled in a natural paradise. And their website captures that perfectly.

In addition¬†to¬†photography that captures every curious angle of the modern-meets-ancient architecture and design of the hotel, the website’s layout is crisp and pixel-perfect. A muted color palette lets the images speak for themselves, and their asymmetrical layout encourages your eyes to bounce around the¬†screen keeping¬†you engaged with¬†the content.

Having lived in Italy for several years now, I’ve come to understand what the strengths and weaknesses of her people are. When it comes to food, drink, and the pursuit of happiness, there is no contest. But when it comes to efficiency and organization, there’s much to be desired. Navigating this website you wouldn’t know it. It’s a website that’s packed full of javascript elements that would slow down a normal website.¬†Fanciful, elegant transitions between pages make slightly longer load times go completely unnoticed. The use of animation in this website is perfect.

I love a good overlay menu, and this one hits the nail on the head. A stark, non-transparent charcoal background displays the list of pages in 2 perfect columns. Simple hover animations give you all the good UX feels while still being elegant.

The small hotel¬†offers just 8 rooms, each unique and named after a different grape varietal of the region.¬†Hotels of this size rarely¬†have sophisticated online booking engines, and it’s more complicated when each room is different. So in this case¬†all that’s really necessary¬†is a good contact form – and I LOVE¬†how the availability request is handled on this website.

Forgoing the traditional contact form¬†you’ll find whether you’re¬†requesting availability or interested in more information about a life insurance policy, the UVE website¬†sets up the request in a slick¬†8-step process. Each step requires a single piece of standard information, which makes¬†it so quick, easy, and satisfying.¬†It’s just the right amount of¬†twist from the predictable request process.

So many beautiful websites get by with just beautiful photography. It’s a testament to a talented designer when even the page transitions become a note of elegance, or are notable at all. For a place that prides itself on originating some of the best Italian wines in the world, the competition for making slight details remarkable is fierce. But it’s exciting when a website is able to accomplish just that. Everyone else oughtta take note.

Looking for more inspiration? Head over to our SAYHELLO Creative Pinterest account for more delectable digital delights!

*Props to the talented guys and gals at AQuest Digital Agency for the design and development of the UVE website.

We’re seeing the powerful impact¬†video can have in a website in all sorts of contexts.¬†Homepage backgrounds¬†made from drone footage and virtual room tours are just a few ways that we commonly see video used in hotel websites. Master chefs in the kitchen throwing spices or plating up¬†something delicious has become pretty standard, nonetheless¬†effective, for restaurant web¬†design. But when¬†someone uses video in a totally different way, it gets me really excited.

Case in point: I am totally in love with the way video is used on the website for Meet the Greek, a restaurant and function space in New South Wales, Australia.

It’s a pretty simple website really, composed of just a handful of pages that communicate the menus, basic function-planning information, contacts, and a gallery of photos. Navigating to each page splits the screen in two, with content on the right and a paired video that loops on the left.¬†The video is by far the highlight of the website. It features a Greek man, seated in a velvety green upholstered armchair surrounded by cluttered side tables. In just a few seconds, each video creates¬†a vignette that speaks volumes on so many levels: the culture of the restaurant, Greek culture,¬†the restaurant’s food and hospitality philosophy and a general Greek philosophy on life. It sets such an unexpected backdrop for the website its¬†content.

I’m always¬†curious how menus are presented on restaurants¬†websites.¬†A restaurants’ menu (and price list) is one of the main reasons a user visits a restaurant website to decide to make a reservation or not.¬†The menu on Meet the Greek is minimal, organized and essential. Slick nav buttons let you quickly switch from Food to Drinks to the Banquet menus. No stock photos of moussaka or 12 different fonts to sift through in a poor attempt at skim value. A pdf version is available for download, which is helpful for travel agencies and concierges.

Menus on websites are always dependent on how diligent the restaurant owners are in keeping them up-to-date. But seeing as the website was built in WordPress, chances are making edits to the menu was designed to be simple for even the host to do as the beginning of his/her shift.

I think what stands out the most for me in this website is that the restaurant highlights it’s culture and story over predictable shots of food. While food doesn’t take a backstage role on the website, it’s cleverly integrated into the design by way of stunning video vignettes of an older Greek gentleman sitting in his throne. A restaurant website needn’t prove it serves food, guests already know that. Standing out means transcending something else about you, what your philosophy is, and what your really dishing out: the whole experience of visiting your restaurant.

Now after seeing this website, I know what place I’ll be putting on my itinerary the next time¬†I get a chance to visit Sydney.

*Props to the guys and gals at ED. Creative Agency in Australia for the design and development of the Meet the Greek website.