Restaurants are focused on tangible experiences: things like the clink of wine glasses, the warmth of engaging company, and the taste of something new and surprising. This is and will forever be the allure of full-service restaurants, even in the digital age.
The desire for palpable experiences does not, however, discount the fact that part of most customers’ experience will include a store’s online presence. And that’s an unfortunate thing for many restaurants, where, despite the level of quality and service in-house, the presentation online is less than thrilling.
That being said, restaurateurs don’t exactly have the time to learn web design if those skills aren’t already in their arsenal, and most template-based DIY websites don’t have built-in, industry-specific features such as reservation-making tools or simple forms for catering.
After having to wade through countless PDF menus and confusing layouts, web developer Krystle Mobayeni decided it was time to create a platform for website building that was industry-specific. Thus, BentoBox was born in 2013 with the goal of helping restaurants have a hand in customer experience and brand perception far before the customer even arrives.
There are few ways Mobayeni says restaurants often miss the mark with websites. First and foremost, she says too many operators attempt to channel the entire experience on the webpage instead of making it simple to navigate. Websites should get customers through the door so they can have the full, authentic experience of dining there; they should not, she says, try to represent every nuance of the experience to the detriment of simplicity.
“The thought is that an elaborate website will entice people to walk in the door,” Mobayeni says. “But what actually gets them to the restaurant is clear imagery, clear navigation, being able to contact the restaurant easily, and knowing how to get there and what to expect.”
For Millennials, having this information easily accessible on a mobile platform is key.
On the side of the operator, what’s important for website design is that it can be easily updated for shifting menus and upcoming event promotion, and that it is able to intuitively pull in information relevant to the business. For instance, BentoBox has a dashboard that gathers the latest Yelp! reviews, FourSquare tips, and press hits all in one place, with a feature that not only pulls this information onto the website, but blasts it out over social media in one-click, saving time and energy.
BentoBox provides the option for either an entirely custom site or one built off of an industry-focused template, which gathers information on the brand via targeted questionnaires and complies assets such as menus and photography for BentoBox’s design team to turn around into a functional site in two weeks max.
The company has crafted sites for restaurants such as the popular West Village hotspot The Smile and Major Food Group’s Dirty French, along with dozens of other national and international concepts. Mobayeni says the team at BentoBox plans to continue its work to bring restaurant websites on par with other tech-savvy businesses, simply because it’s not only enormously important for driving revenue for restaurants, it’s also important for the reputation of the industry on the whole.
“Restaurants have a huge cultural impact,” she says. “The experience that you have in a restaurant is special, and we want to make sure that the experience that customers have before going to the restaurant is on the same level, as well as the experience they have after, and we’re trying to do that with technology.”
Regardless of the platform used, a restaurant’s web presence is an extension of its brick-and-mortar space that truly affects customer experience and satisfaction—nowadays, nearly to the same degree that the in-house experience does. As such, it's crucial to create a convenient and accesible online outpost.
By Emily Byrd