Website Trends from Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2016

Late in February, Canada’s 100 Best released the second edition of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants. For the past two years, Canada’s 100 Best is the go-to guide for state-of-the-art dining in Canada. The list includes both established venues and new comers to the vibrant Canadian culinary scene with representation from all the provinces.

As potential customers, how do we decide which listed restaurants to choose? Well Canada’s 100 Best has already narrowed that down to 100 for us, but now what? Typically, we check out the restaurant websites. Websites are an extension of a restaurant’s experience; they help us shape our expectations of what’s to come. Creative website with interesting and interactive features that clearly guide the user through the information we need are important in the restaurant decision-making process. What do the crème de la crème offer in terms of websites creativity and content? I’ll weigh in on the trends and flops in restaurant website designs, as well as my pick for top ten websites from Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants of 2016.

The Trends

Single page website layout

Scrolling one-page layout seems to be a hot ticket. In terms of layout design, they can be done well, so long as they are done dynamically. This type of website offers users a one-stop-shop for all online queries. This year, it looks like approximately 35% of all the restaurants in the Best 100 use this format. Another trend that I can totally get behind is a simple one-page no-scroll site with a great photo with pertinent information layered on top. No scrolling, no fluff, just one good graphic and content that is directly in front of you.

Bar Bricco
Bar Bricco’s single-page layout
Stylized maps for location

This year it seems that restaurants have picked up on the use of interesting maps to guide potential customers in. These maps look like architectural line drawings and are truly a step out of the box compared to the typical Google map plug-in. One of my favorite examples of the stylized map on the BouillonBlik site.

Stylized Maps
Stylized maps from Buillon Blik (left) and Bar Isabel (right)
Video content

It’s really great when a restaurant has a short film that helps the customers see what their underlying philosophy is. It can also introduce the restaurant’s process (maybe farm to table) and narrate the restaurant’s story. Having a quick video really personifies a place. One that drew me in was the video on Raymond’s website. Not only did it show the context of the restaurant, it shared up the owner’s personal story, their inspirations and values.

Wolf in the Fog
Video displayed on Wolf in the Fog’s website
Reservation and Wait List Apps

One of the important features of a restaurant website is the ability to make reservations. As such, it should be no surprise that there are a few apps that can be integrated into a website that offer easy, online reservations. Open Table and Bookenda are the two most prominent reservation apps among the Best 100. Another interesting trend are apps that offer the ability to add your name to a wait list remotely before you arrive at a restaurant. The apps of choice seem to be No wait (offered by Rositzado) and DINR (used by Lawrence).

no wait app copy
Instructions for the NoWait app on Rostizado’s website (left). Reserve with DINR on the Lawrence site (right)
Colour of the year

The website colour of 2016 is…Salmon! Salmon, or other tones of pinky-peach can be found throughout many of the Best 100 restaurant websites. Check out Nota Bene, Pigeonhole, and Alo to see Salmon in action. It works well as an accent, especially when paired with a dark background.

Popular colour throughout Canada’s 100 best: Salmon! Pigeon Hole (left and Nota Bene (right)

The Flops

Reservation button doldrums

Several sites that I thought had potential to be great had one main issue: placement and design of the reservation button. Many sites had a good overall graphic design and layout but the reservation button just didn’t match.

Mercuri reso
Prominent reservation button on Mercuri’s website
Lack of site icon

Site icons are sometimes left as standard square space logos, or page icons. This is a quick and easy fix that helps maintain a restaurant’s brand identity throughout the browsing experience. If potential customers have several tabs one, the ability to stand out is a must!

site icon
Examples of site icon use
Overpowering social media/recommendation icons

Get rid of the Trip Advisor logo, seriously! If a restaurant deems it necessary to incorporate third party sites, their material should not overpower the design of the overall website. There are several ways to display other icons while maintaining a clear design message. Well-designed, flat UI (user interface) icons are available at a small cost that can easily be integrated into a website’s homepage to add to the overall browsing experience.

Boring design

This is a tough one as design is objective. However, in my opinion there were so many websites in the Best 100 that were ok, but didn’t stand out. We all know that the website isn’t top of mind for restaurant owners, but there are designers who’s sole purpose is to make restaurants stand out from the competition. (MenusMade for example). If I have to choose a restaurant based on websites and graphics alone, I’ll go to the one that catches my eye.

Top 10 Websites

I took an afternoon to look at all of the websites listed on the Best100 list and ranked them from 1-5 (5 being the best). My judgment was based on four categories: overall graphic design, website layout and flow, ease of use, and use of innovative design elements. Here’s how they stacked up:

  1. Rostizados
  2. Actinolite
  3. Damas
  4. Terre Rouge
  5. Bar Bricco
  6. Wolf in the Fog
  7. Lawrence
  8. Maison Publique
  9. Bar Isabel
  10. Bar Raval
Bar Raval
Great design on display on Bar Raval’s website.