The Best Restaurant Websites in Chicago
March 18, 2022
Chicago restaurants are using BentoBox to grow their brands and increase their revenue. Here are some of our favorite examples.
Across the country, restaurant operators are preparing to face the "new normal" — and Chicago, IL, restaurants are no different.
To do this, many restaurants are creating best-in-class websites that meet the challenges — and seize the opportunities — of the current moment. They're investing in custom design to leave a strong, brand-first impression on future diners. They're setting up online commerce stores to diversify revenue and fight back against third-party commissions. And they're integrating websites with other technology to streamline workflows and operate with fewer, higher-paid staff members.
Want to see how that looks in action? We curated some of the best Chicago websites built on BentoBox, the premier online marketing and commerce platform for restaurants. Check them out below.
Smyth and The Loyalist
Smyth and The Loyalist are sibling restaurants, both owned and operated by husband-wife duo John Shields and Karen Urie Shields. The former is a two-Michelin-starred upscale concept that Eater once called “the finest seasonal tasting menu in Chicago.” The latter is a cozy neighborhood spot that serves casual fare and drinks. Their joint website captures this duality, featuring side-by-side photos of the two adjoined spaces, including some black-and-white contrast effects. Guests can click on either concept to learn more about it, make reservations view menus or send digital gift cards.
When Joe Frillman opened Daisie’s, one of the Midwest’s best pasta restaurants, he knew his website needed to meet high standards. “DIY website builders seemed easy enough to set up, but I quickly realized it was time consuming to update and didn’t have all the functionality I needed,” Frillman said. “I wanted a partner who understood more about restaurants.”
With BentoBox, he built a website that uses native SEO tools to drive web traffic, direct online ordering to drive revenue and beautiful design to bring the brand to life. Best of all, the self-service platform allows him and his team to make fast, easy updates. “I used to have to think weeks in advance about communicating with a web agency to promote a dinner,” he remembers. “Now I can do it myself and the event starts selling right away.”
In the words of Chicago Magazine writer Jeff Ruby, “When Virtue opened in November 2018, it sounded like a long shot in a long-shot neighborhood.” And yet, more than three years later, it continues defying the odds while bringing hearty southern cooking to the South Side. Its website uses floral patterns and various photography styles to evoke its homestyle brand — but it also drives revenue with commerce features like an online merchandise store, which sells t-shirts, totes and sweatshirts to its loyal audience.
Lost Larson is by many accounts the best bakery in Chicago — and one of the best in the country. The Scandanvian-inspired café has built that reputation with its deep menu, laid-back ambiance and emphasis on quality. Its website reinforces those elements with beautiful photos and minimalist design, allowing its food and decor to do the talking. It also uses BentoBox online ordering to avoid third-party commissions and sell baked goods directly to its audience, including seasonal specials like the mouthwatering Semla pictured above.
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Sugargoat describes itself as “sweets for the kid in you,” which its website brings to life — and then some. The photography is loud and playful, using seamless colored backgrounds and cross sections of baked goods to capture and keep diners' attention. The website is also filled with CTAs that drive users to revenue-generating pages, such as the form to place custom orders and the immaculate online catering store, which uses BentoBox Pre-Order & Catering to ensure a great experience for both guests and staff.
From the moment guests arrive on Tzuco’s website, they can tell it provides an experience like no other. The dark brown color palette and modern typeface are mysterious and alluring, as is the description text that says Tzuco is “from the Imaginarium of Carlos Gaytán, the first Latin American who earned a Michelin Star.” If that doesn’t get diners intrigued, the website is also filled with practical information like menus, photos and press clippings to help them picture the wonders Tzuco has in store.
Lula Cafe is an inventive, market-driven restaurant that serves one of Chicago's most popular brunches. Chef Jason Hammel started the restaurant with his wife Amelia Tshilds in 1999, and although he was self-taught, he has grown into a two-time James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef Great Lakes. The cafe's website opens with large, photography-based thumbnails that direct guests to key sections of the website (reservations and menus) with clickable buttons. The menu page is also text-based — a key SEO tactic for restaurants — and includes beautiful pictures of menu items.
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