Website Overhaul for Common Man’s 17 Restaurants

Common Man is a hospitality brand that owns/operates two hotels, 17 restaurants, a concert venue, a spa, and several event venues in NH.  In Jan 2020, ownership realized the need to overhaul the restaurant website design because:

  • Customers were publicly complaining the website was “so annoying,” and restaurant call volume for hours/location was too high.
  • The restaurant managers found it “painful to update.”
  • The ecommerce store was “a nightmare” to manage.

When we began the site overhaul in Feb 2020, our technical/design audit identified multiple root issues underlying those frustrating human experiences.  After the audit and interviews with the restaurant team, we set these goals:

  • Redesign site for a better visual, ecommerce, and mobile-optimized experience.
  • Improve overall user experience, to reflect in a healthier balance between bounce rate and pages per session (which was totally out of whack), increase in total users, and increase in direct traffic.
  • Increase overall and organic sessions by at least 50%.

Owners gave us two non-negotiable requirements for this overhaul:  1) a simple CMS/ecommerce platform so non-techies could manage both in-house and 2) the site had to perform organically because they still didn’t plan to devote an ad budget for marketing.

Using WordPress/Shopify, we built a custom, mobile-optimized, SEO-friendly site that exceeded the goals.  A few notable hurdles we overcame during the process:

  • 2020 restaurant website traffic patterns were erratic due to the pandemic. We couldn’t test anything in real time on the existing site.
  • Achieving design consensus from decision makers was, for them, emotional and elusive. No brand/design guidelines existed (except in one 20-year veteran’s head) and they struggled with design/layout/sitemap decisions that would improve site performance but felt unfamiliar to “the way things were before.”  Our mood boards helped foster design negotiation.
  • We ended up overhauling the ecommerce operation. One example: our analysis determined that 80% of sales came from 20% of items.  By curating a nimbler inventory of easy-to-ship, best-selling, and highest-margin items, it saved them much time and money.

The site we launched dramatically improved user experience with visual designs (see before and after designs here) and under-the-hood mechanics.

Specific results included (all numbers YTD at 12/31/21):

  • Overall website sessions increased by 70%
  • Organic sessions increased by 60%
  • Direct sessions increased by 90%
  • Total users increased by 68%

Most importantly, average bounce rate sits at around 64% and average pages per session is 1.67, which might be the single best achievement of this project.  With the former website, the bounce rate was absurdly low at <20% and average pages per session was absurdly high at 6.15.  This was strong evidence that too many clicks were required to find simple things like hours, locations, and menus.  The balance with the new site reflects a more effective user experience, as stats show that users find the specific restaurant they seek through search, get hours/location/menus, and leave.

We also created training manuals and hosted training sessions for in-house staff for CMS and ecommerce platforms.  They’ve managed the new site completely in-house since its launch in Dec 2020.