Seasons was one of those rare clients where I got to build the brand from scratch. And I mean scratch. They didn’t even have a name for the place when we first met. What they did have was a half-completed space in Franklin, TN, and a [very] rough idea of what the menu would be. No gimmicks, no theme, no concept… other than something along the lines of “American Fine Dining.” This is all fine; it just left me with a blank slate. And as fun as it was having a blank slate, that’s pretty much nothing to go on in terms of design. Which means I got to play.
This was also my first restaurant client, which was exciting. I started doing my research by exploring some of my favorite local spots and even some chains. Right now Nashville is a hotbed for new, posh restaurants and world-renowned chefs, so I had a lot of inspiration. I also explored the area in which Seasons was located, to get an idea of potential clientele.
Once I had some of this information, it was time to get to work – starting with a logo…
No direction means you give options. Luckily or unluckily, “Seasons” is a pretty generic name and “American fine dining” is a concept that allows for… well, anything. First, I started playing with fonts and typefaces, shapes, layouts, etc. There’s really no limit to this process; if ideas keep coming, you keep cranking them out. Sometimes this results in a specific direction that I’ll run with. Sometimes (this time) it did not.
Although this was my first restaurant website build, I’ve visited many in my day, and most have the same thing in common: they’re boring as shit. So I wanted this one to just look sweet. The first goal was to keep “earthy” “organic” color tones, but have a colorful, picture-heavy site. I utilized the teaser one-sheet homepage so visitors wouldn’t need to click through to other pages if they didn’t want to. After all, there are only three reasons someone goes to a restaurant website: To see a menu; find out where the restaurant is located or make a reservation.
Seasons is a fine-dining restaurant in a nice part of Middle Tennessee; however, their price points are not off the charts. We didn’t want people to go (or not go) expecting an over-priced gourmet restaurant, but they should expect a good atmosphere and one helluva good meal. The framework we began working with was, “We want people to feel comfortable wearing jeans in the restaurant… but would probably choose to throw on a sports coat too.”
With that, we crafted simple, yet precise language to immediately give the website visitor a sense of what they should expect when visiting the restaurant: “Fresh, local ingredients,” and a “Casual dining experience.” We took hundreds of photos of different plates, and incorporated images of the upscale look of the interior. I wanted to create the experience of going to Seasons without ever stepping foot in the restaurant.
A mobile-friendly website is the only way to do things now; but, due to the nature of a restaurant site, it’s even more vital. Most visitors to the site will be on their phones, usually looking for a last-minute place to eat.