Using WordPress to take restaurant orders online
Theme of the Crop’s first themes, CaféCultura and Plate Up, come bundled with plugins to handle everything that most good restaurant and cafe websites need — a menu management system, online reservations, reviews and simple ways to display opening hours, a Google map and more.
But it doesn’t support any platform for taking restaurant orders online or handling a takeaway system. This is by design. As Theme of the Crop gets up and running, I’ve chosen to focus on a specific market, to ensure that I can provide a strong solution that provides everything for that market. In future themes, I hope to offer support for online ordering and takeout services. But for now, CaféCultura and Plate Up don’t support this feature, and I frequently get requests from prospective clients who want to use the theme with an online ordering system
How can I take online orders?
Here’s what I tell them: CafeCultura is not built with out-of-the-box support for taking online restaurant orders, and eCommerce platforms can be large and complex. So you should take some time before deciding which approach you take, and make sure that your theme is ready to handle it — or use an approach that can easily integrate with your theme.
Here are three approaches to take restaurant orders online, depending on how comfortable you are integrating third-party platforms, and working with HTML, CSS and PHP.
OpenDining.net — the easy way
OpenDining.net offers a quick and painless way to start processing orders online. Add a simple plugin to your website, and OpenDining.net will display a button where your users can open an ordering system, choose what they want, and make the order.
Who should use it?
- Web novices who are getting their site up with little technical expertise
- Restaurant owners/operators who need to take orders but can’t afford the help of a web shop
- Very easy to use
- Integrates with existing POS systems
- Receive notifications via fax, phone, email and text
- There is a monthly fee
- The ordering button doesn’t integrate nicely with your website
Easy Digital Downloads — the integrated solution
Easy Digital Downloads is an extraordinarily powerful and popular platform to take restaurant orders online with WordPress. Although it was designed for digital products, like software, you can use the Downloads as Services addon to sell services. This is perfect for takeaway or delivery orders, which don’t need a full eCommerce platform to handle cross-border sales and tax issues.
Easy Digital Downloads is pretty easy to integrate with an existing WordPress site. You just need to set up each item that can be purchased as a “download”, then add the buy buttons for each download using shortcodes. You could even do this with my CaféCultura theme, adding each buy button to the description of a menu item. It offers simple shopping cart widgets and and nicely streamlined checkout process to help capture sales.
Who should use it?
- Web designers or advanced web users who want to take orders on their own WordPress site, but don’t want to wrestle with a full eCommerce platform
- Restaurant sites which already have a menu up and need a way to add buy buttons to their site
- Own and control all of your online orders (no monthly fees)
- Simple setup without the hassle of larger eCommerce systems
- Although adding a buy butt0n is simple, it could take time to set up all of your menu items and add buttons for each one
WooCommerce — the full-scale solution
WooCommerce is a popular eCommerce framework that is designed to handle the online sale of physical goods. eCommerce can be a large and complex animal, and WooCommerce is a great platform for wrestling with this. It can help you deal with cross-border tax issues, shipping physical products and a laundry list of eCommerce needs.
But these needs may not be appropriate for all online order or takeaway restaurants. You may be taking on a more cumbersome platform than you need. If you do go with WooCommerce, I strongly recommend using a theme that is already integrated with the WooCommerce framework. Adding support for WooCommerce to an existing theme is no small task, and would require extensive knowledge in customizing WordPress themes, including CSS, HTML and PHP.
WooThemes offers several themes built for the framework, although only one, Bon Appétit, is designed specifically for restaurants. Justin Scheetz has produced a restaurant theme designed to work with WooCommerce called Espresso. I am familiar with the quality of Justin’s work, so I can recommend that theme as well, but I can’t recommend most of the Restaurant themes at ThemeForest.
Who should use it?
- Web novices or restaurant owners, but only if they are using a theme built for WooCommerce
- Web design agencies building a restaurant shop for a client, who want lots of control over the product ordering platform
- Extensive integration with your theme is possible
- Lots of available themes to help out with this integration
- Support for shipping physical goods
- Not built for restaurant orders, so may take some work to get it looking and working the way you want
- Lots of details to work out when using a large framework like this
Conclusion — What should I use?
I am a fan of maintaining control over the different aspects of my product, so I am inclined to go with Easy Digital Downloads. The integration is fairly straightforward, but it does require some work, so if you’re a complete novice, I wouldn’t use it. For novices, I’d recommend OpenDining.net. It’s very easy to get going and offers a lot of back-office features, like POS integration, which can make the whole process easy for you.
Should anyone use WooCommerce? Definitely. If you’re a coffee distributor or someone that ships physical goods, you’ll soon learn that Easy Digital Downloads and OpenDining.net are insufficient for taking restaurant orders online. You’ll need a more robust eCommerce framework. Sure, that means more work on your part, but that comes hand-in-hand with eCommerce. Making money takes time, as every business owner knows, and there’s no magic bullet for restaurants online.
If you have any questions, be sure to get in touch via my support forum. I’m always happy to help out as best I can.