Improve your restaurant website with WordPress tools and techniques

There’s a lot of advice on the internet for anyone looking to create a great restaurant website. Run a search on Google and you’ll find long lists of do’s and dont’s. In this post I’ll compile the most important advice from some great companies on the web servicing the restaurant industry and tell you how you can implement this advice using WordPress plugins, themes and techniques.

What makes a great restaurant website?

I’ve taken a look at advice from three respected companies. The first is this creative menu of recommendations put together by Happy Tables, a restaurant website hosting service. The second is a great, concise run-down of first-principles from Brian Casel, the guy behind Restaurant Engine. And finally, I looked at this post from GloriaFood, an online food ordering service which has great tips relevant to the takeaway/delivery sector.

So here’s my take on the most important tips they share, together with recommendations on how you can go about improving your restaurant website with WordPress tools.

1. Show your contact details and opening hours on the front page

This is something that everyone agrees on, but it’s still so often neglected on restaurant websites. The majority of your visitors want to know where you are, how to phone up and whether or not you’re open. Tell them right away!

This is why I wrote the Business Profile plugin for WordPress. It allows you to quickly and easily list your email address, phone number, opening hours and Google Maps. It even offers a link to Google’s “Get Directions” feature, which will open a map showing the user how to get from their current location to your restaurant.

Download it. Install it. Enter your details, then display them with the [contact-card] shortcode or with the Contact Card widget if your theme offers a widget sidebar on the home page.

My WordPress restaurant themes offer good front-page integration for your contact details. Others do as well, so if you’re looking for a theme, make sure it provides this!

2. Use good photos

Please, oh please, hire an experienced food photographer for your venue and food photos. The hospitality industry is all about the emotional resonance a customer feels with your place. Photos do more than anything to convey this. If they’re low quality, people will think your venue is as well.

Happy Tables offers some advice if you’re trying to handle food photography yourself. But I still think you’re better off hiring a professional. Before you sink thousands of dollars into an expensive website, put some of that money towards a photo shoot. It will be worth it.

Not sure how to find somebody? Just Google it! Search for food photographers in Austin, Texas, or wherever your business is based. Every city will have a talented photographer experienced in the food industry. And get someone with experience in the industry. It makes all the difference!

3. Get rid of your PDF menus

I know you spent a lot of time and money getting your menu right. You want to show your web visitors the result of all that investment. But PDFs are terrible for sharing information on the internet.

They’re often unreadable on mobile devices, which now frequently account for half of a restaurant’s web traffic. Even when they can be read, they’re difficult to use and slow to load.

Use a WordPress plugin like my Food and Drink Menu to get your restaurant’s menu up on your website. It will allow you to enter all the details in the backend and put up a traditional menu layout that your visitors will recognize.

Next to your contact details, this is the most requested item on your site. Make it as accessible as possible!

4. A clean site design that generates customers

This is the hardest and most ambiguous of all the advice. But here’s what everyone agrees on: your site needs to use responsive design techniques so it can be used easily on a mobile device. What’s this mean? Happy Tables has a good explanation.

The crux of the matter is this: when your site is viewed on smaller or larger screens, it will adapt the layout to be easy to use. If you load your website on your phone and you see tiny little text and buttons, and you need to pinch and zoom around the site, you have a problem.

If you don’t have a responsive website, take a look around at some of the WordPress themes I offer for restaurants. If you don’t like any of those, you can search online for one of the dozens of other themes that are responsive.

GloriaFood also offers this helpful advice: “Keep your website clean and clear”. This can be counter-intuitive. Often people think a flashy website with lots of animations and effects will communicate a sophisticated business. But experience shows that the best restaurant websites are simple and easy to use.

Instead of sinking time into special effects on your site, let the photography speak about the quality of your establishment (you paid for a good photographer, right?!).

5. Add customer reviews

There’s one simple fact about people: we trust other people. That’s why you need to include testimonials or reviews from your customers. Web marketers call this “social proof”. If people are deciding where to go, they’ll want to hear what other people think.

My Good Reviews for WP plugin will allow you to hand-pick your restaurant’s best reviews and show them off on your WordPress site. This is a great, simple way to integrate just the reviews you want, and promote them in your Google listing.

But you can also pull in reviews automatically from Yelp or Trip Advisor. You can read my previous guides on the best WordPress plugins for Yelp and adding Trip Advisor widgets to your WordPress site.

Five actionable steps

And that’s it. If you’re missing any of these five recommendations, follow the steps I recommended to get them rectified and you’ll be on your way to a much better restaurant website. If it all feels too much for you, consider setting up your restaurant website with a service like Happy Tables or Restaurant Engine, where they will do the hard work for you.

Want more tips and tutorials on running a great restaurant website with WordPress? Follow @themeofthecrop on Twitter or subscribe to monthly email updates.

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