Running a restaurant can be both exciting and challenging. It also means you might not have a lot of time to put towards creating an online presence for your establishment. With lots of options for creating social media accounts and websites, we understand that it can be challenging to pick the right approach.
Fortunately, Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress can make it easier to combine all of your options into one beautifully-designed online space. For example, WordPress plugins and themes — think website templates — give you the flexibility to incorporate social media accounts and menus on your site, while not draining your energy and resources in the process.
In this article, we’ll cover five steps for creating a restaurant website with WordPress. We’ll also discuss why WordPress is the best option, and how website builder tools created for the platform can take your site to the next level. Let’s jump right in!
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Why You Should Consider WordPress for Your Restaurant Website
Small business owners can benefit from launching their online presence with a social media platform or restaurant app, as there are many widely-available and free options. There is no denying that social media is vital to your marketing strategy but going with a third-party platform can have downsides as well.
Three critical factors to think about when deciding whether to create a dedicated website for your restaurant include:
- Return on Investment (ROI). While websites can be pricey, there are plans available for a broad spectrum of budgets. Once you invest the initial time required to set up a fully-functional website, it can be less of a time drain than social media in the long run.
- Functionality and Control. You’ll want to weigh the functionality you need against the features social media platforms have to offer. While you can usually string together multiple applications, a website is more likely to provide the functionality you’ll need to create a compelling experience. Plus, you won’t be hemmed in by a third-party design; you’ll get complete control of the look and feel of your website.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Social profiles do show up in search engines, but they are a more powerful tool when used to promote content from your website. Google can’t determine the authority of a social profile, but linking back to your site can increase your overall search rankings.
That’s why we recommend WordPress as the best CMS and website platform for your needs. Not only is it the most widely-used CMS, but it’s also a free and open-source platform. This means that the variety and diversity of plugin and theme options are nearly endless (which we’ll demonstrate shortly).
WordPress also offers restaurant owners a lot of flexibility over who can use the website to help maintain the business’ public-facing experience. You can adjust user roles to fit your staffing structure, for example, or create content for future events and menu changes. With this platform, the sky’s the limit.
How to Create Your Restaurant Website With WordPress (In 5 Steps)
The best part is that getting started with WordPress is pretty simple. Often, you can install WordPress with just one click through your web host and be ready to welcome website visitors the same day. In the next few sections, we’re going to look at five essential steps to help you get your restaurant site online.
Step 1: Choose Your Domain Name and Web Host
Choosing a web host is the first crucial step in getting your restaurant website up and running. Your host is where all your site’s data, files, and media will be stored and maintained.
There are a few things to consider when choosing your host, however. You’ll want to compare what each provider is offering with what you think you’ll need over the first year of running your site. This includes:
- Security. A website crash on a Friday night can mean a loss of business if your customers expect to see your new menu each week. Reviewing potential web hosts to understand the security features they offer is key to keeping your site up and running. Backup and restoration options are a good place to start.
- Software. If you need to get your restaurant site online fast, partnering with a host that offers easy software options can be a big help. Be sure to find out whether your host offers one-click options for additional software or provides features for speed and optimization.
- Support. Web hosts typically offer increasing levels of support as you upgrade to higher-tier plans. You’ll want to decide if you need 24/7 expert support or if you can wait for a ticket to be answered.
- Extras. You might find it hard to choose between several high-quality web hosts. If that’s the case, you can take a close look at what extras each host offers. If you know you could benefit from premium themes, pre-installed eCommerce options, or site builders, for example, reviewing these options might be a good way to break a tie.
No matter what type of hosting you ultimately decide you need, here at DreamHost we offer a wide range of WordPress plans.
Once you have a host picked out, you get to decide on a name for your new website. Some best practices might be helpful in this process. While a .com is still the most recognized and respected top-level domain out there, there are plenty of other options. The most important thing is to make sure your domain is short and memorable.
Another factor to keep in mind is the extra goodies that might come with your hosting plan. Some hosts offer free add-ons, for example. Here at DreamHost, we’re excited to be able to provide access to a handy site builder tool.
To get started, you’ll need to select “WP Website Builder” as an option during checkout of your DreamHost plan purchase. Then, we’ll automatically install WordPress and premium website builder plugins for WordPress — Inspirations and Page & Post Builder — built by our friends at BoldGrid.
Step 2: Install a Dedicated Restaurant Theme
Once you choose a host and set up your site at its domain name, you can start thinking about website design.
WP Website Builder brings easy drag-and-drop page building to your WordPress site, along with plenty of theme options to choose from. To select one, you’ll navigate to the Inspirations menu. There, you can easily select a new theme by clicking on Start Over with New Inspiration.
If you’re new to WordPress, this is the first page you’ll see when you visit your dashboard. You’ll then be led through several steps that will get you started with your new theme.
First, you’ll select the category of themes you want to browse. We’ll pick Restaurant, naturally.
You’ll see that there are many options to choose from. For this demonstration, we’ll try out the Florentine theme.
After you select your theme, the next page will provide some options for testing its responsiveness on various screen sizes. You can also select how many pre-set pages you want to start with. We’ve chosen the Kitchen Sink option with blog functionality, so we can experiment with everything.
Once you make your changes here, you’ll click on the Next button.
Your final step in the setup process will be to fill out some optional but helpful information. This is found in the Essentials tab. You can edit this information later, but it will be used throughout your website to pre-populate your contact and social media information.
Be sure to select Finish and Install when you’re done. After that, WP Website Builder will automatically install additional plugins to help support the theme you chose. Once that’s complete, you can add your restaurant logo and really start cooking.
Related: Here’s Why Responsive Design is a Must for Small Business Owners
Step 3: Select Plugins to Expand Your Site’s Feature Set
While WP Website Builder includes several plugins that offer enhanced functionality for creating your restaurant site, you might want to explore a few other tools as well. Plugins, true to their name, plug right into your WordPress site and theme to extend their existing options.
Whether you plan on offering new menu items every week, only on holidays, or whenever you feel like it, plugins can help you manage those changes. Additionally, other plugins can help you develop an online reservation system or organize in-house events.
One plugin to check out is Five Star Restaurant Reservations.
This solution is packed with features to help you manage all aspects of taking online reservations and table bookings. You can accept, reject, or block reservations as needed. Additionally, you can set up specific user roles for your staff and send notifications to customers.
Step 4: Create Engaging Content
Once you have your design in place, you’ll want to solidify the content strategy for your restaurant.
Whether you choose to feature blog content, exciting menus, or just pictures of your tasty-looking food, WordPress has you covered. Even the rotisserie giant, Boston Market, uses WordPress for its restaurant website.
There are several ways to do this, including various options within the WordPress Edit Post area. Additionally, you can check out a plugin like WP Scheduled Posts.
This tool can help you create an editorial calendar to keep your blog fresh and up-to-date. That way, you won’t have to worry about forgetting to post a timely article or showcasing outdated content.
Once you establish your approach to content, you might want to turn to social media channels to spread the news about your new website.
Related: 7 Steps to Identify a Target Audience for Your Online Business
Step 5: Build an Email List
Building up a loyal clientele can take some time. Creating the opportunity for potential customers to sign up to an email list can be a smart strategy. Using and maintaining an email list for your restaurant gives you a direct link to your customers. You can send menu announcements, hours of operation updates, and discount offers.
There are a lot of great marketing tools available. MailChimp is a popular email newsletter and list management service. You’ll need to create a free account, and then there’s a plugin available that can connect your site up to this service instantly.
With MailChimp, you can fully integrate your WordPress site with your email marketing campaigns. That way, you can bring in as many new patrons as possible.
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Growing and Promoting Your Restaurant Website
At this point, your site is all set up. So, how do you get the word out about it? Here’s where your WordPress site and social media can combine to create a powerful team.
There are several key items to keep in mind that can help you promote your new website on social media, including:
- Micro-influencers. This might be easier if your business operates in a more metropolitan area. Social media influencers can promote your site for you, and expose it to a new audience. Additionally, inviting food bloggers to your restaurant can also pay off.
- Reviews. Opening up review options online and collecting testimonials from social media comments or in-restaurant surveys is one of the best techniques available to you. Posting these reviews to your website can be an effective marketing tool.
- Social media management apps. Keeping track of several social media accounts can be a time sink. Fortunately, there are plenty of management techniques and applications for social media that can help. We recommend checking out Hootsuite first, as it connects to all the major social media channels.
Tapping into the power of word-of-mouth marketing through online social channels, hashtags, and lots of linking back to your new website may seem daunting at first, but should pay off in the long run.
The Last Bite
The restaurant business can be competitive. Along with tasty food and creative dishes, customers are looking for an experience that often goes beyond the time they spend in your physical establishment. Creating a standout restaurant website design can help them feel more connected to your business and keep them coming back for more.
Here at DreamHost, we want you to be able to put your energy into making delicious meals, and not worry about whether your website maintenance and support is taken care of. That’s why we offer complete WordPress hosting solutions, now served with a side of our premium website builder tools, so you can focus on making Instagram-worthy food!