So we’ve established that your restaurant needs a website. These days, if you don’t have a website, you don’t really have a business – at least not one that will live for very long in the digital age.
So how do you make or get a website for your biz without breaking the proverbial entrepreneurial piggy banks? Many people have turned to sites like WordPress or SquareSpace to help them build one; it’s easy, relatively inexpensive compared to having a custom site built or a developer, and it’s usually faster too. But there are so many templates, themes and options, how do you choose?
I’ve been building and maintaining websites on WordPress for a couple years, and I wanted to share a couple insights and themes that I really like for people in the food biz.
Tips for choosing a WordPress template:
Responsive! Your theme must be responsive. Now that mobile users have exceeded desktop users, it’s imperative to have a mobile ready site. Believe it or not, there are some themes out there that are not. Not sure? When viewing the “live demo” of the theme (a link to the theme on a site that is mocked up to show you what it could look like) drag your browser window across and to the left. If the elements on the page adjust based on the width of your browser window, it’s responsive. If they don’t, it’s not. Here’s some more handy tools to tell if sites are responsive.
Start with a web template that already looks like your brand. If it’s shown in the examples (or “live site” example) like you could slap your logo in and it wouldn’t be too far off from your current brand, start with that one. These templates are great – but customizing them always takes more time and effort then first impressions of the theme give. Some themes have the option to start with an existing theme demo and build off of that. This will save you time, and allow you to have *almost* everything set up the way you want it from the beginning. It’s far easier to go in and tweak a menu page that already exists then to build one on your own.
Pick a template that has your top 3 needs for functionality built in. Need reservation booking ability? Need a contact us form? Many themes have these built into them already. Make a list of your top needs for functionality and get other stakeholders input to make sure you are not missing anything.
My favorite WordPress templates for restaurants:
Why I like it:
For a free theme, Brasserie has some great bones. It’s fully responsive, has a clear section for hours at the bottom (my pet peeve is if I can’t find the hours you are open within 2 seconds) and a menu page that allows you put in menu items — not just upload a pdf. The design is a little dated, but that can probably be customized with some fiddling. The good news is, this theme has support, so if you need help, you can get it. I also think the “book now” button being front and center is a plus… unless you are an establishment that doesn’t take reservations.
Why I like it:
It’s moody, it’s dark, it’s…. totally modern. And that menu layout! This theme is excellent for a bar, coffee shop, or small cafe. It’s got a nice blog presence on the main page, which would be a great place to show the world how cool you are/who’s playing/feature ingredients/suppliers, ect. I think my favorite thing about this theme is the opportunity for a large branded image, with restaurant details just below it. So when people find you, they have the essentials right away – then they can dive deeper into what/who you are. Having the menu right there on the front page is makes it easy for a future diner to salivate right away. The only thing I wish this theme had was an Instagram feed right on the main page as well, but, hey, no one is perfect.
Why I like it:
The layout of the main page is like the unfolding of a story… by the time the user scrolls down, the call to action (CTA) to “make a reservation” is right there! If played off well, the whole page is a great lead in to that CTA. While the hours are not clearly listed right there, that could probably be added in the footer. I also love the way the menu page is set up with images for each category, but the menu items themselves as just text. I also like some of the design details that make this theme come off as custom job. Like that rounded arrow just below the main image.
Whoa, the options! Sage could be used + customized probably a 100 (literally) different ways. One of the themes even has customizable sidebar callout/popout – which often times requires a separate plug-in for WordPress themes. So yea, this one has some muscle. The tough part would be picking a direction and actually filling in all your content/building out pages. But that would probably be the hard part with any of these.
Free or Paid?
So here’s the thing. You get what you pay for. Some free themes out there have people supporting them (and yes, themes do break!) but most do not. If you plan on having a site on WordPress for a good long while, you should invest in a paid theme. Why? WordPress is constantly coming out with updates. Each time WordPress updates, it has the potential for something to not mesh with your theme (because WordPress updates are based on what works and is needed for ALL WordPress users). So the people that put out themes are also trying to keep up with WordPress. And the updates are that much more likely to happen if the themes were paid for – it’s that simple. Paid themes also have other extras, like allowing you to put your own copyright symbol in the footer, customize colors, fonts and sliders, and add in things that you can have a developer custom create for you. But not all free themes are bad! Some will let you make custom choices and work out just fine.
The main thing to keep in mind is what I said at the beginning:
- Something that already fits your brand style, or easily modified to fit.
- Comes with your top 3 key functionalities
- RESPONSIVE. This point is incredibly important.
WordPress can be a great tool!* Now go out there and make a website for your business or call on someone to help you. Yes, it’s a necessity!
*I’m not paid for any of this. These are all my own opinions, unsolicited. While WordPress is a great tool, nothing can compare to working directly with a developer and having a custom site coded. Just something to keep in mind 🙂