You’re hungry. There’s not enough food in the house, and what’s there either takes too much effort or just doesn’t sound good right now. You want a meal from a restaurant. What’s your next step?
For most people, it’s to pull out their phone, Google their nearby options, and peruse some menus. According to MGH research, 77% of consumers visit a restaurant’s website before they visit or place an order. If your restaurant doesn’t have a website, those are customers you’re losing to competitors that do.
In other words? Every restaurant needs a website.
But you didn’t get into the restaurant business because you’re awesome at web design or coding—the skills to run a restaurant and the skills to build a website aren’t the same. So how do you even get started?
You use a tool that makes creating a website relatively easy, even for those who don’t know how to code. The most popular option for this is WordPress.
10 Steps to Build a Restaurant Website in WordPress
Building a restaurant website in WordPress will require some time and involve learning new skills, but it’s something restaurant owners can feasibly do on their own without either having to learn to code or spend money on a professional web designer. Here are the main steps to take.
1. Plan your website.
To start, figure out what you want your website to look like and do. Deciding on the main structure and functionality you want in advance will help you make better decisions in the steps to come. In the planning stage, consider:
- What information your website should include
- How many pages your website should have, and what they will be
- What your site structure will be
To decide the answer to those questions, think first about your typical customer. What information will they be looking for when they visit the site? Most restaurant websites will want to have the address, phone number, and food menu front and center. But you may also want to feature testimonials, photos, the ability for people to place orders online, the option to make reservations, details about whether you have outdoor seating, and information about parking. Any type of question you regularly get from visitors is something you’ll want to include the answer to on your website.
The website structure for a restaurant site will likely be on the simpler side—the typical restaurant doesn’t need too many pages or a complicated website menu. To get some ideas of what makes sense, spend some time browsing other restaurant websites. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like about each one. Note what pages they have and what their website menus look like, and create a plan for yours based on what works best.
Do keep some flexibility in your plan here. The more specific you get in your preferences, the more work it will take to make your website match. But having a general idea of what you want your website to look like, say, and do will make the rest of the process go more smoothly.
2. Choose your web hosting plan.
Every website needs web hosting, it’s a necessary component to go live online. For most restaurant websites, a shared hosting plan will be the best option. It’s the most affordable type of plan, and the higher-level plans mostly come into play for websites that see quite a bit more traffic than your typical local business.
Make sure the web host you choose works easily with WordPress (most should, with how widely used WordPress is). If you intend to offer visitors the ability to place orders through your website, check that the plan you choose is also compatible with eCommerce functionality. Get more tips in our web hosting checklist.
3. Select and register your domain.
Your domain name is the address visitors will type into the browser when they want to come straight to your site, like myrestaurant.com. If you’re lucky and your restaurant name isn’t too common, you may be able to get a .com domain that matches it. But a lot of the .com options are already taken, so you may need to choose a different top-level domain name like .net or .restaurant, or get creative in coming up with other domain name options your patrons will find it easy to remember.
HostGator’s domain search tool will offer suggestions if your preferred domain isn’t available. Once you’ve found an available domain name you like, register it. Some web hosting plans include a free domain, so you may not even need to pay extra for it.
4. Install WordPress.
The next step is to install WordPress with your hosting provider. The details on completing this step will depend on your web hosting company, so check the instructional materials they provide on the topic.
For HostGator customers, it’s as simple as logging into your Customer Portal, clicking the Create Website button, and following the instructions provided. You can see what the step-by-step process looks like in our video tutorial on how to install WordPress:
5. Select a design theme for your restaurant website.
Part of what makes building a restaurant website with WordPress easy is the availability of themes. Starting with a theme means you already have your website’s basic structure and visual style in place, so you’re not working from scratch. The closer your theme comes to what you want your website to look like and do, the less time you’ll spend customizing it.
Because of how popular WordPress is, there are thousands of themes available. Some of them are free, but most are available at a (reasonable) cost. Premium themes will tend to have more features or be easier to work with.
Your best bet is to find a theme designed specifically for restaurants. You can start looking with our roundup of the best WordPress restaurant themes.
Spend some time browsing until you find one that seems like a good fit for your needs. To install it:
- Log into your WordPress account
- Select Appearance in the menu on the left side of the screen
- Select Themes
- Click Add New
- Search for the theme you’ve selected
- Click Install
6. Customize your WordPress theme.
When logged into WordPress, you can make changes to your theme by selecting Customize under Appearance. The theme you chose may also have resources available that walk you through how to make changes. You should be able to switch out the color scheme to one of your choosing and add widgets for site features like sidebars, headers, and footers.
Revisit your earlier notes on the structure of your site and pages you want. You can create any new pages you need by selecting Add New in the Pages section of the WordPress menu. To edit the page itself, use the Gutenberg blocks editor. We have a Guide to Gutenberg that covers the basics on how to use it.
7. Write your restaurant website copy.
No matter how close your chosen theme comes to how you want your website to look, you’ll still need to update the text on the site. Commit some time to figuring out what you want to say about your restaurant and how to say it. Think about your main selling points and what sets you apart from your top competitors. Write in a style that’s easy for visitors to read—avoid any lingo that only restaurant workers would understand.
If possible, find a friend or colleague to read over your copy. A second set of eyes can be helpful to confirm what you’ve written is clear and compelling.
8. Figure out what plugins you need.
The main way to add functionality to a WordPress website is with plugins. And there’s a plugin for just about anything you could need. For a restaurant website, some examples to consider are:
- A plugin for adding your restaurant menu to the website
- A plugin that enables visitors to make reservations
- An eCommerce plugin, if you plan to allow ordering through the website
- An SEO (search engine optimization) plugin, so you can take steps to optimize your website to be more easily found in search engines
Decide what type of plugins you want, then research the best options for each type. You can add a plugin to your website by clicking on Plugins in the WordPress menu, clicking Add New, and searching for the plugin you’ve chosen. Click Install Now, then Activate.
9. Test out your restaurant website.
When you’re pretty sure you’ve got all the pages, style, text, and functionality ready, stop and test everything out. Read over your copy to look for typos or sentences that are confusing. Double-check that your address and phone number are correct across the site. Check how your restaurant website looks on a mobile device. Make sure the menu loads correctly on multiple types of devices and browsers. Check the links across the site to make sure none are broken.
If you’ve set up your website to take orders, then have some friends place test orders to make sure everything goes through. Then ask them for feedback on whether the process was intuitive, or if there’s a way to make it better.
If your website looks sloppy or doesn’t work right, it can potentially hurt your reputation more than not having one did. So take some time to check that everything’s in working order.
10. Publish and promote.
Now you’re ready to launch! Once your website is live, make sure people know about it. Add it to your business cards, your restaurant menu, and your business listings across the web.
Look into different online marketing strategies and put together a marketing plan. Promote it on social media. Consider venturing into email marketing and content marketing, as ways to further promote both your website and business. And if you really want to extend its reach, look into paid promotion channels like pay-per-click marketing or social ads.
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A good restaurant website can increase your business and raise your profile. Customers want to know what their options will be before they show up to a restaurant. By creating a website, you give them a way to confirm that your delicious dishes are just what they want.
Casey is the Senior Director of Marketing for Hosting and has been in the web hosting space for 7 years. He loves the slopes and hanging out with his kids.