One of the earliest “jobs” I had as a kid in Chicago was printing the menu for the local pizza restaurant. Back in the early 80s, it was quite rare for a kid to have a computer, let alone a color printer. Owning one of the earliest color printers, I immediately found several local businesses who were willing to swap out services and merchandise in exchange for some well designed menus that they could update with specials every month. I developed a long relationship printing flyers and pizza take-out menus in exchange for free pizzas every weekend. Not bad for a 13-year-old with an eye for proper layout. I was a young entrepreneurial spirit forged in tomato sauce and mozzarella.
Things are not much different thirty years later. There are more restaurant owners looking to build customer loyalty than ever. While online review services like Yelp and Foursquare have made finding a restaurant easier, it is the establishment’s main website that is often the determining factor for new restaurant customers. Independent restauranteurs and franchises are increasingly turning to capable WordPress designers to develop and create appetizing online presentations. Though there are many different WordPress themes for restaurants, we will focus on what plugins can be used on nearly any theme. Here are some plugins to help with the development and presentation for WordPress based restaurant sites.
Easy Restaurant Menu Manager
For simple yet stylish menus with very little setup, my first suggestion is Easy Restaurant Menu Manager. ERMM gives you several options when setting up various dishes and beverages. Add categories like starters, sandwiches, desserts and drinks. Determine the display order of your categories. Include a description for each item and optionally display the price. CSS can be modified directly within the plugin. It also features different icons to add to the dish indicating spicy, heart-healthy or vegan options that might be presented. Just about any other kind of business that has a menu of services or products could use this plugin. Whether it’s a spa, restaurant or car detailing shop, Easy Restaurant Menu Manager offers an elegant presentation that can be easily customized to fit your site theme.
Locu For Restaurants
For a robust third-party integration of menus, a restaurant owner may want to consider Locu for Restaurant Menus. The Locu service lets one add their menu and specials on the Locu site. The plugin then displays the menu in the form of a shortcode. Though there is nothing noteworthy about that functionality, it’s the other services of Locu that make it appealing. In addition to site embed capability, the Locu site also submits the restaurant menu to sites like Foursquare, City Search and Open Table. Premium Locu subscribers can also submit their menus to Trip Advisor, Yelp and their own Facebook page. Once you update the menu on Locu, it updates everywhere else in real-time.
Many people have found Open Table to be a convenient way to get a table at a local restaurant. Restaurants that participate in Open Table can also use the service within their WordPress sites by utilizing the Open Table Widget plugin. Requiring only the restaurant ID number, the plugin renders a table reservation form as a widget. The prospective diner only needs to enter the date, time, and party size. I’ve personally used the Open Table reservation service as a dining customer and found it to be a very good user experience. It’s great to grab a last-minute table or for planning well in advance.
We all like to use Gravity Forms for the usual “Contact Us” pages and lead forms. But GF is also a very powerful conduit for catering order forms. Internally, GF has the capability of doing math! That means you can create a catering order form that actually adds up the total as someone chooses their items and sides. It allows a restaurant or caterer the option of taking delivery orders without having to build a full-blown e-commerce setup on their site. When payment is fulfilled at a later time or in circumstances when there are always follow-up confirmation calls, a form can do the job perfectly.
Gravity Forms also allows for conditional logic. Does a caterer have a different menu option for serving a party of 20 vs a party of 200? You bet they do! Gravity Forms can present completely different menu options based on number of guests, distance from the restaurant and dietary restrictions. From the perspective of the restaurant staff, Gravity Forms can send out different notifications to the Chef, Catering Manager and to the person responsible for scheduling staff for event service. The notification email provides a comprehensive order list, total price and special food request notes. The address field has a Google map link, providing directions from the restaurant to the event venue in just one click. I have used this plugin for just about every type of business out there. When I put it to use creating a catering order form, I gained a whole new respect for the plugins capabilities.
Many restaurants choose to reward people who frequently check in through Geo-Social channels like Yelp and Foursquare. In the case of Foursquare, there is a great plugin that allows a restaurant to proudly display venue statistics in near real-time. Foursquare Venue gives the restaurant site the ability to display total check-ins, how many people are currently checked in and who the current “mayor” of the location is. The mayor is the person who has checked into a particular place the most. Why not reward the mayor with a free side dish or drink with every order? Make it a contest of social supremacy. It’s good to be king! Obviously you will want to use caution with the real-time statistics. Nothing looks worse than a big fat zero in the column of current people checked in. If you have a restaurant with a lot of social check-ins with Foursquare, this may be a plugin that you want to use.
Think Of These Plugins Before Your Next Restaurant Client
Think of these plugins the next time you are involved in a restaurant site build. They will help to provide a much more engaging experience for future customers. Remember to always test your plugins on a staging site. Accepting pizza as payment is still considered a valid site developer currency, especially in Chicago or New York. Somewhere out there is a budding 13-year-old kid eagerly awaiting their first bite of WordPress-traded pizza. Hopefully these plugin features have helped to get the youngster more negotiating power, like a few extra toppings or some bread sticks to boot. Though much like a chef using a test kitchen, be sure to try these plugins on a staging site first. Using an unfamiliar plugin to a new environment could be a recipe for disaster.