Get Cooking with Online Menu Tips

Do you own a restaurant and also have a WordPress.com website? If so, then you’re ready to optimize your restaurant’s website to improve your patrons’ experiences (along with your bottom line) by creating a dynamic online menu. What exactly is a dynamic online menu, you ask? Simply put, it’s a virtual menu that changes in real-time, along with the actual menu of your brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Does your restaurant feature daily specials, new menu items, happy-hour deals, or special events? Do you occasionally sell out of certain items that might necessitate the removal of a menu option for a brief period of time? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then you and your diners will benefit from adding an online menu to your restaurant’s website. Visitors can check your site for important menu updates before venturing out to eat at your restaurant. Featuring daily specials might also persuade potential diners to stop by and try your food for the first time. Maintaining an up-to-date dynamic online menu will eliminate the need to print new menus every time you make an update or change.

What’s on the menu?

WordPress.com offers website themes created by experts to align with the needs of various types of businesses (including restaurants). Two excellent examples of WordPress restaurant themes are Canapé (free) and Restaurant (a premium theme).

Each theme looks distinct and functions differently under the hood. They both offer specialized features and widgets, allowing you to customize many aspects of your website.

How you use your website’s menu depends on the type of restaurant that you run, your fan base, and your business model. While the process of creating virtual menus requires taking a few steps (there are many different ways to do this), here are some general tips to streamline the process:

  • Theme documentation: Always read your theme’s documentation before you select and apply it to your website. A theme’s documentation will explain how to set up and customize your theme to make it look and work like the demo version, while incorporating your unique messaging and content.
  • Online menu page: Your website should feature a separate menu page. You should also include links back to the menu on the other pages of your site. This allows visitors to quickly find and navigate to your virtual menu. Depending on your theme and business needs, you can automatically feature menu items on your homepage.
  • Editing on the go: With WordPress.com, you can edit pages, posts, and menu options from your mobile device using the WordPress mobile application. Mobile options allow you to quickly update information on your site as needed.
  • Getting dynamic: Did your restaurant run out of eggplant Parmesan? How long is the current wait time for a table? What are today’s specials? Give your diners the answers they need right away by posting them to your website. Sharing updates along with links to your site are also great ways to promote your business on social media. Many restaurants — especially those with dynamic menus — are eliminating paper menus and using in-restaurant screens to display their menus.

The sky’s the limit if you’re focused

Before adding new information and pages to your WordPress.com website, consider what your site visitors need, and try not to go overboard (a phenomenon that Fast Co. Design refers to as “feature creep”). Ask yourself the following questions as you’re creating or refining your restaurant’s website:

  1. What essential information should you make easily accessible to readers? Consider menu items, hours of operation, today’s specials, location, and any information that patrons need to find easily and quickly.
  2. How do you want to incorporate your website into your physical restaurant? If you change menu options regularly, consider incorporating your website’s menu into your physical restaurant. Instead of printing new menus daily, display the menu page of your website on a large monitor located inside of your restaurant, in front of the counter where orders are placed.
  3. Do I need more features beyond those my current theme offers? If you feel constrained by what you can do with your free restaurant website theme, you might want to upgrade to a Business plan. With a Business plan, you can switch to a premium theme that offers more features and also gain access to third-party plugins and themes to take your website to the next level.
  4. What recurring problems can your website help you manage? Do customers call and repeatedly ask you the same questions? Try posting the answers to frequently asked questions on the homepage of your website. If you are tired of manually handling reservations, use the OpenTable WordPress.com widget to automate and streamline the reservation process moving forward (if your theme supports it).

Think of your restaurant’s website as a valued employee that works 24/7, 365 days a year. Short of preparing the food, your WordPress.com website can help solve most of your restaurant-related problems, beginning by maintaining your online menu.

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