Food Menus, Restaurant Websites and WordPress Plugins

sushi at Sushiana Restaurant

What do you need to access most when you go on a restaurant website? The first answer might be the telephone number of the restaurant. Another key element to restaurant websites: the food menus. I am using the phrase “food menus” to differentiate those menus from navigation; every website has menus and navigation, but not all websites are about food. It turns out that how you set up the navigation menus on a restaurant website might determine whether your website visitor decides to try your food! If it’s hard to access the information or it takes too long to load or the food menu is five years out-of-date, you may have lost your customer.

Recently I had the great pleasure and privilege of building a website for the Sushiana Restaurant, a sushi restaurant in Highland Park, New Jersey. My original thought had been to create what is called a custom post type for each item on the menu. Then the restaurant owner could add information individually about each menu item, including price, description, category and optionally with a photo. In the end, however, we went with a plugin called OpenMenu. With OpenMenu, the restaurant owner can add and edit all the information on the OpenMenu site. I add the OpenMenu menus to the website once, and the website is automatically updated with the new information. OpenMenu also has a mobile version, so if you go to Sushiana on your mobile phone, you will at first see a site that looks just like the site that you would see on your desktop (this is what is known as responsive web design), but if you click on menu, you get the menus provided by OpenMenu.

On the topic of navigation, I added several WordPress menus to the Sushiana website to make your tour of the food possibilities easy and pleasant. In addition to the main menu at the top of the page, there is one pull-down menu for the food.
Sushiana pulldown menu

Also, each of the food pages has a navigation menu at top so you can easily click around to see the variety of menu options. The restaurant owner can edit (change the names, change the links, add or delete links) these navigation menus in the back end of WordPress.>sushiana menu at top of page

Your Turn, Please

What was your worst restaurant website experience? Your best? Do you choose where to eat based on a restaurant website?

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33 thoughts on “Food Menus, Restaurant Websites and WordPress Plugins

  1. I can’t remeber the exact e perience on a resturante website, but i can say one of my pet peeves is load time. As you said, I go to phone number and location first, then I gravitate to the menu. Being a foodie I very much enjoyed your discriptions and what goes in to and what is needed to build a good restaurant website.
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Taking The Mystery Out Of Wine Tasting: WineMy Profile

  2. I hate it when restaurants either have out of date menus or no menus. The out of date menus is the worst offense because I am usually looking over the menu to decide if I want to go there. Either way they lose my visit but with the wrong menu they also waste my time.
    Jon Jefferson recently posted…Video: Oxtail SoupMy Profile

  3. I know I’ve been annoyed plenty at restaurant websites, but the specific ones don’t come to mind. I do remember being on one where the drop-down menus didn’t work very well. My husband and I will browse websites diligently looking for places to eat, and an attractive, stream-lined restaurant often will help us make our decision. Great pictures of food also helps. I always get a kick of sites where the food pics look horrible.
    Jeri recently posted…On My Mind: How often do you quit reading a book?My Profile

    1. Thank you for the compliment on the site, Susan.

      Yes, having the specials listed is certainly helpful. I asked a business owner last week if she could post specials on Facebook, but she didn’t seem to want to bother. Oh, well.

  4. The website design looks fantastic Leora. Great job. Actually Japanese food is my favorite, sushi in particular. But I do find it v. frustrating that itโ€™s way too hard to find contact information on restaurant sites. Thank goodness at least for online reservations, which I have to say make life much easier.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…Reading FeverMy Profile

    1. OpenMenu doesn’t add the dropdowns – I added those on my own using Superfish. OpenMenu is for the food menus. But yes, it did help a lot to have a way for the owner to add the menu items easily (and I didn’t have to create the entire system, even though I thought that might have been fun, too).

  5. OpenMenu was a great choice. I think it is the easiest and most efficient way to present the menu to the viewer. Technology in the restaurant industry is a rapidly growing trend and I find it amazing that some restaurants don’t even have websites and if they do, they provide very little information. I prefer restaurant websites to have an updated menu because I have a stomach disease and am limited to a bland diet. It is important that I can view a restaurants menu and make sure there is something I can eat on the menu before I select it. There is nothing worse than being taken out to dinner by my boyfriend and not being able to eat anything on the menu. He always feels awful and sucking it up obviously has its consequences.

    1. I’m glad there are restaurants that can meet your diet.

      I don’t think restaurant owners understand much about how websites work or how helpful they can be to their business. Also, with WordPress it’s much easier to update a website than it used to be. Hope I can educate a few restauranteurs.

    1. I’m wondering if you eat in restaurants at all … we don’t eat out much. Before I did this project, I hadn’t spent much time on restaurant websites myself. Now I look at many of the details.

  6. Its definitely annoying when any website or menu takes too long to load; especially with restaurant sites if you’re trying to make a somewhat speedy decision about where to eat. Making a smartphone-friendly website is also vital these days, especially with this kind of information.

  7. As you would expect the menu is of utmost importance to me. If the website doesn’t have one, I will often bypass them and go to the next one. Being able to navigate quickly to get the information I need is also of utmost importance.
    Becc recently posted…I am just over it!!!My Profile

    1. Becc,

      I can understand why you need details in a menu. The chef might prefer to do things his/her way, but the customer with dietary issues needs to know it will be safe to consume.

  8. Thank you for the great content in your article on Food Menus, Restaurant Websites and
    WordPress Plugins!!
    Best regards

    my web site :: Hugh

  9. Loved it. Thank you for writing that. I’ll check to your site to see what’s new and inform my neighbors about your website.

  10. Hi Leora,

    This is a fantastic article and is a great place to discuss and share restaurant online solutions. I’ve read that some people have problems creating menus and need something useful to help build them and have them optimized for output so that they are not slow.

    As the developer of the Restaurant Manager plugin I would like to mention that it offers the ability to accept table bookings through an online form and lots of other features. The plugin is also free to download and use and has no hidden upgrade to pro feature which can be annoying!! It also has a great scheduler in there to help with organizing multiple opening and closing times.

    If you need to create restaurant menus easily you can create meals in the admin and assign them to multiple menus. You can also add special requirements to each meal item such as course types, cuisine types and dietary requirements.

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