Top WordPress Themes and Plugins for Appetizing Food and Hospitality Websites

Mouth-watering photos, the ability to take online reservations, easily accessible menus, a deeper look into your amazing amenities, and a space to share rave reviews.

Image: Fresh smoothies with apricot by Nikolaydonetsk

The food and hospitality industries are fiercely competitive, with no shortage of choices for consumers. In any given town, there could be literally dozens of restaurants, hotels, bed & breakfasts, brewpubs and more competing for a finite amount of business. Since prospective guests often do their research online, having a top-notch website can make or break a sale.

While you’ll want something to stand out as uniquely your own, there are certain elements that are shared among successful websites in these industries. Let’s have a look at some pieces that make up a great food or hospitality website.

While each individual business is unique, there are some characteristics that are shared among successful websites in these industries. If you’re building a food-focused or hospitality website, you’ll need:

  • mouth-watering photos,
  • the ability to take online reservations,
  • easily accessible menus,
  • a deeper look into your amazing amenities, and
  • a space to share rave reviews.

Mouth-watering photos

How many times have you seen a photo of a delectable dish or a grand hotel lobby and wished you were there to experience it? Great photography can have an immediate emotional effect that leads to action. With hotels, restaurants and the like, creating a compelling visual narrative is key to making a strong first impression.

Your website should commit prime screen real estate to showing off your best side. It could be anything from fresh baked goodies to a beautifully decorated master suite. Whatever makes you memorable should be front and center.

The Baker theme is a prime example of this design technique. The full screen photo leaves little doubt as to what the business specializes in. As you scroll, photos of more tasty treats come into view. Anyone else hungry?

Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional photographer to immortalize your signature dish, you can still use beautiful photos on your website. A monthly subscription to Envato Elements now includes access to over 300,000 high-resolution photos (including a wide selection of outstanding food shots) that can help you make an impact.

Online Reservations

Visitors to your website expect and deserve convenience. That’s why it’s vitally important to offer online reservation capabilities. This is especially true in the hospitality industry, where those who don’t offer this option are bound to lose out on guests.

Having an online reservation system in place encourages immediate action. After all, it’s better to put this capability in a user’s hands while they’re viewing your beautiful guest accommodations rather than make them wait until “normal business hours”.

The good news is that taking reservations online has never been easier. With a WordPress plugin like Booki, you can get up and running rather quickly. The plugin is flexible enough to handle various types of reservations and allows for both online and offline payments. You can even add a reservation for customers in the WordPress dashboard – meaning you can still take reservations by phone.

Accessible Menus

No matter where they are or what device they’re using, people looking for a bite to eat will want access to your menu before stopping in. It then stands to reason that your website should offer up as much information about available food and drink as possible.

In many places (particularly smaller restaurants and cafes), paper menus seem to be becoming a thing of the past. Why, some are even switching to electronic menu boards in-house. That said, expecting customers to walk in as the only way to find out what you have is no longer an option.

Online menus can be a tricky thing to get just right. The key is to ensure that a menu is easy to read, mobile friendly and provides enough detail to drive people to your door. Looking at the menu layout included with the Hilde WordPress theme, it covers all the bases. It looks great, is broken down into appropriate sections and is easy to read on a phone. The ability to denote new items on the menu is a great touch – sure to garner attention.

Image from Hilde WordPress theme.

Note that it’s also quite possible to add an elegant menu to your existing website. With the FoodPress plugin for WordPress, you can choose from a variety of menu styles to compliment your brand. Just as important, it also adds a reservation system as well.

Amazing Amenities

With regards to hospitality, proudly displaying your amenities is an important factor in attracting guests. Much like a restaurant’s menu, an attractive amenities listing is something that visitors to your website expect.

This, after all, is what separates your property from all the rest. But unlike that restaurant menu, hotel amenities should strive to be a more visual and complete experience. Beyond a mere text listing, amenities should include stunning photography along with in-depth descriptive text.

The Hotel WordPress theme really does it right. It starts with a large, attractive photo and provides an opportunity for greater context upon scrolling. You do find a well-placed checklist of amenities, but you’ll also notice that there is ample room for a more comprehensive description. The included call-to-action and reservation form will encourage users to book right away.

Rave Reviews

Both food and hospitality businesses benefit from positive reviews. But even negative reviews can be a good thing – if you know how to handle them. Responding to less-than-stellar ratings and putting forth the effort to satisfy a customer can go a long way in showing how much you care. Most people realize that mistakes will be made – doing the right thing in response is what builds customer loyalty.

With that, there are two distinct ways to go about posting reviews to your website:

  1. Prescreened Reviews: The first strategy is to carefully showcase prescreened reviews. This is the safer route, as you will be in full control over what is being displayed. Plus, it’s also quite easy to implement as many themes have this functionality built right in. Brunch, for instance, provides a lovely text slider with a full-width background image that is perfect to use for showing off your best reviews.
  1. All Reviews: The other way to do things is to show all of your reviews – positive or otherwise. The benefit here is that you’re displaying a level of transparency. And, if you’re taking time to reply to reviewers, that can really boost your reputation. If that sounds like a good fit for your business, the Yelp Reviews Pro plugin for WordPress could be just the thing to help. You’ll be able to display your Yelp profile – all reviews included. This will also encourage others to put in a kind word.

Putting it All Together

Having a successful food or hospitality business means putting yourself out there for the world to discover. Part of that is being great at what you do. Cooking up a spectacular dish in a great atmosphere or making guests feel cozy in your bed and breakfast will create memories and goodwill.

But that’s only part of the story. In order to be discovered by more people, your website needs to reflect that same special experience you provide in person. Empowering potential customers with the tools they need to learn about all you have to offer can in turn lead to more of them walking through your door.

You put so much effort into your business. Make sure that same attention-to-detail applies to your website.

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About the Author Eric Karkovack

Eric Karkovack is a web designer with well over a decade of experience. You can visit his business site here. In July 2013, Eric released his first eBook: Your Guide to Becoming a Freelance Web Designer. You can follow his rants on Twitter @karks88.