WordPress is a powerhouse that, in the right hands, can help small, independent eateries thrive and grow. But for businesses without the resources (skill, time, money) to devote to it, WordPress is by far more of a liability than an asset.
Squarespace, on the other hand, is somewhat limited in functionality compared to WordPress. But I have found that for most small businesses – restaurants in particular – Squarespace competently handles all their needs.
Put another way, when the challenge is efficiently getting from point A to point B, is the better choice a Ferrari or a Toyota? Assume you’re footing the bill ;)
You don’t have to update Squarespace
The most compelling reason a café or restaurant should go with Squarespace is almost never something you’ll read about: Squarespace updates itself.
Are you thinking that couldn’t possibly be less sexy? I know – that must be why no one writes about it. But I can tell you this from experience: When you are running a busy restaurant, it is by far better to have unsexy automatic updates you never have to think about than a slick WordPress site that requires several software updates a month.
Software updates take time, and sometimes break related things. Ever update your computer’s operating system, then find that another piece of software or a connected device won’t work?
Imagine running an update and breaking your whole website. While the issues aren’t usually unfixable, when you’re a restaurant owner (not a web geek), how do you even start to figure out a show-stopping website problem? Moreover, is that really the best use of your time and expertise? Um…no.
To be honest, updates that crash a site are a less common occurrence than they used to be. More common is to forget about running updates at all. Which brings us to the next reason Squarespace is great for too-busy restaurant folks.
Battling Internet miscreants is not your job
…but it will be if you use WordPress instead of Squarespace.
Viruses, malware, incompatible plugins, poorly coded themes, no backups, hackers — most people don’t think about these things, but they are all out there looking for WordPress sites with outdated software and inexperienced or inattentive owners. Doesn’t matter if you’re a little guy. It’s not you that miscreants are after – it’s the software they’re looking to exploit.
One of the great things about WordPress is that lots of people make plugins for it that add features and functionality not built in to WordPress itself. That’s also one of WordPress’s weakest points. When you add plugins to your WordPress site you add a) another thing that has to be updated or else pose a security risk and b) something that can conflict with WordPress or another plugin you use.
Squarespace, as we covered a little earlier, is automatically updated with fixes and security patches without you having to do a thing. Further, many features you’d have to use a plugin for if you had a WordPress site are built in to Squarespace. This means everything works well together.
I’d tell you about the time I updated the Yoast SEO plugin on my WordPress site and it broke my breadcrumbs, but I’ll save that for some other time.
A “free” WordPress site is more costly than Squarespace
People who hear about the power and potential of WordPress are often really gung-ho about using it when they find out it’s freely available. I know when it had morphed enough that I could use it for client websites I was thrilled that I didn’t need to charge as much to deliver awesome features and functionality. I also liked the fact that clients could save money by updating their sites themselves.
But you know what? Even with me setting everything up and teaching them to manage it, most of my clients did not have the time to deal with WordPress. They hired me to do updates (not cheap) or neglected updating until they had issues (seriously not cheap).
While Squarespace is billed as a DIY rather than developer’s platform, the reality is that there is a learning curve that doesn’t usually pay off for business owners. For all but the tech-savvy person with loads of free time (obviously not a restauranteur), the best ROI will be achieved by hiring a Squarespace expert to build the site and train its owner to handle blogging and routine changes.
Fortunately, you’ll likely pay far less for help with Squarespace than the equivalent WordPress site.
The monthly (or annual) fee for a Squarespace site, while relatively inexpensive, may seem as though it costs more than cheap hosting for a WordPress website. But again, you’re getting a lot built in that with WordPress would have to be added on – usually by a professional. Secure e-commerce capability, for one.
If you want to use your website to sell and accept payments for anything, get ready to pony up a few hundred more dollars per year (at least) with a WordPress site. But if you decided to bottle and sell your famous barbecue sauce, or a cookbook with your most-requested recipes, it is far easier and less expensive to do so even with the simplest Squarespace plan.
Squarespace has actual tech support
Don’t get me wrong – there is help available if you forget how to change your café hours on your WordPress website. But you’ll either be paying for it, searching for it or posting to a forum begging for it.
With Squarespace, your monthly fees cover the salaries of helpful human beings you can e-mail, tweet or live chat with if you don’t find the answer in their knowledge base. I can vouch for how responsive they are, since I have had to reach out to them a time or two.
Squarespace apps make it easy to woo potential diners
…and search engines, too.
The best thing about systems like WordPress and Squarespace is that they have built-in blogging capabilities. Blogging (and photo blogging) regularly is the best, most efficient and cost-effective use of the time you spend on marketing. Regular updates make search engines very happy, and will help you appear higher on results page than your non-blogging competitor across town.
Should we talk about what those beauty shots (a.k.a. food porn) coming out of your kitchen can do to bring in hungry patrons? No – you know.
Install Squarespace’s Blog or Portfolio app to your smartphone or iPad and sending posts or photos from the kitchen to your website becomes easier than Facebooking or Instagramming. Only, your post doesn’t disappear from everyone’s feed two seconds after you post it. Your killer Ruben or lobster ravioli is there on your website forever, to be discovered and craved for as long as you wish.
Squarespace caters to smartphones
Whether your site is built with WordPress or Squarespace, you can and should have a mobile-responsive website. That’s because well over a third of your prospective diners will arrive at your site via their smartphones.
If website visitors find your site kludgy or difficult to use on mobile they can become frustrated or discouraged and leave, or (if they’re highly motivated) call you for information that they should have been able to easily get from your site…calls that are more likely to come in at your busiest times.
Every site built with Squarespace looks and works well on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Additionally, there are built-in options that make it incredibly easy for people who are out and about to check your hours or see your location on a map. To see how a Squarespace website adapts to cater to mobile visitors, use your smartphone to visit the websites for The Bagel Meister and Cabin Fever Roasters Coffeehouse.
Whether a WordPress site adapts well to mobile devices depends on the theme (a.k.a. template) that controls the site’s layout. Most newer themes are mobile responsive, but it isn’t automatic. Further, it’s too easy for the inexperienced or even average person to add things to a WordPress site that don’t adapt well for mobile visitors.
This site, the simpler web, is built on WordPress and (I think) looks great on mobile devices. But I have been building on the web since the mid-90s, it’s my forté, and I don’t have a dinner menu, employees, food costs and a dining experience to worry about, so WordPress works well for me (although my other venture, Make A Tiny Website, is built with Squarespace for all the reasons outlined in this article).
The bottom line
I am a big fan of WordPress and have built sites around it for years. I know it well. I also know well what it takes to create and maintain a WordPress site, and I’ve seen small businesses completely lose their websites over things they’re inattentive to or even simply unaware of.
It is better to choose a simpler option for your restaurant’s website, and focus your energy on content and promotion — not technical details. It is better to not have to tinker much with a theme, or uploading things, or even calling your hosting company’s tech support and asking them to do it.
Do you need complex features? Do you have someone with the time and ability to handle your site’s software updates and related technical issues? Is your website budget $2,500 – $4,500 or more, plus hosting and maintenance?
If you answered no to any of the above, a Squarespace website is likeliest to best serve you and your business now and as you grow. While Squarespace has its pros and cons, it is the clear winner for independent cafés and eateries.