Food blogging changed my life.
When I started EatsLeeds in 2016 I was honestly at a low point.
I’d just lost my job at a bar. I lived in a shoddy flat (that I could barely afford the rent on). I had zero creative fulfilment.
Maybe I was going through my quarter-life-crisis or something, but I was having a major “I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life” moment.
I can remember the day I decided to start my blog. I was sat in a restaurant eating brunch with my (then) husband-of-the-future when I suggested that I might want to start food blogging.
He was super- encouraging and supportive (because he’s great like that – that’s why I married him, I guess).
So I spent the next few months (and years – let’s be honest, I’m 100% still learning this stuff) researching, trying-and-failing and figuring out food blogging.
One thing I have figured out after setting up three food blogs (EatsLeeds.co.uk, this site and my short-lived baking blog, BakeAndBeHappy.com), as well as numerous personal and dummy sites, is how to quickly set up a food blog in WordPress.
So here’s my quick-start guide.
You can easily set up a food blog in just an afternoon, but it will require you to know in advance exactly what you want on your site, and to make decisions fairly quickly.
Affiliate disclosure: his post uses affiliate links. If you purchase products or services via an affiliate link I’ll get a small commission (which supports the running of this site) and it won’t cost you anything extra. I’ll specifically point out each affiliate link in the post.
Setting up a blog for a food business
Blogging is an important part of digital and content marketing.
For food businesses – whether local (cafes, restaurants and shops) or online (selling kitchen utensils or long-life foods via eCommerce), or a combination, digital should be part of your strategy these days.
With food purchase decisions increasingly influenced by trends and recommendations online, and high demand from consumers for more information (which people are increasingly turning to the internet for), having a ‘home’ online for your offering is essential.
If your food blog will be part of a website that you already have in place you likely will be able to add a ‘blog’ section to the existing navigation (just ask your web developer or whoever set up the website for you).
If you don’t already have a site, you may have a few additional considerations, like:
You’ll likely require a products or services page, which wouldn’t necessarily be included in a ‘regular’ food blog
eCommerce or booking plugins
These allow customers to easily buy your stuff, or book tables at your restaurant, online. They might integrate with (or already be part of) your existing inventory or point of sale system. More on plugins later.
Static homepage vs. latest posts
For blogs, it is common practice for the homepage be a showcase for the blogger’s latest posts. As a business, however, it is more common (and may make more sense, in terms of showing visitors what your company can do) to display a static front page, with information about your business and links to key areas of your site.
How to set up a food blog in WordPress in an afternoon
Purchase hosting services
Hosting refers to the server where your site is stored.
If your domain is the sign hanging outside your storefront, hosting is the shop floor inside (and hosting fees are your ‘rent’ on the virtual space).
I use and recommend the hosting plans at (affiliate link) SiteGround. Their hosting plans are reasonably priced (I mean, they might not be the cheapest, but honestly its worth a couple of quid more each year for support that actually lets you speak to a human who’ll help fix your problems when something goes wrong).
Just choose your plan (for most beginner bloggers and small businesses the smallest StartUp plan is honestly plenty), and away you go.
Read more about choosing and implementing a hosting plan for your food blog here.
Choose and secure your domain name
Choosing a domain name is a simple but crucial part of setting up a blog in WordPress. If you’ve already purchased a domain name, just move right on ahead to step 2. If not, learn how to choose and secure a domain name for your food blog here.
I recommend (affiliate link) SiteGround for domain names and hosting, as I’ve found they have way better support than other hosting services (read: when something goes wrong, they’ll help you fix it, sharpish) and they’re pretty competitive on price too.
Call me Captain Obvious, but clearly, a key step to starting a blog in WordPress is to install WordPress.
If you’re not 100% settled on using WordPress as your platform yet, here are ten reasons why I recommend WordPress.org for food bloggers and businesses.
Most hosting services have a quick ‘one-press’ WordPress installation service. In SiteGround this is super easy. Get my full post & tutorial on WordPress installation in SiteGround here, but as a quick overview:
- You can use the SiteGround Wizard to preinstall WordPress on your site in a couple of seconds. There is a tutorial from SiteGround here, but literally, you just need to log in to your account, select ‘yes’ to ‘Do you want to start a new website?’ and follow the directions in the pop-up to select WordPress. That’s basically it.
- If you’d rather not use an installation wizard, its dead simple to install WordPress via cPanel using an auto-installer (like Softaculous) in a few minutes. This is the option I tend to use, as it offers more options for customisation than a one-click installation wizard. Get the SiteGround tutorial here.
- You can also manually install WordPress on the server using MySQL. Its very techy and, to be honest, kinda pointless nowadays, especially if you’re using a WordPress-friendly hosting service (like SiteGround) that lets you auto-install. There is a tutorial from SiteGround here, but like I said, using an auto-installer (as above) makes more sense.
Configure email & Gmail
This might sound like a non-essential step, but never underesimate the unprofessionalism of an ‘@gmail.com’ or ‘@hotmail.com’ email address when contacting a business.
It just kinda makes it look like you’re not legit.
Don’t do it.
It takes a couple of minutes to set up an email address associated with your domain in most hosting platforms (at least, it does in SiteGround) and to configure it with a client you’re familiar with (so you can use it from your Gmail account).
Find & install your perfect theme
This is the bit that is likely to take longer than an hour: its easy to get analysis paralysis when there are so many themes to choose from.
I’ve got a full post about choosing your WordPress theme here, but here’s a basic rundown on tools & resources I’ve used:
- For free themes, I’ve used Colorlib (that’s not an affiliate link. I’m just recommending them because I like them). My first food blog used Activello, and Colorlib also has some great resources for anyone looking for free themes, like this list of free themes for recipe sites and this list of free themes for restaurants.
- If free themes aren’t floating your boat, I recommend (affiliate link) Creative Market for paid themes starting at just a few quid. I bought the theme for this site from Creative Market, and you can find more themes especially suited to food businesses here.
- A lot of bloggers also recommend (affiliate link) Divi by Elegant Themes. I’ve never used it myself, but it is a great option for anyone looking for a drag-and-drop site builder.
When choosing your WordPress theme, you should make sure that it will be responsive on mobile (for most modern themes this isn’t a problem, but its always worth checking before you make a purchase). You should also check what options you have for customising colours and fonts to fit your overall branding (these elements are particularly likely to be limited with free themes).
Once you’ve downloaded a .zip file of your theme, log into WordPress and go to appearance > themes (in the left sidebar). Click ‘Add New’ then ‘Upload Theme’, locate and upload the theme .zip file from your computer, and then activate the theme. You can get a more detailed tutorial from SiteGround here.
Personalise your theme
As with choosing a theme, the time this takes is akin to the length of a piece of string. It could take a while to get your theme looking exactly how you want it, depending on how much you know, how much information is offered with your theme, and how much customisation is required, but you should be able to get it looking decent in an afternoon.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the theme documentation to get the standard demo content in (so that your new site looks exactly like the theme as you saw it before you bought it), and work from there to add your own colours, fonts, logo, imagery and copy.
Install and activate essential plugins
WordPress plugins are pieces of software that you can add to your site, to give you extra functionality or features.
The fewer plugins you install, the better (in terms of site speed and security), but when working with theme-based sites some plugins are necessary to keep your site running. I use the free versions of all of the following plugins (so no affiliate links in this list):
- Yoast for SEO (it won’t magically jump you to the first page of Google, but it helps with basic on-page optimisation)
- UpDraftPlus for backups
- iThemes for security
- NinjaForms for contact forms
- FatCat EasyPricing for pricing tables
- WP RecipeMaker for displaying recipes
- Depending on your business, you may also want to look at plugins that can help to make restaurant reservations, order takeaways or process eCommerce orders.
Install your plugins, activate them, make any customisations required, and keep them up to date.
Write your key pages
This will likely include your about page, contact page, privacy disclosure policy, etc. At this stage, you’ll also want to start thinking about planning your site content.
Planning and writing these key pages and content is actually a service I offer to food bloggers and businesses. Take a look at my food writing services here, or contact me for more information and to arrange a call.
Go forth and create. Start that food blog or take your foodie business online with WordPress + SiteGround, so you have a home for all your awesome foodie content.