For one reason or another, I’ve been keeping my latest startup mostly under wraps (at least as far as my personal blog and Twitter are concerned). I recently came to the realization that I’m constantly talking/posting about what I will do and not enough about what I’ve done. This time, I just wanted to keep my head down, hustle, and ship (and talk about it later).
But I’m proud to say, this little startup of mine has officially launched in beta. It’s called Restaurant Engine.
In a nutshell: It’s a turnkey, hosted website solution designed specifically for Restaurants. I won’t cover everything about the service here since you can read about it on the site. In this post, I just want to touch on a few “behind the scenes” aspects of the project.
Building on the Collaboration Model
As I’ve written about extensively in the past, I’m a firm believer in the collaboration model for web design production. The key to creating awesome work on the web is to team up with the very best craftsmen in the business. And to constantly grow and mix up my network of collaborators to keep things fresh, grow and learn alongside A players in the industry. This approach has taken my client web design business to the next level.
With Restaurant Engine, I’m applying the same approach to a template-based web design product. I looked to my awesome network of designers and developers to help create the design templates (themes) found on Restaurant Engine, as well as the RestaurantEngine.com site itself. The plan is to continue to bring in leading web designers to create upcoming templates for our customers.
Re-Thinking a WordPress Themes Shop
Restaurant Engine is a different take on a WordPress themes shop. It’s a hosted service, with a customized experience and feature set tailored specifically to the needs of restaurant owners. Much like a web designer who hosts the customized websites he/she builds for clients, Restaurant Engine does the same, only with more automation. A Restaurant Engine subscription gives the customer web hosting, a website powered by WordPress (with custom-tailored functionality and options), choice of any theme in our collection, and of course dedicated customer support.
From my experience running ThemeJam (a traditional WP themes shop) I found the customer-base has it’s limitations. We can make the following assumptions about a customer who purchases and downloads a WordPress theme:
- They know what WordPress is.
- They know how to find and purchase their own web hosting.
- They know how to install WordPress on their web server.
- They know how to install a WordPress theme.
- They know how to configure WP settings properly, find and install the right WP plugins for their needs.
- They know how to create an effective site map and develop a content strategy.
And now, a few notes about the tech going on behind the scenes of Restaurant Engine:
In case you haven’t guessed by now, it’s built using WordPress Multisite.
Every customer’s site is a site on the network. There’s also a “template” site, that is replicated whenever a new site is created. The template site has one of our themes pre-activated, various settings pre-configured, and a base sitemap and pages pre-created to get things started.
Signup and Stripe Recurring Payments
I’m really excited about this part. Working with the talented Pippin Williamson, we implemented a custom signup form which simultaneously initiates recurring subscription payments (with a free trial period) processed by the Stripe, and creates a site and account on the network for the customer. Stripe truly is an amazing game-changer in the world of online credit card processing. Absolutely brilliant user experience for managing customers, orders, charges, discounts, etc. No monthly fees. All cards accepted. I can’t say enough good things…
Another piece I’m really excited about is the customer support system. After investigating several options, I’ve settled on Tender app for the support system and Knowledge Base. For live chat support (and pre-sales chat), I’m going with Snap Engage.
Both services offer the ability to embed widgets. So I’ve actually integrated both the support forum and live chat support right in the WordPress dashboard: