WordPress is nipping at your vertical: Restaurants, weddings, and now hotels

Automattic, the company behind the open-source blogging platform WordPress used by millions, is steadily pushing into the domain of custom theme publishers with vertical-specific paid theme products.

It started with weddings and restaurants last year. This week, the company forged into the independent hotel, bed and breakfast and room rentals.

Independent hotel operators can head straight to the WordPress source and use the theme to build a simple, elegant, and attractive website that showcases the property and provides reservations capabilities.

The basic theme is available for free, with upgrades available to boost the core functionality.

While the company is intimately connected with the open-source WordPress platform, Automattic is also a for-profit entity. So it’s not at all surprising that they would work to focus attention on the extensive content management capabilities of the platform.

Beyond simply a blogging platform, WordPress is being used to run even some of the most complex websites. Small businesses might be unaware or intimidated by the thousands of themes to choose from, and so this direct entry into the WordPress ecosystem will most certainly appeal to many.

The many entrepreneurs that have popped up to support these verticals on WordPress, such as Restaurant Engine and Hermes Themes, and some that have created their own full-featured custom systems like buuteeq, are most certainly watching with interest.

While these movements are clearly a move to bring more businesses into the Automattic ecosystem – including the myriad add-on products like JetPac and VaultPress, they do threaten the entry-level customer that might have a larger lifetime value as they grow into their online publishing needs.

The limitations for small businesses might still be too great – especially if they are unable to figure out how to customize the theme. Hotels are offered one theme, Stay, while restaurants have two (Confit and Bon Vivant). If the customer does not like the look, they will then have to pay for the add-on. If they want to use their own custom domain, they have to pay for the add-on to customize – and someone to customize it. If they want to publish their own HD videos, they have to pay for the add-on. If they want more storage for hi-res images and videos, they have to pay.

These costs can most certainly add-up, especially as they are at a yearly renewal. Obviously hosting and domain name registration is always going to be a cost for any site regardless of location; the rest of the fees should be carefully considered to ensure that this the best product at this price for ease of use.

Sometimes using another service focused on the vertical – ie. a company that specifically makes hotel sites for WordPress – will offer deeper integrations, better service, and more robust development times in sync with actual industry challenges. It can be a concern when a generalist company like WordPress comes in and offers a skin of their product for a vertical they may not completely understand.

All that being said, this is a simple, quick and affordable entry into a well-designed, useful and user-friendly website designed by the folks that started WordPress. Businesses from stereotypically-tech unsavvy verticals across hospitality now have no excuse not to get up on the times and deliver customers the experience they have come to expect.

Automattic sent their CEO Toni Schneider to TechCrunch to chat about their new restaurant vertical late last year.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick is the Editorial Director for tnooz. Prior to this role, Nick has multi-hyphenated his way through a variety of passions: restaurateur, photographer, filmmaker, corporate communicator, Lyft driver, Airbnb host, journalist, and event organizer.



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  1. Mark Mattson

    Great piece, Nick. I’ve been developing within the WordPress framework for years. I’ve also been reaching out to others through blogs and articles about the clear functional and economic advantages of WordPress.

    I do this because there is a misconception among many destination software buyers about what open source is and how it compares with proprietary solutions. In the minds of some, proprietary solutions are the only ones that can be trusted. Open sourcing is only practiced by pimply-faced teenagers in their parent’s basements.

    Your article is another example of how far this misconception is from truth.

    Given that 55% of all managed websites use WordPress, there is only one real gorilla in the room. WordPress supports 65 million sites worldwide compared to the meager scores supported by those who control much of the destination market.

    Moreover, WordPress is a community of millions who spend time inventing rather than recreating the same wheel again and again. This brings costs down and productivity up. It also protects against system burn out because the core WordPress code is constantly improved and updated free by some of the smartest people on the planet.

    I wish I could show everyone what WordPress can do. Even a crusty old vet like myself gets a thrill sent up his spine when a dream rolls off the assembly line after a short and relatively inexpensive development sprint.

    Anyway, more power to you, my wise friend.


    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion


      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! It’s important to also note that, due to WordPress’ popularity, its much easier to find a developer/designer who can help with customization. It’s often hard to find a reliable dev in today’s red hot marketplace, so the fact that its not a disaster if a relationship doesn’t work our is huge.

      It offers much more flexibility, which is ever more important in the now-standard flux state of the world.



  2. Brian Casel

    Hey Nick – great piece. Thanks for including the reference to Restaurant Engine 🙂

    I actually think it’s great to see Automatic expanding into the same two niche’s we’ve been focused on. If it helps small business owners see the value in having a strong web presence, that’s a good thing in my book 🙂

    Like you said, restaurant owners appreciate the ability to customize their site and seek personalized 1-to-1 support (without costing an arm and a leg). I think that’s what separates Restaurant Engine from the lower-cost DIY website “builders” and higher cost of hiring a web designer.


    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      It seems that all of the players in the space are happy to see Automattic jump in – that’s great to hear. I think that the ease-of-use question is the key differentiator that a product like yours has. A business owner can be online with a full website in less than 3 days, versus the process of modifying a theme for WordPress.

      Of course, if they just want the basic theme that’s available in their category direct from WordPress, and don’t want to customize, than that is also fairly simple. So it’s all going to depend on how the customers react to the offerings – and which offering that come across first in their search for the right tool for their project.



  3. Dumitru Brinzan

    Hey Nick.

    Personally I am glad that Automattic have approached this market as well, it was expected to happen sooner or later. Most hotels around the world still don’t know enough about WordPress and about what it can provide for them, so maybe Automattic will attract more attention and make WP more popular among hoteliers.

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning HermesThemes 🙂

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Agreed! And again, I reiterated that those of you in this space should double-down on customer service. Small businesses are tough customers because of this need, but most will be fiercely loyal to companies that make their hectic days a little less so through great customer service.


  4. Vikram

    Excellent post Nick! Here is my latest article on how hotels should harness the power of WordPress-http://www.wordsofvikram.com/wordpress-for-hotels/ . It’s amazing to see how WordPress is quickly evolving into a complete marketing platform for so many business sectors!

  5. Arjun

    Great write up Nick

    I agree with you that WordPress brings with itself trust and comfort which many small businesses need.
    At the same time WordPress is powerful enough to support big sites and businesses.

    Will also like to do a self plug about a product where I work : Betaout. We have found many of our clients use WordPress while producing tons of content for their content marketing strategy. The simplicity and ubiquity of WordPress eases lot of learning curve hassle for their non tech teams

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      It’s important to be able to grow your web presence alongside your business, and WordPress does provide that flexibility which is nice for those businesses with an aggressive growth plan.


  6. Adam Roseland

    You can’t blame WordPress for getting into these categories, but there are plenty of solutions that can customize a wordpress theme for you and still be very affordable.

    Great post though!

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      The main differentiator will be customer service – can a business owner unfamiliar with the web get enough help to navigate the unknown? I think its great to have an off-the-shelf WordPress theme, but it still needs to be managed, updated and tended to by someone who knows what they are doing.

      WordPress has put a nice, marketable skin on these niche themes, but will they be able to handle the customer service of the most needy business owners?


  7. Brandon Dennis

    Hey Nick, thanks for the shout-out to buuteeq. Actually, buuteeq doesn’t use WordPress. We built our own digital marketing system from scratch, designed specifically for hotels. Some other design agencies use WordPress for their clients, but instead, we chose to build a new system from the ground up so that we could hand-mold every cog in the engine, and optimize them for hotels.


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