Online Booking Systems for Your Business: A Guide to WordPress Plugins
In today’s fast-paced world, customers expect to be able to make bookings and reservations quickly and efficiently, at any time and from any location. For businesses such as restaurants, holiday rentals, and venues, bookings are the lifeblood of their operations. However, constantly manning phones and instantly responding to emails is impractical and simply unmanageable for many businesses. This is where an online booking system comes in handy. It enables customers to view availability and make reservations anytime, anywhere – and WordPress has a plethora of great plugins on hand to meet your needs. In this article, we’ll show you how to choose the right booking plugin for your WordPress website, then offer some suggestions depending on your type of business.
With so many tables and time slots available at a restaurant, handling bookings can become pretty complex. A good WordPress reservation plugin not only gives you the means to connect more easily with customers but also offers an efficient management system for bookings. Let’s take a look at some of the best reservation plugins tailored specifically to restaurant reservations.
1. Open Table Widget
The Open Table Widget plugin enables you to add OpenTable reservation forms to your website. While there is an official plugin, this alternative provides a simplified design and more options. The basic plugin is free, but there’s also a premium option available starting at $37. This offers support for international restaurants, the ability to customize pre and post widget content for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and much more.
2. Restaurant Reservations
The popular Restaurant Reservations plugin not only enables you to take online reservations but also helps you to manage your booking system. A neat feature enables you to confirm or reject bookings by sending customized email notifications, directly from the plugin’s dashboard. The booking form can be added to any page, post, or widget area. It has a clean and simple look and is easy to use. There are also a series of paid add-ons available including custom fields and MailChimp integration.
3. ReDi Restaurant Reservation
The ReDi Restaurant Reservation plugin also offers online reservations coupled with a booking management system. One nice additional feature enables you to view the reservation page in real-time from a tablet or mobile device during service. Although this plugin is free to download, there’s a monthly fee of around $7. Its cheap cost means you could try it for a month or two to see if it suits your needs.
Service Provider Appointments and Bookings
Regardless of the service you provide, online booking management offers a fast and easy solution to connect customers to your services. Sometimes it’s simply inconvenient for a customer to pick up the phone or wait for an email response. Making sure it’s easy to book online means there’s less chance of potential customers checking out your competitors. Below, we’ve offered three of our favorite free plugins – let’s take a look!
1. BirchPress Scheduler
The BirchPress Scheduler plugin offers an excellent solution for service-based businesses. Booking forms can be embedded into a page or post and can also be optimized for responsive themes. This plugin can handle multiple locations as well as multiple staff and services. It also enables you to set service lengths, padding times, and prices. Premium pricing starts at $75.
2. Booking Ultra Pro Appointments Plugin
While the Booking Ultra Pro Appointments Plugin performs similarly to BirchPress Scheduler, the interface is far more aesthetically pleasing. The layout of the four-step booking process is modern and sleek, while also providing an easy-to-use form for your customers. Other key features of this plugin are PayPal integration and the ability to reschedule appointments. The premium version starts at $39.97 and offers some helpful additional features such as Stripe integration, Google Calendar syncing, and flexible pricing.
3. Easy Appointments
The Easy Appointments plugin is another great solution for taking online bookings. The front-end form is neat and compact, while the back end is both aesthetically pleasing and easy to manage. The plugin supports multiple locations, services, and staff and even enables you to create separate calendars for each. This is one of the easiest appointment plugins to use and comes highly recommended for inexperienced developers. It’s a great option if you’re building your own site.
Whether you manage a hotel, run a bed and breakfast, or own a holiday rental, online bookings can eliminate much of the stress involved in taking reservations. For a customer in a completely different time zone, the round-the-clock availability of the online booking process is a huge advantage. Let’s take a look at some of the best free plugins available for online accommodation bookings:
1. WP Simple Booking Calendar
The WP Simple Booking Calendar plugin does exactly what it promises. While it looks a little basic, it’s simple to install and is especially recommended for non-technical users. The free version offers a great basic solution for taking bookings, but if you require multiple calendars you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version. This version does offer lots of other helpful features, including syncing with websites such as Booking.com and Airbnb.
2. Booking Calendar
Booking Calendar is one of those plugins that has stood the test of time. Originally developed in 2009, it enables customers to check availability and quickly make a booking – and it still does enough to meet the needs of today’s WordPress users. The responsive front and back end designs, coupled with a sleek customizable look, make for an overall solid solution. Although this plugin was designed for booking accommodation, it can also be adapted to other services. While a number of options related to time slot selection are not available in the free version, you can add this functionality by purchasing the premium version, which starts at a pretty pricey $99.
3. Pinpoint Booking System
While this is not the easiest plugin to use, the Pinpoint Booking System plugin does offer a much more detailed interface than traditional-looking accommodation booking forms. Customers also have the ability to change the calendar on the front end to display multiple or fewer months. The basic package is PayPal integrated and WooCommerce compatible, and there are also paid add-ons available for other payment providers.
Businesses already do so much to provide a great service that taking bookings and reservations could end up being a huge inconvenience. Online booking management systems can solve so many issues, but finding a solution that suits your workflow and business could be a struggle. Using the advice and plugins we’ve suggested, you should now be able to offer your customers the flexibility of online bookings. From your point of view, you’ll also be able to manage bookings more efficiently. To get started, simply select the plugin that sounds right for your business and give it a try!