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Best practices for your restaurant's online menu!

Menus for restaurants on the internet are frequently an afterthought, however, they are more important than you realize. Not long ago, most people would choose where to eat based on the menu displayed in your restaurant's window or by asking a friend for a recommendation. However, the Internet is now the first port of call for hungry diners. Diners deciding where to eat want to be able to look up your menu and determine what they can expect from your restaurant before they arrive. In fact, according to a survey on how diners choose where to eat, 94 percent of Millennials check online menus before dining out. (source) This is particularly true in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of walking by your restaurant and browsing the menu, safety-conscious customers now meticulously plan their nights out by doing their research ahead of time – which includes researching your menu online. Customers aren't the only ones who benefit from online restaurant menus. Your online menu is also an effective marketing tool for your company.

Now that we realize the importance of having an online menu, let’s look at some of the best practices we must adopt to optimize the same:

  1. Ditch the PDF and adopt a text-based menu

Search engines such as Google crawl the Internet in search of keywords – keywords that help identify your restaurant's website when someone conducts a relevant search. With a text-based menu, Google can easily crawl your menu and display your specific dishes or cuisine when diners conduct relevant searches.
PDF menus can also be an issue if your restaurant uses contactless QR code menus. HTML versions enable you to create custom QR codes that diners can scan to open your restaurant's website on their phone. Aside from these technical considerations, there are also practical issues to consider when using PDF menus. If you use PDFs or images of your menu online, you must upload a new file or image each time you make a change to your menu. A text-based version of your menu, on the other hand, can be easily updated with a few clicks.

  1. Use your restaurant’s existing branding in the menu

If your restaurant has a logo, it should be prominently displayed on your online menu. If you have a colour scheme, those are also the best colours for your online menu. If you use certain fonts, typography, or photos in your marketing materials or on your physical restaurant menu, try to use them online as well. In other words, your online food menu should be consistent with the branding you use for your restaurant elsewhere. If it does not match, it may cause guests to be perplexed. Keep in mind that your online menu will be used as a marketing tool for your restaurant, so marketing best practices such as brand consistency must be followed.

Here’s an example of H&J Food Concepts using their existing branding on their online menu

  1. Use a mobile-friendly narrow menu orientation

Different paper formats and menu widths in a physical restaurant enhance the customer experience. As a result, restaurants frequently experiment with layouts. This, however, does not translate to a mobile menu.
A horizontally arranged mobile menu results in a lot of side-scrolling, pinching and zooming, which is not the "natural" way to use a mobile device, and it irritates users. You want to give the user what they expect so that they can navigate all options quickly. As a result, you can create a very long vertical list that shows your customers all of your offerings. Continue to add your items, your users are already accustomed to scrolling up and down on websites, the experience will feel more "natural" to them.
All the examples attached in the blog are pictures of a mobile friendly, narrow menu orientation!

  1. Adopt attention to detail with your item descriptions

Customers should be able to visualize the dish and imagine the taste and texture when browsing your menu, so this is one area where you should never cut corners. Allergies, intolerances, and plain old preferences for a large number of customers mean that ingredients are extremely important. Customers can simply ask their waiter for information on a dish's ingredients when dining in a restaurant, whereas this isn't usually possible when ordering online – as a result, a customer will generally look elsewhere if they can't find this information on your website. In the same vein, when creating your online menu, take extra care with your menu descriptions. 

Here’s how Tier Nom Pattisire describes their items!

  1. Include high-quality imagery

Guests eat first with their eyes. That is why it is critical to ensure that any photography you include on your online menu is of high quality. Avoid using stock images and instead, use your own images that are accurate representations of what each of your dishes look like. Images assist indecisive people in making decisions, resulting in more online orders being converted. Don't scrimp on this. Engage the services of a professional photographer to capture stunning images. Nobody will want to buy the item if the burger is poorly cropped and poorly lit.

Here’s an example of how Maiz Mexican Kitchen has used high-quality imagery as a hook!

  1. Add a section for combos and suggest add ons!

Make it easy for your guests and kitchen staff to customize by including all possible substitutions, additions, sides, and allergy restrictions in each menu item. Make it easy for those looking for complete meals, including a section with lunch/dinner combos and weekly specials. These upsell items give customers the impression that they are getting a good deal and help them make a final decision on their online order.
Combos and specials are also excellent strategies for upselling customers and increasing revenue in your restaurant, as well as offloading items that have performed poorly.

An example of Maiz Mexican using menu customization by adding extras and add ons.

  1. Keep your menu up to date with the latest ordering trends!

It's very frustrating for a customer to order something only to discover that the price has changed or that the item is no longer available on the menu. Maintain a current list of prices and items on the menu at all times. Adding to this, every restaurant has some items that are the most popular and profitable during certain periods of time. Why not design your menu so that your customers see them first? To begin, make a list of all of the dishes that you believe are the most popular with your customers at the moment and have a high-profit margin. After you've created this list, make sure to prioritize these items at the top of your online restaurant menu. You can also highlight a few with the tagline "bestseller." Adding a “most popular” category to the top of your menu with your highest-margin dishes will help drive more sales of those items.

In an ideal world, the fact that your food is delicious should be enough to keep customers returning for more. Unfortunately, the internet is a fickle beast that encourages people to be increasingly demanding. The name of the game in the complex world of food delivery is to make those sales and get those positive reviews pouring in. To accomplish this, you must treat your online menu with the same care that you would your restaurant window in order to ensure that your offering is enticing, competitive, and value for money. After you've created your menu, have a friend or colleague review it to ensure that it's doing everything it should be doing for your business.

Thrive is an online ordering platform that allows you to create personalized, beautiful, and interactive web-based menus for your restaurant free of charge. Set up your online food ordering system now to accept orders directly from customers instead of third party aggregators!

Adarsh Iyer

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