Picture this: You’re looking for somewhere to get dinner tonight. After searching online for “restaurants near me,” you find a nearby Italian place that looks promising—all that’s left to do is check out their menu to make sure the food looks good.
But when you land on the restaurant’s website, you hit your first snag: You can’t find a menu. After some searching, you finally find it—in a sidebar menu that’s difficult to navigate on the small screen on your phone.
And then you get to the menu itself. It’s a PDF file, and the text is so small on your phone screen, you’d need a microscope to read it.
So do you pinch and zoom on different parts of the screen to try to read that menu? Or do you give up and look for a different restaurant? It probably depends on how hungry you are—but research shows that 68 percent of potential guests would give up and find somewhere else to eat.
The days of PDF menus with too-small-to-read text are over. Restaurants have a better option for creating dynamic, user-friendly online menus—and more and more guests are demanding it. Read on to learn all you need to know.
Why Restaurants Need to Put Their Menus Online
You could avoid this hassle altogether by just not having an online menu for your restaurant website, right?
A 2017 Tripadvisor study showed that 94 percent of potential restaurant guests are influenced by a restaurant’s online presence, and that the online menu is the top factor when they’re deciding where to eat.
In 2019, another study showed that 77 percent of consumers check out restaurant websites before paying them a visit or placing a takeout or delivery order. That’s the same study that showed that nearly 70 percent of guests will look for a different restaurant if they aren’t impressed by your website.
Think of your own menu as an advertisement for your restaurant. It’s a place where you can show off the kind of cuisine you serve, highlight specials, show guests pictures of mouth-watering creations, and more. An effective, professional menu on your website can (and should) strengthen your brand’s relationships with its guests.
Best Practices for Making a Menu Online
As a restaurant owner or manager, you already know how hard it can be to translate your menu from the physical version guests use in your restaurant, to an online version that’s more of a marketing tool. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when making a menu online.
Keep Your Online Menu Current
Once you create your online menu, your work isn’t finished—you need to keep it up-to-date over time. If your restaurant’s menu has rotating specials or seasonal offerings, you’ll need to update your online menu to reflect those changes, every time they change in your restaurant. You’ll also want to make sure pricing is consistent on your online menu. The last thing you want is for a hungry guest to visit your restaurant with their heart set on a menu item they saw online, just to learn that it isn’t available to order anymore.
Design With Your Food in Mind
There are a few tips to keep in mind when designing your online menu. It needs to be easy to read. It needs to be broken up into logical sections (like your bar menu and your dessert menu) that make it easy for guests to find the type of food or drink they’re looking for.
But beyond all that, your online menu should be beautiful. Embrace menu design elements that make it look good. Most importantly, make use of high-quality photography so the most important thing about your restaurant—the food—can really shine.
Use Your Restaurant’s Existing Branding
If your restaurant has a logo, that should be featured somewhere on your online menu. If you have a certain color scheme, those are the best colors for your online menu, too. If there are certain fonts, typography, or photos you use in marketing materials or your physical restaurant menu, try to use those online.
In other words, your online food menu should match the branding you use for your restaurant in other areas. If it doesn’t match, it could confuse guests. Remember that your online menu will serve as a marketing tool for your restaurant, so marketing best practices, like brand consistency, need to apply.
How to Make a Menu Online That Works
Step 1: Search for Inspiration
Before you even start to make a menu online for your restaurant, look for inspiration.
Go to your favorite restaurants’ websites and view their online menus. Try to see them through a guest’s eyes. What works? What doesn’t?
Step 2: Write Your Copy
If you already have a physical menu, this step may already be done. But next, you should write all the copy that will go into your online menu. Be creative, but remember to also be clear and concise. The names of dishes should make them sound mouthwateringly delicious. Use descriptions when necessary to ensure your menu is perfectly clear and addresses any questions guests may have about your food.
Step 3: Get High-Quality Photos of Your Menu Items
Guests eat with their eyes first. That’s why it’s so important to make sure any photography you include on your online menu is high-quality. Try to stay away from stock images, and use your own images that are accurate representations of what each of your dishes looks like.
You may want to invest in a photographer who can spend a day getting great images of all your dishes—studies show menu items that have photos get more online orders.
Step 4: Put It All Together
Now it’s time for the fun part: Putting all this together and designing your online menu. Non-designers, don’t worry! You don’t need to be a graphic design expert to do this.
There are many online menu designers available, making restaurant menu design accessible to any restaurateur, regardless of their design skills (or lack thereof). Be careful, though—many online menu makers, especially free menu makers, will only give you a PDF of your menu at the end. We’ll get into the details below, but there are many reasons you should avoid PDF files when it comes to making an online menu for your restaurant.
Step 5: Share Your New Menu
Once your menu is up on your website, it’s time to spread the word. Share it with guests who dine in at your restaurant, or post about it on your restaurant’s social media. You could even offer guests a QR code to access an online menu when they dine in at your restaurant—a contactless dining feature that’s very popular in the post-pandemic age.
Collect feedback from guests, if possible, that will help you fine-tune your online menu and make it as beautiful and functional as possible for the people who use it—your guests.
Why PDF Menus Just Don’t Work
Since an online menu is such a critical part of your restaurant’s online presence, it needs to be done right. Put another way, it needs to deliver the kind of experience you want your guests to have.
That’s why PDF menus don’t work on restaurant websites.
80 percent of people looking for restaurants online do so on mobile devices, not their computers. So when they land on a PDF menu, it’s almost always way too small to read. They have to pinch to zoom in and out to see text and pictures. It’s just not a great guest experience.
Data backs that up. The average user spends just 15 seconds on a PDF menu before they navigate elsewhere—potentially away from your restaurant’s website to find somewhere with a more readable online menu.
So what should restaurants do instead? Use Popmenu. The average user spends 1 minute and 50 seconds on a Popmenu menu. That’s more than seven times as long as they spend on a PDF.
Popmenu: The One-of-a-Kind, Interactive Way to Make a Menu Online
Popmenu uses one-of-a-kind, dynamic menu technology that turns your menu into an interactive experience.
Our restaurant menu maker is patented to create an engaging digital menu that will make your online visitors hungry for more.
When you build your online menu using Popmenu, you can add item names, descriptions, sizes, optional upgrades, and photos all from one simple, easy-to-use dashboard. You can also create different menus, as well as different sections within those menus. You can customize your entire online menu, so you can make it look just the way you want it to.
But the real magic happens when guests use your online menu. They can like dishes and leave reviews for them. You can approve, reject, and reply to their reviews.
Popmenu menus are shareable, and optimized for all devices, so no matter how your guests find you, your menu will deliver the same engaging experience. And you can even use our Print Center to turn your online menu into a physical menu to use in your restaurant, making your guests’ experience consistent whether they order in-person or online. You can use a menu template, or just drag and drop sections to easily design the menu of your dreams.
In other words, Popmenu’s online menu builder creates value for restaurant owners in two major ways:
- Its easy-to-use menu maker allows restaurant owners to build menus quickly and easily, and to design and display them to create the exact experience they want their guests to have.
- Its mobile-optimized, interactive technology turns your menu into something your guests can engage with, rather than just look at. No pinching and zooming required, ever.
Popmenu Does So Much More than Online Menus
Popmenu is the best solution for creating one-of-a-kind online menus for restaurants. But it can do so much more than that.
Popmenu is an all-in-one set of digital tools for modern restaurants, offering website creation and management, online ordering and delivery, cutting-edge marketing tools, search engine optimization, and so much more.
Popmenu allows restaurants to control their entire digital presence. It’s the only digital platform like this that’s built just for restaurants, with the tools they need.
And with Popmenu, you get it all for one affordable, flat monthly fee that never goes up.