Why (and how) you need to put your restaurant’s menu online

January 31, 2020
Tablet with online menu for local restaurants

In this 5-minute read:

  • Why every restaurant needs an online menu
  • Key features of an effective online menu
  • Using your online menu as a marketing tool
  • Improving local SEO with your online menu
  • Upselling with your online menu

In today’s increasingly online world, even the diviest of dive restaurants needs a robust online presence. Even if you pretend not to care about online reviews, people are leaving them for you—whether you have claimed your online business profiles or not.

In addition, the first contact a lot of your customers are going to have with your restaurant is online, because over 9 out of 10 people search local businesses online before they visit them.

Attract new customers and keep them loyal with reputation management software. Get your free demo!

You need to but your best food (sic) forward, and your menu is the embodiment of your philosophy and business model. But simply throwing up a .pdf (or—gasp—an image) of your menu isn’t going to cut it. 

Let’s go over the reasons why.

People want to know what to expect from your restaurant before they visit

Some people enjoy surprises, but the vast majority of people searching for local places to eat want to know what they’re in for before they’ll spend a dime.

Your menu, when properly constructed, designed, and made searchable, is the easiest way for customers to get an idea of what type of food you serve, how innovative or traditional you are in your approach to cuisine, and what variety of items they might be able to find.

table setting with tablet displaying full online menu

Potential customers are searching for specific menu items online

Restaurants and food searches are the epitome of instant gratification. Sure, when people search for local businesses online, a significant portion of those searches result in purchases within the next 24 hours.

However, when someone is searching “Vietnamese food near me,” chances are they are ready to eat RIGHT NOW and if you don’t show up well in that specific search, you’ll be out of luck.

But that’s not all. While tons of people search using the “(type of cuisine)+near me” search string, a significant portion of those searches are much more specific, as in the actual dish. 

This can be as general as something like “noodles near me” or it can be as specific as “Pork cao lầu near me.” 

beautiful bowl of pork cao lau for menu optimization

If your menu is “non-searchable,” or in other words, if Google’s (or whatever other search engine customers use to try to find you) “spiders” can’t read your online menu and find specific search term results, you won’t ever show up in the top results when people search for your type of cuisine or those specific menu items online.

This is why you shouldn’t use a .pdf or image to post your menu online. There are ways to make .pdfs searchable by search engines, but it’s fiddly to do and the results are still marginal even if you take the time to do it. It’s better to build a proper HTML version of your menu.

Even a simple, plain webpage with a detailed menu included as plain test will be more valuable to your business than a flowery, but unreadable and unsearchable image or .pdf menu.

Your menu is useful, relevant content for marketing and SEO

As noted above, a searchable .pdf version of your menu is better than nothing, but you will rank higher in search engines if you build your menu with easily searchable text.tablet with online menu for restaurants

SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and getting your menu in the proper format to be searched and ranked by search engines is the first step in improving your local SEO.

Read more: Local SEO: 15 free tips for better search rankings

Your menu is part of “next level” info to complete Google and Yelp business profiles

When people search local restaurants, the first thing they often look at are your Google and Yelp reviews, which often show up in the top search results.

If a search for local Mexican restaurants turns up your listing and your main competitor’s listing, the “next level” info and detail you include in your business profile on these review sites will be the determining factor.

beautiful and colorful Mexican food for online restaurant menu

If your competitor has a 4-star rating, lots of fresh reviews, complete info about the facilities and ambiance, high quality photography, and a full, search-engine-friendly menu—and you have a similar listing but don’t include your menu—guess who is likely to get more customers’ business? 

That’s correct… not you.

Go deeper: The top 5 things every small business should include in their Google Business listing

If you’re set up for online ordering, your menu is your primary sales and upsell tool

We’ve talked about how a search-engine-friendly menu can bring you more customers. Now let’s talk briefly about how a properly built menu can help you get more orders from those customers.

If you are set up for online ordering and/or delivery, you need to pay careful attention to how your online menu is constructed. Clear descriptions are a must, and professional photos of each item will take you to the next level. You can even add special offers or sale items depending on your online ordering platform.

Above all, double check at least weekly to ensure your online menu is 100% correct, or you’ll lose sales and repeat customers.

Even if you have to build a specific menu for your online customers that is less complete but more reliable than your in-house menu, make sure people can actually purchase everything they find online.

cell phone with takeout menu

A good online menu can stand in for your in-house waitstaff and hint to your remote diners, “Are you ready for dessert?” or “I love our pear salad with that entree.”

Here’s a good article on optimizing your online menu for online ordering.

Don’t forget to improve your online presence with reputation management software

A great business profile on all the relevant review sites, including a robust and beautiful (and fully searchable) menu, will go a long way toward improving your online presence and attract more customers.

But that’s just part of the picture. Make sure you are monitoring and responding to all your online reviews on all the popular sites. Reputation management software can save you tons of time each week with this vital task.

Womply’s small business software can not only gather all your online reviews in one place with one login for easy (or even automatic) response, but you can also see your revenue trends, transactions, customer history, competitors’ revenue for benchmarking, get a complete customer contact list, send email reminders and marketing offers, and much, much more.

Fill out the form below for a free, no-obligation demo.

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