How to optimize your restaurant menu on your website

By Brian Casel, founder of Restaurant Engine

Is your food menu posted on your restaurant's website? Of course it is. It's one of the most sought after items your visitors are looking for when they're checking you out on the web.

But is your online food menu optimized for turning visitors into customers?

Here are some tips from an email course, Winning More Customers From The Web, available for free on the Restaurant Engine Blog.

Your PDF food menus... Keep 'em or chuck 'em?

Don't trash them quite yet.

Posting your food menus on your website as a PDF download can often be a quick and easy solution for getting your menus online, fast. In that respect, having a PDF food menu is better than not having any menu at all.

But are PDF Food menus the best, most optimized way of presenting your food menu(s) on your website? No.

For the vast majority of your website visitors, PDF's only cause frustration. They're bulky and slow to download (nobody wants to download something to their computer just to glance over your food menu).

On top of that, Since PDFs aren't easy to edit, they're often left out-of-date. And if they're on a mobile device, PDFs become even more problematic.

A better online food menu

I strongly recommend that you present your online food menu seamlessly, as part of your website design. It should look and feel as if it's part of your website — because it is!

Your menu needs to be easily accessible and legible for all to see. It should also be easily viewed on smartphones and tablets — In fact, your entire website should be mobile-optimized. (See my previous article, 3 tips for creating an effective mobile website).

The difference between your online and offline food menus

Why should they be different at all? Here's why:

Your customers have a different motive when they're browsing your website than when they're sitting in your restaurant.

At your restaurant, they're making a decision about which item they wish to order for their meal. But when they're on your website, they're making a decision about whether or not to dine at your restaurant. It's highly likely that your online food menu will make or break that decision. That's why optimizing your online food menu is so important.

5 ways to optimize your online food menus

Here are few ways to show your customers what they want to see:

  1. Show Prices: Customers need to know if you're within their budget or not.
  2. Include Photos: Attaching photos to your food items can go a long way to pulling the visitor in and making them stick around a bit longer. It also helps whet their appetite, pushing them closer to the point of calling in their reservation or placing an order.
  3. Weekly Specials: Your food menus should extend beyond just your menus page. Showcase your featured specials right on your homepage to draw first-time visitors in and build excitement around your offering.
  4. Keep it up to date: There's nothing more frustrating than a restaurant with an out of date or innacurate information on their site — especially their food menu! It's imperitive that your online food menu stays in sync with your restaurant's menu.
  5. Bonus: Add online ordering. Does your restaurant do pickup and delivery orders? Adding online ordering to your website is a great way to increase and make it easier for customers to place their orders right from your website. Online ordering has proven to be popular with professionals who place lunch orders for their office.

Brian Casel is the founder of Restaurant Engine, a website design solution for restaurants. For more advice on how to win more customers from the web, visit the Restaurant Engine Blog and get the free email course for restaurant owners.

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