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Designing the “PERFECT” Online Menu

online menu
• 80% of consumers think it’s important to see a menu before they dine at a restaurant

Your menu, by definition, is the list of dishes available at a restaurant. But a menu is far more important to your business than that. In fact, your menu is one of the most effective tools you have available. While most restaurants put a lot of thought and time into designing their brick and mortar menus, the importance of your online menu should not be minimalized.

Your website and online menus are becoming more and more important as customers adapt in the digital world. Not convinced? According to a study from Single Platform and research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey:

  • 81% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile device or app
  • 92% searched restaurant listings through a web browser in the last six months, outperforming other highly searched industries, such as entertainment, retail outlets, hotels and personal services
  • 75% say they often choose a restaurant to dine at based on those search results
  • 80% of consumers think it’s important to see a menu before they dine at a restaurant
  • 70% of consumers think it is important to be able to read the menu of a restaurant on a mobile device
  • 62% of consumers are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu on a mobile device

Below are a few tips on how the PERFECT online menu design can increase sales and profitability:

P – Pictures, Pictures, Pictures. 60% of consumers state that online photos influenced their dining decisions. That’s because people eat with their eyes, especially while browsing through multiple sites from home or work. You must make them hungry! Be sure to strategically place mouthwatering photos of your most popular and most profitable dishes.

E – Easy to Use. Use clear, legible fonts, flowing design, and easy navigation. While it may be easier to post a PDF of your menu online, DO NOT be tempted. PDFs can be hard to read on a mobile device and do not appear in searches on popular sites like OpenTable, Yelp, or Google; making your menu invisible against your competition to potential customers. You want your restaurant to show up when a hungry customer Googles “pizza near me.”

R – Responsive. We live in a mobile world. 49% of consumers use a mobile device when searching for a restaurant; make sure that your menu reads well on ALL devices!

F – Factual. Provide detailed descriptions, include Nutritional Information, etc. The more information you can provide, the more potential customers will trust your brand. Be sure to set up accounts with the sites that carry your menu such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, OpenTable, etc. to ensure that you can control and update your menu everywhere it appears.

E – Experience.  Make your website more than just another online ordering tool. Make it interactive, be creative, and remember to use those color cues!

Here are how different primary colors can impact diners’ emotions:

  • Red — This is the color of action and passion, so limited use of red can motivate customers to order an associated item.
  • Orange — This appetite-stimulating color can be ideal in encouraging impulse in menu item selection.
  • Yellow — This color of “Yield” signs and traffic “caution” lights is an attention-getter that makes us feel happy, so when it is used legibly (watch out for light shades and avoid yellow completely in dimly lit restaurants) it can be an excellent way to capture diner attention.
  • Green — This “freshness” color can increase the appeal of salads and seasonal menu options.
  • Blue — Unless your pizza brand has a very strong connection with seafood, this hue can make guests feel tired, so limit its use.

C – Consistent. Ensure your virtual atmosphere matches the theme of your restaurant. Use pictures and color schemes from your actual locations to create that familiar feeling your guests know and love.

T – Tells Your Story. You get few chances to connect with new guests on a personal level. Share your history, show the personality of your restaurant, and introduce them to your team. You want to create fans for life!

Now that you understand the psychology behind menu engineering, it is time to give it a try. Since learning your online audience can take a few tries, I recommend designing test versions to see which combinations of methods work for your brand. Ask friends, family, and regulars search for your restaurant and view your online menu to see if your new marketing tool is a success.

Also, be sure to train your staff on the new menu design and which menu items are priorities. This knowledge will help them guide customers to more profitable dishes and answer any questions that may arise about them, enhancing the customer experience while boosting your bottom line. 

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