Even if you didn't embrace online ordering before likely, the surge in popularity for curbside pickup and delivery orders during COVID-19 lockdowns in the past year has changed your mind.
Any restaurant owner should recognize the importance of having an efficient and visually appealing way to connect with customers online–-particularly on mobile.
Whether you’re a single-location safe or a multi-unit franchise, having an effective online menu will play a key role in your success.
Why You Need an Online Menu
The social distancing regulations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted several industries, particularly the restaurant industry.
Now, as states lift regulations and businesses begin to re-open, restaurants need to determine ways to stand out and get their name out there.
One of the best ways to reach new customers is by providing an online restaurant menu where they can review your food and learn more about your brand. Here are some facts that demonstrate the importance of an online menu.
Menus Can Increase Your Sales
Believe it or not, the simple act of putting your menu online can have a huge impact on your sales.
According to a survey conducted by OpenTable, approximately 87% of diners try to find a restaurant online before going out.
Moreover, 86% of diners consult a menu before heading to a restaurant.
So, if you don't have a menu available online, many consumers won't even consider your restaurant as an option.
Having an effective online menu is even more critical for virtual kitchens. Virtual kitchens don’t have a restaurant front or physical menus, so online menus are the only way customers can find them.
Menus Boost Your SEO
If you want to be a part of the restaurant revolution, you'll need to build your digital presence.
One reason why digital restaurants (or restaurants that rely solely on online ordering) have been thriving in the industry is that they tend to have large online followings.
One of the main concepts of restaurant marketing is SEO–which is basically all about getting found in Google.
Believe it not–a well-done online menu can boost your SEO. That’s because when people search for “fried chicken near me” or something similar, Google can read your online menu and suggest your location to users.
But if your menu is a PDF, Google’s crawlers can’t read it and then can’t suggest your restaurant.
To craft your brand, you'll need to boost website traffic through search engine optimization (SEO).
Some ways you can successfully do this include:
- Providing a mobile-friendly menu: 73% of mobile searches are followed by actions and conversion -- it's important that you have a menu that loads properly on mobile devices.
- Work on your local SEO: Considering that 75% of customers in your area use search results to determine where to dine, it's important that they're able to find your menu. Methods for boost your local SEO include using keywords, obtaining online reviews and creating a Google My Business account.
- Use social media and Google Posts: Many restaurants have found success in sharing information online and through Google Posts. Offering images of your menu, restaurant and food items can intrigue consumers and compel them to visit your site.
Whether you want to optimize your website or post on social media, your menu plays an integral part in your SEO strategy.
When done right, online menus don't just increase your brand awareness — they add to the customer experience. If you make the effort to appeal to your consumers by providing a beautiful, accessible and legible menu, they can trust you to deliver on the food portion as well.
Menus Represent Your Brand
Traditional restaurants are often judged by their setting. A pleasant atmosphere, attentive servers and intricate designs can make up for a lackluster menu. Virtual kitchens, on the other hand, have no dine-in area to attract people — they have to rely entirely on menus to bring in new customers.
Because online menus are so instrumental to ghost kitchen owners, they deserve considerable thought and devotion. While a plain white background with black text can get the job done, it sends out the message that your business is boring and lacks imagination. A portable document format (PDF) may be simple to create and easy to upload, but mobile users struggle to read them. Ultimately, you need a menu that's accessible to everyone and catches the eye. Some design trends you can try out include:
- Bold colors and fonts
- High-quality photographs
- Compact menus (separate tabs for different meals)
You can also personalize the buyer experience by allowing customers to save menu items they're interested in, which lets them easily find what they want to order next time they visit your site. Just a bit of restaurant innovation can go a long way with your customers.
Menus Can Make Your Business More Personal
Your restaurant's atmosphere, decor and staff all influence how your customers feel about your restaurant brand. But what about people who have never visited your restaurant? Without that personal experience, what are they supposed to think about you?
Menus can be used to give some personality to your brand, helping new consumers learn more about your business. Along with providing information about your food, a good menu should have a unique design that catches the eye. Design ideas include:
- Bold fonts
- Bright colors
- Images of food
- Patterns and borders
Applying some restaurant innovation to your menu tells customers that you're willing to make an effort for them.
Menus Can Add to the Customer Experience
For some customers, their journey with your restaurant starts when they enter the front door. However, for most people, that journey begins when they find your menu online. Thus, it's important that you create a positive virtual experience. One way to do this is by adding an online ordering system directly to your menu for customers interested in food delivery. Not only is this convenient, but it may also sway people that are on the fence about ordering from you.
Tools for Building an Effective Online Menu
Especially these days, with online orders taking center stage, it's important that you have an online order system that attracts customers. Simply providing promotions and coupons isn't enough to drive diners to your own website. You also need to think about the user experience and streamlining your online order offerings.
Whether you're drawing in customers from your Facebook page or fielding online orders through mobile apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and ChowNow, you need to create a strong online menu that showcases your brand more smartly. This means that your online order system needs to use the right tools.
Rethink Your POS System
Your POS system has a big hand in how you handle your online orders. The right POS can help you build a healthy menu and drive online sales. However, the wrong POS doesn't work as well for order integration, loyalty programs, and top online ordering platforms. The bottom line is that it's important to choose a POS that works well with your restaurant website and online ordering software. A POS integration makes it easier to build and adjust your menu in real-time. You can reach out to new customers to collect customer data, send incoming orders to the kitchen, and upserve diners as needed.
When you're looking for POS system integration, consider some additional features like mobile app access, tablet connectivity, inventory management, and e-commerce features. When you're building your online food orders pages, it's important to make sure that your ordering system is firing tickets to your system. Whether you own a small restaurant or manage a local hotspot, the right POS can dramatically help your menu.
Pick The Right Online Ordering Software
Whether you're setting up food delivery or you're developing a better takeout system, restaurants of all sizes need the right software on their side. Some restaurant owners rely on the free version of existing products. Unfortunately, this has some drawbacks. For starters, it's harder to customize your menu as closely. Using the free version of third-party platforms also means you're less likely to gain email marketing, customer data collection, and restaurant POS integration.
So, how do you find a mobile ordering platform that doesn't wipe you out with monthly fees but still has the necessary features? In most ways, it's about finding the right restaurant partner. A delivery platform or piece of ordering software needs to come with the ability to edit menu items as needed, differentiate delivery times, and schedule curbside pickup orders for hungry customers. It's also good to look for a flat monthly fee, so you don't have to worry about costs increasing every other month. If you want to dig even deeper, look for transaction fees, suss out customer satisfaction within the existing customer base, and see how the platform works on smartphones. While a free version can save you money, it won't help with menu management or customer relations.
Get a Photo Editing Tool
Have you ever visited the online ordering website for a local takeaway and realized the menu photos were less than appealing? Whether it's in your marketing campaigns or on a social media platform, bad photography does little to attract your customers and doesn't help much with menu development. When online food ordering software is concerned, customers are eating with their eyes now more than ever. By focusing on your aesthetic needs, you gain valuable insight into what your diners prefer when they're getting ready to order.
Including photos on your online food menu can benefit you in other ways, too. It can promote upselling and encourage diners to order more than they normally might. Have your admin team ensure that the menu works well on mobile devices, too. While this isn't as beneficial for phone orders, it's excellent for Facebook orders and mobile app delivery orders. Finding the right photo editing program is the next step that restaurateurs need to attract more customers within their delivery zones.
Don't Be Afraid of Templates
In some cases, it's better to have a conventional menu than no menu at all. Sometimes, you need something quick that also offers seamless integration with the rest of your website. As a restaurant owner, you must have a menu in place, even if it's only serviceable. If you don't currently have the time and resources to use anything other than a free version of a program, it's a good idea to use a template. Many online restaurant menus rely on this premise, and, ultimately, it works.
Most templates make it easy for you to swap menu items as needed, separate dishes by category, and include ordering integration. If you're working with a table reservation or online ordering platform, talk to your vendor about basic menu building needs. Chances are, your vendor will be able to help you find a platform or piece of software that works within your budget and creates a functional, helpful menu.
If you're going to go for a more stripped-down menu, you must include quality descriptions, photos, and streamlined navigation. Work to write concise explanations of the different items on the menu but ensure you describe them in an appetizing way. Include a few quality photos (you may not need one for every dish) and make it easy for customers to find menu items and add them to an online shopping cart. Even if you're using a template, you still want a mobile app or online ordering platform that can take credit cards or gift cards and set the option to pay in-store for a customer pickup. It should also send tickets to your
restaurant POS system, so you don't have to create orders within your system manually.
Use Multiple Tools and Delivery Apps
Since your menu is such a vital part of your restaurant's success, it's a good idea to use all the available platforms in your toolkit to develop an attractive one. Whether you're choosing tools that work with Grubhub, Doordash, or Uber Eats, or you're trying to include more menu photography, the right menu-building skills have a more considerable impact on your business than you might expect.
4 Tips for Creating an Effective Online Menu
Keep It Simple
While it's important to make sure customers can easily understand what you have to offer, whether they're using a desktop or a smartphone, you also don't want to overload them with too much unnecessary information. If possible, it's best to fit all of your items on one page.
You may need to develop two different versions of the online menu: One for larger screens and one for mobile apps. If you can't limit the entire menu to one page, then divide it into separate pages based on the breakfast, lunch, and dinner servings.
Of course, you'll want to include some sort of call to action with each menu item ("order now," for example) to encourage a customer to reach for their credit card and go through your online ordering platform. You could also give an option to go to your reservation system, so a customer can reserve their menu items in addition to their table reservation. Key features like this with an easy-to-understand menu will go a long way toward customer retention.
Make It Searchable
Remember the importance of showing up in local searches if you want a customer to make a mobile order for takeout or delivery? The best way you can increase your odds of showing in search engines and thereby increase profits is to make your menu rank for popular industry keywords.
You don't have to load every menu entry down with focus terms, but you can at least include them in your description of your restaurant and services. Every bit of information you're able to pack into your menu can make a big difference.
Use Your POS
Every restaurant, online ordering feature, and even menu can use some tweaks now and then. Fortunately, your point of sale (POS) system can help out with that, especially when it's combined with customer relationships management (CRM) software. Your POS can automatically track online payments, takeaway orders, dine-in orders, and even delivery orders, whether payments are made through cash, credit card, or even PayPal. It can do this with unlimited orders, and it even makes inventory management easier, since it can track what's being used and alert you to call your vendor for more supplies.
Combined with customer relationship management (CRM), you can take advantage of advanced features, like automatically storing and retrieving important customer data. These real-time analytics can be used to determine who your best customers are, and you'll be able to easily track which menu items are the most popular as well. If you want to reward customer loyalty, you can use this information in promotions that make special offers, like discounts or coupons, to your best customers.
You could even offer the ability for a repeat customer to make a custom order for their favorite item. You could even advertise loyalty programs on your menu to encourage repeat visits. Once you've identified your least popular items, you can make updates to your menu and replace them.
Promote Your Delivery Channels
If you're offering convenient options that your competitors don't, your online menu is the perfect place to mention it. If you offer delivery along with online orders, you can expect a lot more activity in the kitchen. Some restaurant owners decide to pair their online ordering functionality with delivery platforms like ChowNow, DoorDash, or Grubhub.
This makes it easy to find your restaurant on mobile applications, but managing multiple delivery platforms gets complicated, especially with each one taking a commission fee. What you need is a way to keep all of your online ordering and delivery options in one place.
That's exactly what we offer at Cuboh. Our solution was made with the convenience of restaurants in mind first, and for a one-time setup fee, we can consolidate all of your third-party delivery apps on a single device. You'll also receive a centralized dashboard for reports from your restaurant POS, so you can review its analytics and prepare for growth.
We can get you set up with seamless POS integration in one to ten days, depending on the complexity of your restaurant operations. Once that's done, you'll just have a flat monthly fee for continued service. Update your online menu for the best online ordering system today, and start improving your bottom line today.
Customers Want To Do Research
If a customer is looking for a new restaurant to order from, chances are they're going to go online. If you don't have a ghost kitchen menu available, they probably won't even realize your restaurant exists.
Even if a customer does know about your restaurant, it's still helpful to have a menu available. According to a survey conducted by OpenTable, approximately 86% of customers look through a menu before placing an order. If you don't have an easily accessible menu, you may lose out on those consumers.
Next Step: Developing Your Menu
Now that you understand the importance of online menus, it's time to develop your own. Along with selecting your menu items, you should consider the following technical aspects:
- How much your menu items cost
- Which delivery applications you plan to work with
- How you intend to manage your online orders
There's no point in spending time and effort building up your menu, only to struggle with order management — if you want to be a part of the virtual restaurant revolution, you'll need some high-quality restaurant tech by your side.