Restaurant menus rank among the most powerful marketing tools that restaurants use. Simple or complex menus reveal culinary style, price range, variety and style without unnecessary verbiage. Restaurants use them on-premises and in their windows, but up to 60 percent of eateries fail to take advantage of publishing their menus online.

Customers primarily consult restaurant menus to choose where to dine. An increasing number of consumers use mobile phones to search for restaurants, study menus and make reservations. If customers can’t find a restaurant’s menu online, then the business loses income and referrals.

Posting Menus to Reach Potential Customers

Restaurant can post their menus on their own websites or make arrangements with suppliers and local businesses to post menus. Other options include posting links to the menu, add menus to online advertising sites and displaying menus on social media home pages. Restaurateurs can choose from free and paid posting services to get their menus publicized.

Free menu-posting sites include delivery services, menu-design companies, local spas and industrial employers. Some hotels, assisted-living facilities and apartment communities allow restaurants to post menus on their websites as a convenience to guests and tenants.

Using Local-search Companies

Local directories and search companies often post menus or provide design services. Restaurant website design is a critical step in making menus available to local search engines. PDFs don’t work as well because they require downloads; restaurants need to format their menus with HTML so that search engines can find the menus.

  • Register with Google Places, and post a restaurant’s menu in a searchable format to increase the chances that Google will display the menu in its local search results.
  • The Yext site allows restaurants to display their menus, services and staff biographies from information on WordPress websites.
  • Facebook now allows restaurants to post their menus on their home pages.
  • Other possibilities for posting menus include local directories and search engines, Foursquare, UrbanSpoon and Yelp.

Menu Distributors

Menu distributors and printers often allow restaurants to post their menus as an inducement for printing in-house menus. Popular menu distributors include:

  • SinglePlatform
    Constant’s SinglePlatform offers some big advantages for posting restaurant menus. Restaurants can upload their menus to SinglePlatform and edit copy and design. SinglePlatform distributes the information to multiple sites like UrbanSpoon, Foursquare and YellowPages.
  • Locu
    Locu can help restaurants publish menus on their own websites, social media pages and mobile apps. After uploading the menu to the system, any changes made on the website automatically get updated on the other sites where information is posted.
  • MenuPages
    Sites like MenuPages allow restaurants to reach more customers, which is a big advantage for new websites or those without a lot of traffic.

Information to Include in Online Menu Postings

Restaurants offer various services for customers such as substituting ingredients, cooking for people with special diets and preparing vegetarian or vegan versions of dishes. Including this information attracts customers. Other information to post includes prices, detailed descriptions, culinary influences, daily specials and nutritional information.

Optimizing Online Menus

Posting a menu and optimizing it are two different things. If restaurateurs are in a hurry to get a menu online, a PDF file can be a temporary advantage. However, thoughtful managers quickly replace stopgap PDFs with HTML-formatted menus. These menus become a seamless part of restaurant Web design, and they help strengthen SEO efforts.

It’s extremely important to optimize online menus because customers aren’t just choosing from various options—they’re deciding whether to go to a particular restaurant or not. What customers want to see depends on the style of cuisine.

  • Prices matter to fast food customers but upscale restaurants get better results by enticing customers.
  • Keeping the menu updated prevents frustration due to inaccurate information.
  • Photos sell food, whet the appetite and attract new customers, so arrange a professional photo shoot.
  • Descriptive language and strong titles reinforce the sale.
  • Online ordering and mobile ordering at the table are becoming increasingly popular, so include online ordering to increase conversion rates.
  • Menu design should be clear and easy to read on all computing devices and smartphones.
  • Use a font that’s readable.
  • Menu psychology suggests that eliminating the dollar signs ($) when listing prices boosts sales.
  • Inserting hyperlinks allows customers to get further details about ingredients, preparation methods and other interesting tidbits.
  • Include a call to action, and make sure that the phone number and address of the restaurant appears on every page of menu copy.

Reputable surveys find that only 50 percent of independent restaurants have websites and only 40 percent of these companies bother posting their menus online. Like voting, restaurateurs should post their menus early and often to get incomparable marketing advantages. Choose professional images to illustrate the menu, and ensure that all menus are posted in HTML format for better SEO, fast access and greater visibility.