SinglePlatform Review: Online Menu Publication

SinglePlatform is an online publishing network of search engines, city guides, review sites, and mobile apps that enables restaurants to post their menus, products, and services. SinglePlatform puts your menu on Foursquare, TripAdvisor, YellowPages and more than 100 other websites according to SinglePlatform.

SinglePlatform does more than only update menus. SinglePlatform promises that you can edit your listing with the correct information for your business. If this works across their entire network, it is a big deal because it will help your restaurant’s Local Search Results, as consistency of information is very important. Unfortunately, we cannot verify if these updates were actually made, beyond the most prominent publishers. Read more about Local Search Optimization.

Regardless, the main draw of SinglePlatform to restaurant owners is menus. You can input and edit your menu and basic information from one dashboard and the information will be updated throughout their network.

Early SinglePlatform

SinglePlatform is the first major company to do large scale online menu distribution for restaurants. However, a few years ago, that wasn’t the sole focus of their initial sales pitch; they promised other services to convince restaurants to work with them. Two services, in particular, turned our clients on to SinglePlatform, and eventually, against them. First, the capabilities of SinglePlatform’s social media tools for updating Facebook and Twitter accounts were exaggerated (they have significantly improved since then).  Second, their sales pitch frequently included the promise that their platform would connect restaurants directly to hotel customers. Many of our clients went away from meetings we attended with the notion that a person in a local hotel would see their menu. Our clients often signed with them just because they wanted to build connections with hotel customers like any other restaurant. Those connections never materialized.

In the years before SinglePlatform was bought by Constant Contact, SinglePlatform had a very good sales teams. At that time, their product didn’t live up to the hype. Although they already had  hundreds of restaurants paying them, we knew many that cancelled out of disappointment. All of our clients cancelled with them based on their own experiences and misplaced expectations.  Yet, SinglePlatform’s core publishing service is valuable in itself.

Menu Distribution Service

SinglePlatform have a lot of partner websites where they distribute restaurants’ menus. They feature the most important ones in the SinglePlatform dashboard (they list them twice for some reason). Obviously, putting an accurate menu on Yelp, Yellow Pages, Urbanspoon, Yahoo Local and TripAdvisor (amongst others) is a big plus. But the problem is that SinglePlatform does not have access to the two biggest menu websites, Allmenus (owned by Grubhub) and Menupages (owned by Seamless). As you may guess, the territorialism of the two online ordering giants, Grubhub and Seamless, will likely not change this.  The other place the menus do not reach are OpenTable, as OpenTable has their own partner, Locu.

Complete Menu Dashboard

The whole SinglePlatform backend is hard to explain in writing so we made a video that shows you all the SinglePlatform features. In general, you will see that it has a fast learning curve, even with a lot of features.

The two most important capabilities of SinglePlatform are the menus and the basic restaurant information.  You can create separate menus, along with including as much details about the dishes as you choose. It is easy to preview what the menu looks like and to edit the content later on. The menu system is comprehensive. Along with pricing and categorization, SinglePlatform  submits dietary restrictions, descriptions, allergy info, etc.

The basic restaurant information is also very helpful. Having the correct address, phone number, even name across the internet can prevent confusion and lost business along with boosting your Google Local Search results. Google gives restaurants that have more consistent information higher rankings in Local Search results.

Mobile Website Service

They also provide a mobile site with basic info and menu of your restaurant. Mobile sites have become more and more common as customers start relying more on their smartphones. But if you need a mobile site, there are many free versions on the web now. 3rd party mobile sites builders (SinglePlatform included), in general, have their drawbacks. It is always better to have your own mobile friendly website designed specifically toward your needs.

Reliability

We have not been impressed with their reliability in the past. For example, they put menus up from another restaurant on our client’s menu page instead of the correct menus. And at that point, our client didn’t even work with them. We found out about this when one of our clients started getting phone calls for delivery of Chinese food. The only problem is that our client is a cocktail bar! We found a website with our client’s business info had a SinglePlatform menu of a Chinese restaurant. This quality control issue has never been adequately explained.

That being said, all of our recent tests have demonstrated that SinglePlatform fed the correct information to the website in their network. The network works instantaneously after you submit the new menu or edit an old one. Each of the sites that SinglePlatform send the new menu to has different formatting, but SinglePlatform transfer any information that the destination website accepts. Along with pricing and categorization, SinglePlatform  submits dietary restrictions, descriptions, allergy info, etc.

SinglePlatform with Constant Contact

For $65 million in cash, Constant Contact purchased SinglePlatform in June 2012. Constant Contact is one of the biggest email marketing tools that has subsequently branched out into social media and events. It is unclear if the management of SinglePlatform has improved since the acquisition or that their sales pitch has become more accurate. Of course, menu distribution is still one of their services and they claim that their menus are SEO friendly. Of course, as we have said before, since SinglePlatform menus are not in plain HTML, their SEO effect is limited. Still, the menu features will be the most attractive service to restaurants. But the basic listing should be just as important whether it is making sure the name address, phone number, website url,  etc. are all correct and conform exactly.

Is it worth a $495 one year account? Although SinglePlatform boasts that their distribution network leads to 100 million page views of SinglePlatform related content each month, we are still on the fence. SinglePlatform’s greatest attribute is that it solves a specific problem. Still, we encourage clients to proceed cautiously and do as much research as possible. To make us less hesitant, SinglePlatform can show exactly how it works throughout their entire network and also how they have improved since merging with Constant Contact. That would go a long way to making SinglePlatform a desirable option for restaurants.