There are tons of different ways to market your business – like social media, events, charitable initiatives, sponsorships, online advertising, and local advertising, to name a few. But if your menu isn’t widely available online, a lot of these marketing initiatives will fall flat, because there’s no sense directing people to your website if it doesn’t answer their #1 question: What can I eat there?
When it comes to marketing your restaurant, your menu is one of your biggest, and most-overlooked, assets.
According to a study by OpenTable, 93% of people view online menus before dining out. Making your menu available online can help attract tons of new customers and increase revenue.
Your Menu as a Marketing Tool
By posting your restaurant's menu online, you're putting your restaurant’s best foot forward by highlighting your amazing food. But there’s more to do than just upload a PDF if you want to reach as many people as possible.
Here are five important steps to making your menu the strongest marketing tool it can be.
1. Make Your Menu Searchable
A lot of the time, customers don’t start their search for a place to eat with the name of a restaurant. In fact, 49% of people perform online searches without a specific business in mind.
Instead, they search for specific food items, like “Thai food Boston.” If you’re a Thai restaurant in their local area, you want to show up in those search results. If your website prominently states that you serve Thai food and are located in the city of Boston, there’ll be no problem and you’ll pop right up.
However, sometimes guests will search for a specific food item they’re craving, searching something like “grilled cheese near me.” If you have grilled cheese on your menu, you’ll want your restaurant and your menu to appear in the search results — but if your menu is just uploaded as a PDF, you won’t.
In order for your food items to be findable on search engines and review sites, your menu needs to be able to be read by a crawler.
Used by search engines, a crawler is an automated script or program that scans and analyzes the content on a webpage. Google specifically uses crawlers to "read" webpages in order to determine whether the page could be helpful to their users and whether the content on the page directly responds to one or more searches that users have made.
A PDF is basically an image on a page, and Google can’t easily crawl the image to understand the content it’s displaying.
If your menu is typed out in HTML text (which just means it’s typed out directly on a webpage on your website), it can be read by crawlers, and it’ll pop up in search.
2. Keep it Current!
As a restaurant owner, it’s your duty to provide your customers accurate information. You wouldn’t want potential guests showing up on a day when you’re closed, and the same goes for your menu. Having an old, outdated menu available online can hurt your reputation and upset customers who are disappointed that you got rid of the menu item they were excited to order — or that your prices went up.
Whenever you make a change to your menu, make sure that change is reflected wherever your menu lives — like on Facebook, Yelp, and Google My Business. Don’t leave this update for later: if you’re changing something on your menu, change it everywhere right away. If you don’t want to have to deal with this hassle, keep reading.
3. Put Your Menu On Every Online Platform
Your menu should be available on all relevant websites so that you reach the largest audience possible, and so that your restaurant is as searchable as possible.
We’ve linked relevant “how to upload your menu” help articles for each site above. You’ll notice that some platforms only allow you to upload a PDF, and others only let you upload a menu through a menu management company like SinglePlatform, or through an online ordering company like GrubHub.
Getting your menu on several different platforms can be time-consuming — and it makes updating your menu even more tedious. So why bother? Because people who search for restaurants online use a lot of different methods, and don’t usually land on a restaurant’s website first.
The easiest way to get your menu on different platforms in a text-based format, and to keep it automatically updated, is by working with a menu management company like SinglePlatform. Their sole purpose is to get your menu broadcasted, and keep it updated across all the sites that people use most when deciding where to dine out.
Having your menu be the exact same on every site is not only great for marketing, but builds customer trust and loyalty. Plus, with someone else handling the execution for you, you have more time to focus on the guest experience, other marketing tactics, and the overall health of your business.
Here’s an example: on Facebook, Mistral Restaurant in Boston has “Menu” as an option on their navigation sidebar, and it opens a SinglePlatform-powered menu page.
4. Highlight Your Menu Specials on Social
If you have a limited-time special menu for a holiday or a special event, post photos of your special menu across all your social media channels. The searchability of this menu doesn’t matter as much, because it’s temporary, so you can just use a photo or a PDF.
You can also post a photo of your weekly or even daily specials on Instagram or Facebook stories, which expire after 24 hours.
Make sure you tell your followers that this menu is available for a limited time to entice them to visit soon.
If you notice that you’ve attracted a ton of new guests through this tactic, and you noticed that one of the special dishes was ordered by a big percentage of your guests, you can consider making the dish part of your normal menu. If you make that change, announce it on social media too, with a message like “We hear you — you loved the pappardelle cacio e pepe from our Valentine’s Day menu. Thanks to your feedback, we’re adding it to our everyday menu!”
You also can use your physical menu to promote your social channels. Be sure to include your social media handles on your menu so your guests know where to find you.
5. Make Your Website (and Menu) Mobile-Friendly
When potential guests are looking for places to eat, they’re often searching while on the go. In fact, in 2018, 52.2% of all worldwide online traffic was generated through mobile phones.
Unfortunately, when you publish a webpage, it's not always automatically formatted to work across all devices (desktop/laptop computer, phone, and tablet) — and all these different systems need webpages to be constructed and coded differently. For a web page to be considered mobile-friendly, also known as “responsive,” the page needs to be designed to resize to a phone's size while keeping everything proportional.
If your website isn’t responsive, on-the-go searchers will be faced with a cramped, tiny, or poorly formatted menu, and they might choose to continue their search for dinner elsewhere.
Luckily, the most popular website-building platforms like Squarespace, Wix, and Wordpress can easily create responsive layouts for your restaurant website and webpage. Menu management companies like SinglePlatform do too — See the example of a mobile-friendly menu below.
Bring on the New Customers
There are many ways to market your restaurant, but your menu is at the heart of why your guests keep coming back.
Your online menu — in a searchable format — should be easily discoverable by every hungry diner in your area. Getting your menu online in the proper way is a simple yet effective marketing tool that can help bring new business through your doors.