Should You Change your Online Menu?

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When you first crafted your menu for your restaurant, you probably spent a whole lot of time deciding exactly how to describe all of your dishes.  You pondered over what verbiage to use where, how much text to include in each dish’s description, and how to best paint a picture of your food that would appetize your customers and invite them to eat as much as they could.  And now that you are adopting an online food ordering system, you might be curious about just how much to change.  Online ordering for restaurants is a precise science, and the crafting of an online menu is no exception.

Whether you are adopting your in person menu for an online food ordering system for the first time, or just looking for tips to update your online menu to land more sales, here are our tips for how and when to change your menu for online optimization.

1. Add LOTS of Pictures

When you first designed your in-restaurant menu, you probably had some budgetary constraints around printing costs, and those kinds of decisions lead many restaurant owners to opt for a minimalist design on their menus that doesn’t waste space or money on pictures.  But for your online ordering menu, you want to include as many pictures as possible.  The simple, elegant, and clean feel of a well designed minimalist menu will be lost on digital users, who browse your selections on a tiny screen rather than holding your menu in their hands.  And while a minimalist menu can be very effective in person, adding as many pictures as you can to your online menu will entice your customer.

2. Slim Down Verbiage

As compared to your in-person diners, customers who order your dishes from an online food ordering system aren’t as interested in the full “experience” of dining.  They won’t care about ambiance, and probably aren’t interested in getting wooed.  So slim down your verbiage.  All of the great descriptors, enticing language, and beautiful descriptions that help sell your food in person will probably only be a waste of time and distract your customers who order your food online.  Especially since you should already have pictures of your food all over your online ordering menu, don’t rely on written descriptions of your food.  Everyone inherently has a shorter attention span when they are on the internet, so keep that in mind and cut out unnecessary descriptive language on your online menu.

3. Make Dishes Easy to Find

While it makes sense to arrange your in person menu as a meal might progress, with your appetizers listed first and deserts listed last, it can be a good idea to change things up for your online menu in this area.  Your primary goal in listing dishes on your online menu should be to make dishes easy to find.  Partially because again everyone has a short attentions span on the internet, and partially because people often decide to order delivery already having a good idea of what they want to order, you should make it very easy for people to find the dishes they want on your online menu.  Consider organizing dishes by the type of meats used, the style of dish (like “noodles,” “sandwiches,” etc.) or alphabetically.  Whatever organizational tactic you embrace, consider straying away from the usual chronological organization method that can be so effective for in-person menus.

4. Keep Things Simple

This tip really encapsulates everything above, but it is worth revisiting and expanding on.  With your online ordering menu, you want customers to be able to find your dishes as quickly as possible and get those orders to your kitchen.  So keep your menu simple.  Pictures of your food are good; illustrations or pictures of your restaurant are probably clutter.  Select a clear and professional text that is easy to read and scan quickly, and make sure all of your formatting choices boost your menu’s readability.  It can’t be stressed enough that your online menu won’t have the same style or feel as your in person menu, because your customers are looking for fundamentally different things and will benefit from different focuses.  For your online menu, simplicity and brevity is key.

Should You Change Your Online Menu?

Online ordering for restaurants is a nuanced and developing product, and there are a lot of things to tinker with and perfect in your online menu.  Before devoting a whole lot of time to changing your online menu, ask yourself how much work your menu really needs.  Is your menu simple and to the point?  Have you incorporated a lot of high quality pictures?  Is your text direct and short?  If you can answer yes to all of those questions, your online menu is probably heading in the right direction.  If not, get to work changing your online menu as soon as possible.

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Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.

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We are on a mission to help local restaurants thrive in the new digital economy. Our blog is designed to give local restaurants best practices from some of the top restaurants in the world today. 


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