During 2020, the internet has, without a doubt, been the savior of the restaurant industry due to the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the government slammed the doors shut on dine-in customers, a huge number of restaurateurs turned to food delivery in order to keep their businesses afloat. Thankfully, this has been made easier for restaurants through partnership with food delivery sites such as UpMenu which has allowed them to create a portal and mobile app for their new venture. While, for many, this has resulted in their takeaways selling like hot cakes, others have experienced a more lukewarm reaction. This could, of course, be down to a number of factors including location, genre and reputation. However, in most cases, it’s all down to one thing – the online menu.
Copy and Taste
This year, when attempting to pivot to food delivery, a lot of restaurant owners have made the mistake of simply copying their physical menus onto their website. In reality, the online world is very different to the physical one and, as a result, these restaurants have seen disappointing results. When putting together an online menu there are a number of things to keep in mind:
Lost For Words
While the odd spelling mistake may not seem that big a deal on a physical restaurant menu, it can be make or break for an online one. Sloppy grammar and bad typos both spell out ‘unprofessional’ for a lot of customers. When choosing a physical restaurant to dine in, we look at a few different things including pictures of the restaurant and the location. However, when booking a food delivery, we’re concentrating on the menu alone. For this reason, it’s really important to make sure that your online menu has been checked and double checked before going live.
The Secret Ingredient
One of the most common mistakes made on online menus is a lack of information when it comes to ingredients. For a huge number of customers there are allergies, intolerances and plain old preferences mean that ingredients are super important. When dining in a restaurant, customers can simply ask their waiter for information on a dish’s ingredients, whereas this isn’t usually possible when ordering online – therefore a customer will generally just look elsewhere if they can’t find this information on your website. In the same vein, extra care should be taken with your menu descriptions when creating your online menu. When browsing your menu, customers need to be able to visualize the dish and imagine the taste and texture and, so, this is one area that you should never scrimp on.
We know that competition is tough at the moment and a lot of restaurateurs attempt to get the edge by offering a huge range of dishes in the hope that this will satisfy every taste. Unfortunately, when faced with a menu that’s longer than War And Peace, customers tend to feel overwhelmed and confused. In most cases, it’s a much better idea to play to your strengths in order to keep your menu short and concise. Although this may mean that you lose a few customers due to lack of choice, you’ll gain more in the long run by being able to concentrate on quality rather than quantity – and you’ll also save money on ingredients.
When perusing an online menu, customers expect to see items presented in neat categories, for example; Starters, Main Courses, Desserts. These categories should always be marked clearly and presented in a sensible order to avoid confusion and possible ordering errors. It’s fine to highlight dishes that go together well – for example, you might include side dishes in both your start and main course menus – but, in general, customers like to see categories listed in a logical order.
Money Talks – Too Much
With all that competition that we’ve mentioned, it’s often tempting to focus on that fabulous discount or deal that you’ve got going on. While it’s fine to offer some budget-friendly options on your online menu, try not to over-emphasize these as you’ll find that, in the end, these are all that you’re selling. Speaking of prices, these should always be marked clearly alongside each dish and should always be double checked to ensure that each and every price is correct.
Little Bite Lies
The internet is a peculiar thing in that it can feel a little other-worldly and this can lead to the belief that we’re exempt from consequences of our actions. Some restaurant owners have a tendency to ‘exaggerate’ or ‘stretch the truth’ when it comes to their online menus. This is never a good idea as one thing we know about the world wide web is that it gives people an opportunity to talk via reviews, forums and social media. When putting together your online menu, always be as honest as possible when it comes to portion sizes, quality of ingredients and sourcing of ingredients. These days, customers are increasingly aware of environmental and sustainability topics – if your ingredients are sourced responsibly then great, go ahead and shout about it. If they’re not, do not, under any circumstances, give in to the temptation to lie about it.
Keep it Fresh
With many places still under government restrictions, the food delivery business is still hugely important for a great number of people. Customers have a propensity towards loyalty when it comes to choosing a takeaway or food delivery but this doesn’t mean that you should become complacent. While it’s great to have loyal customers, there’s a good chance that they will fall out of love with your brand if they see the exact same menu items every time they log on. Work out which of your dishes is the most popular and try adding new variations of these to help keep your menu fresh and exciting.
Use Your Head
There’s a fair bit of psychology involved when it comes to making a choice from a menu and you need to be all over that. Use wording which is evocative of good times, great memories and comfort to entice your customers. In marketing, there’s a well known phrase which goes, ‘Keep it in sight, keep it top right’. For online menus, this rule can be applied by displaying best selling or expensive items here. In the modern world, photographs on a physical menu tend to be frowned upon as restaurants which use these are seen as low class. Not so on the world wide web. A few professional, well placed photographs on your online menu can help to make browsing a more visual experience as well as giving customers an idea of what they can expect from a certain dish. Additionally, think of dedicated landing pages that will help customers to download a PDF format version.
Make it Personal
When you’re sitting in a restaurant, it’s easy to ask for little changes to a dish such as requesting a pasta dish with extra sauce or to lose the onions on a burger. These days, online customers expect to have the same amount of flexibility and if your online menu doesn’t include options for customization, you may well end up losing customers, not just onions.
Meat Customers Halfway
Although you may not be able to compete with the local meat free restaurants, it’s still a good idea to include a good selection of vegetarian and vegan items on your menu. While you’re at it, try not to mix these in with your usual menu with the usual green tick beside them. In 2020, more and more people choose a meat free lifestyle and these people expect to be catered for. By having a clearly marked section for vegan and vegetarian dishes, you’re sending the message that you value these customers as much as you do others. Take some inspiration from exclusive meat-free restaurants in order to create dishes which are exciting and unique; rather than going with the usual salads, nut roasts and risottos.
Everybody loves a freebie or a discount and these lend themselves perfectly to the world of the online menu. In fact, customers are so used to seeing these online at the moment that a menu without them is perceived to be negative in terms of value for money. The good news is that this is an easy (and cheap) one to get on board with. For example, offering free delivery with a minimum spend or giving away a dessert with the purchase of two main courses will cost you practically nothing but will be viewed as ‘high value’ by a customer.
In an ideal world, the fact that your food is fabulous should be enough to keep those customers coming back for more. Unfortunately, the internet is a fickle creature and it encourages people to be more and more demanding. In the complex world of food delivery, the name of the game is to make those sales and get those positive reviews flooding in. To do this, you need to be treating your online menu with the same care that you would your restaurant window to ensure that your offering is enticing, competitive and value for money. After creating your menu, ask a friend or colleague to check it out to ensure that its doing everything that it should be doing for your business.