Why your restaurant website shouldn’t use a menu PDF as the menu

By chuck

Any smart restaurant owner understands that you don’t put obstacles in the way of potential diners and repeat customers. In this day of easy-to-find information about restaurants on apps, websites and social media, it’s critical that your restaurant not anger potential customers with hard-to-access information like menus.

You know what’s frustrating? Being in a car with a friend and asking that friend (or family member) to look up information about a restaurant’s menu. They try to access your restaurant’s menu on the mobile device, only to find that the only way to view the menu is to look at the PDF of your physical menu. Most people’s devices, these days, will open a PDF file, but the PDF version of your menu is not optimized for mobile devices. The driver’s friend then struggles with pinching the menu to enlarge it, maybe has to move the image around to read dish titles, descriptions and prices. The font may be hard to read on a device. You and your friend end up going to a restaurant that you are more familiar with.

Or, take the example of an older person, viewing your restaurant website at home via a desktop / laptop browser. They may not be familiar with how to find your restaurant information on social media, bu they know how to put a restaurant name into a search engine. They get to your website, click on “Menu” and then get a message about needing to install a “PDF viewer”. They may not know how to install new software and browser add-ons. They may have been told by their kids not to install new software without help. So, they end up skipping your restaurant for a familiar option.

What’s the right thing to do?

The menu part of your website should rely on the style of the site for presentation of text and graphics. The menu text should be highlightable, that is, you should be able to use your mouse and cursor to highlight the text as if your were going to copy and paste it somewhere. This not only enables your customers and future customers to easily view the menu information on multiple devices, but also enables access to your menu for people with special needs, such as the visually impaired. Avoiding the use of your print menu PDF as THE ONLY version of the menu on your website also ensures that the menu information is mobile-friendly (responsive design).

Can we still put the PDF file of our print menu on our site?

Yes. You can still add a link to the PDF version of your physical menu anywhere in the body of your menu page(s). Many restaurants have menus that are tied to their branding. They’ve spent money on designers to create the physical menu(s).

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