As an established eatery in your community, you invite locals and travelers alike into your kitchen. You delight their senses, offering them more than just a warm meal, but an entire experience. In today’s world, however, in order to know what they’re paying for, people want a taste of the experience beforehand. This means you need to include your menu on your restaurant’s website.

But the perfect menu can be difficult to craft. There’s more to it than just listing the ingredients; you have to take high-quality photos, describe each dish, and assemble all the pieces into an online platform. If you want to know how to create a menu online for your restaurant, look no further. Below, you will learn:

  • How to make a menu for your restaurant website
  • What needs to be included in the menu
  • Why your restaurant website should have a menu

How to make a menu for your restaurant website

In order to create a restaurant menu online, you need the right platform to host it. Which means the first step is building and hosting a restaurant website. If you haven’t done this yet, we suggest starting with Constant Contact’s website builder, learning the basics of building a website, and then coming back once your site is ready to go. 

For further insight on restaurant websites, check out our guide to Creating a Restaurant Website.

Once you have a site with Constant Contact, creating a menu is incredibly simple. There’s an entire category of templates available to you, as well as further options to link to an external menu. Let’s run through the three most common types of menu:

  • Having your restaurant menu online for users to scroll through
  • Externally linking your menu to your website
  • Uploading a PDF menu

How to make a menu for your restaurant website

If you’d like users to stay on your website while they scroll through the delicious meals, Constant Contact makes this incredibly easy. Start by adding a menu page:

  1. Use the add page “+” button on the website builder
  2. Within the categories menu, select the “menu” option
  3. Choose between the different templates of how you’d like to portray the meals
  4. Start filling in each section of the restaurant menu template you chose

There are tons of restaurant website design features such as meal titles and descriptions where you can input a flavor profile, list ingredients, or write about what makes a menu item special. We recommend including photos of the menu item as well. 

How to best position each of these items for the perfect restaurant menu will be described a bit further down (see section: What needs to be included in the menu).

Externally link your menu to your website

If you have already generated your restaurant menu online for the various food delivery and restaurant service apps, then externally link them to your website through the website builder or embed them directly into the site itself. Some of the external platforms that work with Constant Contact are:

  • GrubHub
  • UberEats
  • OpenTable

Not only will this option save you time in creating another online menu, but having these linked to food delivery and takeout services will provide customers an immediate way to satisfy their hunger (by ordering your food on the spot!).

Upload a PDF of your restaurant menu

There are plenty of reasons to upload a PDF of your restaurant menu to your website. For one, it’s convenient. If you change your menu often, you won’t have to worry about adding and removing items from your website menu each day. Instead, upload a new PDF with each change.

Similarly, if you have a unique menu design that you don’t think will be easily replicable online, then uploading a PDF can be an easy way to share it.

If you decide to go the PDF route, be sure to:

  • Scan or take a high-quality photo of each page of the menu individually.
  • If using a camera, set the camera on a solid surface or use a tripod (to make sure the photo isn’t blurry).
  • If you have a large menu, separate each page into two and take close-up photos.
  • Upload all pictures or scans onto your computer.
  • Combine all the photos or scanned documents into one PDF file.
  • Order the pages correctly, as one would find it on the menu.
  • Upload the single PDF file onto your website.

Make sure that this menu is front and center, visible to your hungry website guests as soon as they enter your site.

What needs to be included in the menu

Just like assembling the perfect dish, gathering the right ingredients is the very first step. The ingredients for the perfect menu include:

  • Names of the meals
  • Description of the meals
  • Ingredients used to create each meal
  • Photos of the meal

How you combine and mix these ingredients is up to you. Instead of describing the menu item, you want the ingredients to do the talking. Or perhaps you’re a firm believer that pictures say a thousand words (and can entice a customer to order on the spot!). 

Regardless of how you piece these together, there are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Organization
  • Quality
  • Style

While the names and photos of each meal are the ingredients, organization, and quality, style is your cooking and plating techniques that bring the food to life. Thus, by keeping these in focus, you’ll be able to bring your online restaurant menu to life as well.

Organize your menu for readability

Here’s an interesting proposition to consider: At a bar & grill restaurant, what might be the first section of the menu? Drinks, cocktails, beers that are on tap? At many bar & grills, you’ll find that the beginning of the menu is the beginning of the dining experience. This is often the first drink or appetizer you order prior to diving into the rest of the menu. 

However, for an online menu, should drinks and cocktails be the first item on the menu? While your restaurant might have a unique selling proposition, most will want to save the drink menu for the end.

In which case, how should you organize your menu? There are a few different ways to think about this.

  • Putting your most popular items first – In many instances, it’s a good idea to have your most popular dishes front and center. This will immediately inundate your website visitor with what they’re to expect when sifting through the different categories and menu items. Plus, for returning customers, if they see what they got last time in the most popular category, they might be inclined to order it again.
  • Separating the menu into categories – This could be as simple as separating appetizers (or starters) from entrees, and separating food from the drink menu. Or it could be more detailed, separating all chicken dishes, beef dishes, and tofu dishes. Whatever the best method for organization, try to stay consistent throughout. The key is to avoid making your customers search for what they want. As long as they know the type of food they’re searching for, they should be able to find the category and then identify the perfect item. Some different ways of separating into categories include:
    • From the grill, From the sea, From the farm
    • Antipasti, Primi Piatti, Secondi Piatti
    • Salads, Breads, Fish
    • By diet: Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Paleo
    • By flavor palette: Sweet and Savory, Spicy, Salty
  • Creating a step by step guide – If there is a strict way in which you order food in-person, recreate this with your online menu. Perhaps you have a restaurant where you choose your “base” before choosing your “protein” and flavoring. In this case, separate your menu into steps. Be sure to include which steps are optional so that customers aren’t accidentally overpaying. 

Use high-quality photos and descriptions

Organization is the skeleton of your online menu. Next up, it’s time to include the photos and descriptions to flesh it out.

Photos

The old adage “pictures speak a thousand words” are shouted through a loudspeaker when it comes to the photos in your online menu. A blurry image in poor lighting can send customers clicking to the next restaurant, despite your food being the most delicious meal they’ve ever tasted. In fact, photos are so important, there are arguments to be made that having no pictures is better than having low-quality images.

To avoid this situation altogether, first read through some tips for improving your picture-taking abilities. Next, set up a photo shoot for your dishes, taking either a picture of:

  • The finished product – Taking a photo of a finished dish is a great way to entice customers to buy a certain menu item. Feel free to garnish the dish and plate it especially for the photo. Although, be careful that the photo isn’t too far off from the finished product.
  • The ingredients – For a creative spin on the menu, take a picture of the ingredients that make up each dish. This will allow you to showcase fresh and diverse vegetables, meats, grains, and spices that make up your flavor profile.

You won’t necessarily need a photo for every menu item (although if this is easy for you, why not). Instead, have one be the representative image for each different category of menu items (one salad, one ‘from the grill’, and one ‘from the sea’, etc.). Or pick the two or three best sellers from each category and put them on display. 

Menu item descriptions

There are many ways to describe your menu items: 

  • Keep it casual and straightforward by listing out the ingredients that make up each dish. 
    • Example: Saffron-infused rice with creamy aioli sauce, topped with salmon, broccolini, mushrooms, and rosemary.
  • Get creative and write out flavor portfolios for each item. 
    • Example: An exotic blend of middle eastern spices and meats fuse together in this savory dish.
  • There’s also a safe middle ground to bring out the best of both sides.
    • Example: Potatoes slow-roasted in bourbon whiskey, rosemary, and hints of cacao pair nicely with the smooth creamy egg souffle, topped with chives and fresh spinach.

The question to ask yourself is: what do you want to highlight? Are the ingredients the most important, or is it the story behind each dish? 

Consider the theme or style for your restaurant menu

Your restaurant’s theme is your diners’ experience. Everything from the paint colors, decor, and seating arrangement is chosen with purpose. So too should the style of your online menu.

  • The traditional menu The traditional menu is where organization comes first and foremost. With the categories clearly labeled and a photo (or multiple photos) sprinkled throughout, the traditional menu presents the food in a well-defined order.
  • The ingredients-style menu – If you want to be known for your organic ingredients, free-range meats, and catch of the day seafood, emphasize the pieces rather than the whole. This could mean providing the location of where each ingredient was sourced, with pictures of the ingredients instead of the dishes.
  • The rotating menu – If your menu changes by the season, month, week, or day, start your menu by listing the current seasonal ingredients and flavors used. If your menu changes frequently, be sure to update your website and to provide dates so that your customer knows what to expect.

Why your restaurant website should have a menu

Nowadays, customers will spend nearly as much time looking for the restaurant as they do ordering and eating. It’s the era of choice. With more restaurants, fast food options, and delivery capabilities in the hands of consumers than ever before, they have the luxury of being selective

To compete in this market, you have to meet the customer where they’re at — online! Your customers are on their phones judging menus, reviews, and photos. If you don’t entice them from the get-go, they might bounce right off the page. Thus, your menu is extremely important. 

If you don’t have your menu online, customers will quickly ‘x’ out of the website and find another restaurant that does. With 80% of customers stating that seeing a menu before dining at a restaurant is important, the risks of not having one are too high.

Plus, with a menu, you will showcase your most popular items, the fresh ingredients you source, and the tantalizing photos of the finished product.

Start your menu with Constant Contact today

With Constant Contact’s website builder, have your menu up and running on your restaurant website in no time. All you have to do is:

  • Use the A.I.-driven website builder
  • Add a menu page
  • Start filling it in with photos and descriptions.

Of course, if you’ve already built the perfect menu, feel free to link it or embed it directly into the site. By doing so, you will have more customers coming through your doors than ever before.

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