What’s the Best Online Menu for Restaurants?

In this post:  best online menu for restaurants, restaurant goal, search engine optimization, SEO, your restaurant website, location is key, listings on Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, travel review sites, social media, insights study, travel review website study, Single Platform, questionable sales tactics, distribution channels, your restaurant website.

What’s the best online menu for a restaurant? To answer that question, we need to stand back and take a larger look. The ultimate goal should be that YOUR restaurant website achieves the #1 spot in internet search results. An accurate listing on Google My Business, along with free listings on Yelp and TripAdvisor, is vital, too. If your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) is working, the results should display as follows:

  1. Your restaurant website
  2. Your Google My Business listing
  3. Your Yelp listing
  4. Your TripAdvisor listing

With items #2, 3 and 4, claim your listing and check to make sure content is accurate.

It’s safe to say that most online searches for restaurants and bars are location-based. From there, consumers further narrow their dining decision based on menu options. Dietary restrictions and party size, especially, come into play at this stage.

It’s critically important that your website showcase your food and drink menu(s). Menus are key influencers in the consumer decision-making process. It’s highly likely that your website’s (menu) content can be easily updated. All that should be needed is admin access and a little training. Then you’ll only ever need to keep one set of menus updated.

With Google My Business, Yelp and TripAdvisor, when possible, include a link to your menu or reference that menus are available on your website within your listing. All roads should lead to one resource.

Several years ago, a major travel review website conducted a study and, not surprisingly, the results concluded that “More consumers than ever use and trust online review sites and social media for recommendations on where to eat – both at home and while traveling.”

The desire of Yelp and TripAdvisor is to drive traffic to their respective websites and to sell advertising. Their success is determined by their ability to appear high in search engine results.

Some businesses have elected to solely use social media platforms instead of a website. To be honest, a free social media account isn’t a bad thing, especially when you can easily update content. However, one change to the platform’s algorithm, templates or privacy rights can greatly impact what displays and what doesn’t. The real goal of the various types of marketing tools, e.g., PR, social media, content marketing, email marketing, is to drive consumers to the business’ website and to close the sale.

Those restaurants that rely only on social media may not realize their info is behind a closed door. Without a social media account on a particular platform or network, a consumer won’t be able to view your information. Why lead someone down a path that leads to a roadblock or a dead end? For privacy reasons, not everyone has joined in social media mania.

Let’s loop back around and discuss Single Platform, a pay-to-play online menu distribution system previously owned by Constant Contact and now owned by TripAdvisor. Unknown to many restaurants, Single Platform took menu content without permission from restaurant websites and added it to their system. Through some arrangement with Google and TripAdvisor, data began flowing into the restaurant’s Google My Business and TripAdvisor listings. Yes, this is why it’s important to at least semi-annually check your content and make necessary updates!

Back in 2012, Single Platform promised to help small businesses get discovered through web and mobile searches. It claimed to give small businesses a single place to update their critical business information and deliver that information across a publishing network, reportedly reaching more than 200 million consumers per month. The phrase “a single place” is key. Why shouldn’t that place be the one you control – your website that you own?

Let’s think about that 200 million number for a moment. How many of those are truly quality consumers who would actually come to your restaurant? Is this a case of more is just more? Put in context, in January 2017, TripAdvisor shared it “currently averages 390 million monthly unique visitors.” That number grows if you count traffic from Google My Business and Yelp.

Now compare that to search results detailed in a Google My Business Insights Study from Fall 2017 thru December 2018. We suggest that these statistics would tend to include a more qualified customer.

  • The average local business receives 1,260 views each month – 943 on Search and 317 on Maps
  • 75% of businesses’ Google My Business listing views are on Search
  • 49% of businesses receive more than 1,000 Views on Search per month

Since the arrival of the Internet, the phrase “distribution channel” has shaken up many an industry. Travel agents previously booked hotels, flights, cruises and car rentals. Your local news was delivered to your driveway each morning. Music was carried over the airwaves on your car radio. Correspondence and bills were delivered to your physical mailbox. The one thing that is certain is that distribution channels continue to be eliminated.

Single Platform is a distribution channel that relies on third parties willing to distribute their data. Interestingly, Single Platform’s website highlights Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare and YP (Yellow Pages). So one has to wonder, are they adding your data into their system and then flowing it into these other websites or is it being inserted into your claimed listings? Why would you want your menu to appear on a bunch of other websites to fight for SEO space and take away from the top four contenders highlighted above?

With today’s technology, the least expensive way to highlight your restaurant menu may be on your restaurant’s website. Creating a website and/or adding a menu within an existing website is fairly cheap compared to, as of this writing (August 2020), Single Platform’s cost per month ranging from $109 to $199 a month.

In closing, below are two real-life experiences with Single Platform.

  1. A restaurant manager was receiving complaints because supposedly the restaurant’s online menus were displaying certain food items not on the menu presented by waitstaff. With a little research, it was determined that an outdated menu (obtained unknown to the restaurant) was added on their Google My Business listing courtesy of Single Platform. Once identified as the source of the customer complaints, the restaurant’s menu link from its website replaced Single Platform’s data. The problem disappeared.
  2. From 2012 to 2019 a salesman would routinely call and state he or she was with Constant Contact and ask to only speak with the restaurant manager. Since December 2019, they now call and claim to be with TripAdvisor when he or she actually works with Single Platform. A business relationship should be the best it can be when you are being wooed. Working with an ethical company is critically important.
  3. Even restaurants that do not take reservations on OpenTable are now flowing unauthorized menu content from Single Platform.

If you are a restaurant advertiser on the real TripAdvisor website, you should be able to get that ad manager to flag your account so Single Platform finally stops calling.

In the end, your ultimate goal is that YOUR website achieves the #1 spot in search results and that it house your online menu. All marketing avenues should lead consumers back to your website as that’s the one and only place your menu should reside.

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