Common Restaurant Website Mistakes #1 – PDF Menus

Posted on Friday, June 13 2014 by Russ Huntington

Restaurant websites are frequently criticised and subject to ridicule for perceived over-elaborate and ultimately ineffective digital marketing techniques. Too often, it’s the simple things that should be easy to get right that results in potential customers turning away at the mere sight of a poorly designed website with annoying background music. The Oatmeal summarised it well with a recent comic:

In this first part of a series of blog posts about common restaurant website mistakes, we’ll look at the single most common mistake - only making menus available as downloadable PDFs.

There are many reasons why restaurant owners decide to promote their menus in this way. In some cases the menu is very long, and there simply isn’t the time to transfer it all onto a website correctly. In other cases, the menu changes so frequently that continually maintaining it on the website it too big an undertaking.

In any case, it’s a problem for two main reasons:

  1. PDF files are not always fully accessible to search engines. This is because (and not in all cases) the PDF can be constructed using a single large image per page. If the text of your menu is part of the image and not proper “selectable” text – it won’t be readable by search engines. This means that your would-be customers cannot easily find you on a search engine by looking for the keywords that are on your menu.
  2. An increasing amount of users are accessing restaurant websites with mobile devices (currently around 40%). Many smartphones these days can read a PDF file with no problems, but some can’t. Those that can still have small screens, so you’re forcing the user to zoom in and pan around to find the text they’re looking for. You also need to consider that many mobile phone users have restrictive data allowances – that means a large PDF file could consume much more of their browsing allowance than they’d like.

Make sure your website contains a properly formatted HTML menu, so that you’re fully accessible to users on all devices and to all search engines. White Menu can help! Contact us to find out more.