MustHaveMenus Blog

Fresh Ideas to Grow Your Business

6 Essentials of a Restaurant Website

Much like the sweet smell of cinnamon rolls might tempt a passerby to walk through your restaurant doors, a well designed and optimized website can entice a potential customer to do the same.

Your restaurant’s website is your online hub, your information center. It’s your space to represent your brand and share your story. Make it magnetic. Lure visitors in with delectable photos and easy-to-browse menus, call them to action by providing links to make reservations or order food online, and make it enticing to stay in touch with links to your social media accounts and email newsletter sign-up.

These are the six basic ingredients your website restaurant needs to start attracting dream diners to your dinner table:

Stocksy_txpc8fcb434YnU000_Small_4865511. Big, Bold Photos

Imagery is key, especially when it comes to food. Be sure your home page includes a slideshow that showcases your dishes, restaurant atmosphere and friendly staff in their best light. Hire a food photographer if you can, or simply snap pics with the latest smart phone.

2. A Clean Layout

Keep your text to a minimum and make it easy for your restaurant goers to read. Once a visitor reaches your website, they will only give the page a brief scan before deciding to click on the oh-so-important menu. Make sure the headline is in a larger font size than the rest of your content, and break up any blocks of text with delicious-looking photos.

3. A Responsive Designoo-phone

Make sure your website is responsive (optimized for mobile viewing), including your menus! Google recently made an update to their algorithms factoring mobile-friendliness into how it ranks websites. It’s now more important than ever to make sure your customers can consume your content on all of their devices.

4. Easily Accessible Menus

Your restaurant’s menus need to be one click away from any page of your website. If you’ve hooked potential patrons with stunning photos and a clutter-free design, they will take the next step to click on the menu link and find out more about the food. All of the menus you offer should be displayed and up to date, from happy hour grub to prix fixe dinners, wine lists and weekend brunch.

MustHaveMenus offers everything from menu design, to print, to online publishing and online ordering. Get started today to make menu management a snap!

5. Calls to Action

Once you’ve sealed the deal with your mouth-watering menus, give your website browsers the opportunity to take a bite. Do you offer takeout or delivery? Include a link to order online. How about reservations? Make it easy to reserve a table right from your website, whether viewed on a tablet, smart phone or laptop.


facebook-logo6. Conversation Starters

Invite your website visitors to join your conversation. Include links to your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts in the header and/or footer of your website. Create an incentive for users to sign up for your weekly or monthly email newsletter. Complimentary appetizer anyone? How about a $15 tasting menu? Make it fun for your customers to stay in touch and be a part of your story.

 

By following this recipe for your restaurant website, the search engines will take notice and so will your potential customers. Once they click, they’ll find themselves admiring your flavorful photos, scouring every detail of your menus and ordering online so they can savor your food first-hand.

Stay in Touch with Your Customers

One of the best ways for your restaurant to stay in touch with customers is to think like a publisher.

Put yourself in the shoes of your favorite regional or city publication and plot out an editorial calendar just like they do. Reserve May for a feature on rhubarb, August for dining al fresco and December for special holiday menus. Like the local glossies portray the authentic feel of their own city, keep your stories unique to your restaurant.

In addition to the star story, keep several mainstay columns that customers can expect to read every time they visit your website, receive your email newsletter or scan through their social media feed. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Dish of the Month

Halibut & Chips on the menu this month? Write a blog post about where you source your halibut, your secret tip for crispy breading and what beers on tap pair perfectly with the dish.

Customer Favorites

Poll your customers on what their favorite dish is and why. You can make an informal ask in the dining room, pose the question in a Facebook post or just by paying attention to what your guests are saying online. Repost through your social media channels or create testimonials to include throughout your website, in blog posts or featured in your email newsletter.

From the Kitchen 

Purchase a larger commercial mixer for the kitchen? Shout about it! Your customers will be thrilled with a shorter wait as you crank out twice as many of your award-winning donuts. Profile your pastry team, take behind-the-scenes photos and share stories of how new flavors are created in the kitchen.

Fan Food Photos

Encourage your clientele to snap pics of their food and share via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with a hashtag unique to your restaurant. Once a month, share a roundup of top photos and be sure to credit your customers for their photos.

Press Quotes

Named to a “Best Breakfast Spots” list in a local publication? Write a summary on your blog and link to the article, re-tweet the magazine’s mention and post an Instagram photo of your restaurant’s name in print.

Creating, distributing and redistributing interesting content is essential for keeping your diners interested, and attracting new ones to your place. No need to wait for the media to mention you. Go ahead and convey your own rich and delicious story.

Online Ordering is Here!

 

Would you say no to more takeout business? We didn’t think so.

That’s why we’re excited to give you a sneak preview of our new online ordering app! Soon, you’ll be able to manage your online orders in the same place that you manage your menu design, print, and publishing – with MustHaveMenus.

 

 

Getting started will be easy. Just enable your existing menu for online ordering and you’ll be off and running! Our app automatically pulls data from the menu you’ve designed with us, so there’s no need to enter it separately, or wait for someone else to do it for you.

(Haven’t designed a menu with us yet? It’s easy to get started.)

 

 

The admin view makes it simple to review your incoming orders, and make sure everything happens on time. You can even edit your online menu to be different than your printed menu – hide items you don’t want available for takeout, change prices, and add photos to any item.

 

VinOO_Success

 

We’ll make it easier than ever for your customers to do more business with you.

A limited release of online ordering will be available to a select number of members in early July. Want to get your name on the list, or just want to know more? Fill out the info on this page, and we’ll get in contact soon!

The Natural Next Step to Grow your Business

shutterstock_231684511It’s  a great time to be alive; we live in a time where the technology and resources to build some of the best and most exciting solutions to our conundrums are readily available. And more and more, people are turning to their phones to make use of this technology.

Today, we have more mobile devices than people on Earth! This means a great deal for you and your customers.

You already know that it’s important to have a website and to have your beautiful menus published, up-to-date, and easily readable online for your customers. But, as people expect more and more functionality and convenience from their mobile and online experiences, isn’t it time your menu did more? These rising expectations correlate directly with what we are doing here at MustHaveMenus, where we are working everyday to build an all-in-one solution for restaurants around the world.

We want to help you succeed in this new, do-it-all-on-mobile landscape. That’s why we think the natural next step for you, and us, is online ordering.

Our new online ordering product will provide all the tools and insights you need to set up and manage online takeout orders for your restaurant or food service, and will integrate seamlessly with your existing menu on MHM. (Don’t have a menu with MustHaveMenus yet? It’s easy to get started.)

Generating more takeout sales will be easier than ever.

We’re excited to help boost your growth and keep you competitive. Interested in being an early adopter, and generating more takeout orders? Our ahead-of-the-curve customers can get started today. Contact us for more information.

3 Things to Do to Improve the Dining Experience

Extensive series in a barbeque restaurant.  Multi-ethnic group includes Caucasian, African American and Indian models.  Friends having fun, and a family as well.

When you run a restaurant, you’re not just in the business of feeding people. You’re in the business of creating an experience—one that will keep your customers coming back again and again.

Here are three simple yet powerful steps you can take to improve that experience, and to get your restaurant’s diners back to the table more often.

1. Empower Your Front-of-House Staff

When employees know they have your trust, they’re better able to earn your customers’ trust in turn. Give your servers and other front of house staff the power to make up for minor problems without needing to run it by management, and let them comp a dessert here and there just because.

You can still set the guidelines, but give your waitstaff freedom and flexibility to work within them. Let them know you trust them to make the right choices for your restaurant, and they’ll wear their new empowerment with pride—and translate it into five-star service for each and every table.

2. Make a Better Menu

Davis_Ale_House_MenuToo many dining establishments see menus as a means to an end, rather than a core part of the dining experience. Your menu is your customers’ gateway to everything you have to offer; if it’s unappealing, confusing, or plain old dull, you’re creating low expectations for the entire meal.

There’s no cookie-cutter method to effective menu creation; every restaurant needs to figure out what their clientele wants in their meal and their experience, then design their menu accordingly. With a carefully customized menu, you’ll clue customers in to exactly what they can expect. They’ll be ready for their experience to match up to the menu’s promise.

3. Build a Stronger Brand

Many restaurateurs hear the word “brand” and immediately think of tacky color schemes and logos stamped on every square inch of their building. While logos (used correctly) and color schemes (good ones) are important branding elements, they’re just the beginning.

Effective branding ties everything together, creating a cohesive experience that starts at your restaurant’s exterior and stays strong through service. A strong brand gives you control over how your customers see your business and respond to your marketing efforts, and helps them build a relationship with you rather than seeing you as just one more option when they’re feeling hungry.

A good brand involves everything you do, from menus to decor to how your staff interacts with customers. It informs everything your restaurant does and communicates, during open hours and in your offsite outreach. You can start building a better brand and menu today by getting started with MustHaveMenus, or reading some of our other articles for specific, actionable tips that will take your restaurant wherever you want it to go.

How MHM Handles 5 Million Menu Updates Monthly

5 million menu updates every month. This is the number we’ve come to, and it keeps growing.

Our restaurants power their websites with our high-resolution, print-ready, mobile-friendly menus, plus MHM for Facebook. This means that we have to eliminate processing delays to ensure no lost business for our restaurants.

When a menu is updated, we take a number of steps.

  1. Create a point-in-time snapshot so you can go back to an old version.
  2. Replicate your new menu data and back it up.
  3. Process the menu design and graphical images, and reprocess your online services that are linked from your website.

Yes, this happens over 5 million times per month.

MustHaveMenus is able to do this instantaneously, without any waiting for long network updates and menu reprocessing. Your menus, PDFs, mobile menu, and Facebook pages stay online and receive the latest changes, even if your menu design changes, or you add new ones.

We’ve implemented a number of backend systems to keep restaurant menus up and running for fast response times and during heavy loads. For instance, our Menu Builder 2.0 is actually sprawled across a network of NoSQL database nodes, called Couchbase, which lets thousands of restaurants simultaneously update their menus at once. More than that, we’re able to grow and keep up with all of the new demands of our restaurant members.

(For the technically inclined, we chose Couchbase over Mongo for it’s MVCC approach to data-writes, plus it’s auto-sharding cluster management.)

couchbase

If you have not put your restaurant menus in the cloud with MHM, let us help your business and bring new eaters. It’s easy to get started.

Make Your Takeout Menu in 5 Minutes

 

Once you’ve created your tabletop menu in Menu Builder 2.0, it’s a snap to make a takeout version. Simply open your menu, make a copy (with the Copy Menu button), and the new version will be your takeout menu. Change the paper size to Trifold or Quadfold, and your content will autoflow into the takeout template. Adjust the headers and spacing, and you’re ready to print!

Don’t have a menu yet? It’s easy to create your takeout menu from scratch, too. Pick a design, select a takeout size, and enter your content. You can customize the cover panel, change font colors, add your logo and icons, and more.

When you order prints, we’ll trim and fold them for you; they will arrive at your door ready for your customers.

Southern Oregon Restaurants Adopt Cloud Menus

Howard Prairie Lake Resort and Oberon’s Tavern Modernize Their Menu Management

“Our menus have leapt into the modern era with the help of MustHaveMenus; their simple tools and great customer service open up so many marketing opportunities for us.” — Emily Parish, director of guest services, Mt Ashland Howard Prairie Lake Resort

“Besides live music, our menu is our #1 form of advertising and we couldn’t be more pleased that MustHaveMenus allows Oberon’s eclectic Shakespearean vibe to come across to patrons loud and clear.”
— Jordan Mackay, owner, Oberon’s Tavern

Oberons MenuModern restaurant owners have a lot on their plate: from the kitchen to social media, management to marketing, there are many aspects of the business to coordinate. Many savvy restaurateurs are turning to cloud resources to simplify the process. Two businesses in Southern Oregon have taken the leap to cloud-based menu software with MustHaveMenus.

The Howard Prairie Lake Resort is set in a stunning lakeside wilderness overlooking Mt McLoughlin. Emily Parish, director of guest services, used to rely on desktop publishing tools to create menus for the resort. But the software limited her creativity and didn’t deliver the professional results she wanted. Now Parish uses MustHaveMenus’ dynamic web tools to create her menus and deliver them seamlessly to the resort’s online marketing channels.

Oberons MenuNearby, in downtown Ashland, Oberon’s Tavern has an eclectic Shakespearean theme, enhanced by nightly music and Elizabethan-inspired fare. Owner Jordan MacKay also used to rely on home publishing programs such as Microsoft Word. “MustHaveMenus provides us with exponentially better menu management,” MacKay says. “Thankfully, gone are the days of wrestling with Word documents. Now our fun, spirited atmosphere, full of music, belly dancers and chicken plumb pies can be articulated through our menus; we are so thankful for MustHaveMenus.”

New Look And New Themes

This month we’ve launched a new look for the Menu Builder 2.0. Here’s a quick overview of what’s new & improved:

1. The workspace is simplified.
The navigation has moved to the top, making it easier to view your content and the menu preview side-by-side. And instead of toolbars and buttons spread around the workspace, now they are all contained on the left.

The new & improved workspace has tools on the left, preview on the right.

The new & improved workspace has tools on the left, preview on the right.

Controls are now easier to find.

Controls are now easier to find.

2. Tools are more discoverable.
Some of the tools have been reorganized to make them easier to find. For example, you’ll now find Fonts, Spacing, and Columns settings under Styles. The control for “hide background” now lives under Graphics. If you have any trouble finding the tool you need, our service team will be happy to help (1-800-452-2234).

No more delays for auto-refresh.

No more delays for auto-refresh.

3. Refresh preview is now manual.
Instead of auto-refreshing the preview every few seconds, we’ve turned the control over to you. Now you decide when you are ready to see the latest version of your preview.  No need to slow down for auto-refresh. This change makes the menu-building experience faster and simpler.

4. New Themes to choose from.
Themes are designs created by our professional menu design team. They offer inspiration and a starting point for your custom menu needs. We’re adding new options to the collection every week. If you have a favorite design you’d like to use in Menu Builder 2.0 but you don’t see it in the theme gallery yet, just give us a call.  Click here to see the newest designs.

New themes are added daily.

New themes are added daily.

Get Creative with Menu Builder 2.0

The new menu builder at MustHaveMenus offers more flexibility than ever to create a menu that perfectly fits your business.

Start with a template created by our professional menu designers, or select Build Your Own for a totally custom experience. Type in your menu content, then create your design. Here are some ideas for designing your own unique menu:

Add Graphics & Photos
It’s easier than ever to add your logo, a custom background, or photos to your menu. Upload your own art, or choose from one of the graphics galleries. Theme-related graphics include specials boxes and accents, or browse the large Clipart library for food images, seasonal graphics, word art and more.

NextGen-Sample-3NextGen-Sample-4NextGen-Sample-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change Layout
Try different paper sizes – including legal, tabloid, half-page, or table tent – with just one click. Select from several column layouts, and adjust spacing as you prefer.

Customize Fonts
Select from more than 40 fonts, in a wide range of styles.  Match the text colors to your brand or logo.

Your Design, Your Brand
Whether you have an established brand or you’re searching for inspiration, Menu Builder 2.0 has got you covered. What will you create?

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