MustHaveMenus Blog

The Importance of Organic Search for Restaurants

Hands of a woman typing something on the laptop keyboard.

Now, more than ever before, there is an abundance of ways that you can market your restaurant. From print marketing to social media, figuring out the best way for your restaurant to get discovered can be confusing and overwhelming. With 80% of restaurants going under in the first five years of business, your restaurant’s ability to get discovered by new customers is critical in staying afloat.

While any marketing strategy should be diverse and inclusive, 96% of consumers are searching for businesses online, making your digital marketing strategy key. Digital marketing is no longer optional or supplementary. Your restaurant’s ability to get discovered online is a good indicator of your ability to reach new customers in general. 

There are many ways for new customers to find your restaurant online, but on average, organic traffic (from sites like Google) makes up 73% of visitors to businesses’ websites. It’s important to keep your website high on these search result pages for key searches, otherwise potential customers are finding your competition online before they find you. It’s time for your restaurant to take control of your online presence and make sure that you are getting the most out of organic search.

Page Load Speed

Major search engines such as Google and Bing consider the length of time it takes for your website to load when ranking search query results which means that it is important for your website to load efficiently. With 47% of searchers expecting a website to load in just two seconds, your website’s margin for error is very low. A slow website can cost you customers and lower your ranking in search results.

Mobile Optimization

80% of consumers don’t leave home without a mobile device, which means that mobile is becoming increasingly important. Sites like Google recognize this importance and have begun incorporating mobile optimization into their search algorithms. The better your mobile site is, the higher your restaurant will appear in search results.

Content is King

For your restaurant to perform well in organic search, you need to provide the information that searchers are looking for. This means that your name, address, phone number, menu, and hours of operation need to be easily found on your website in searchable content. A PDF menu isn’t searchable so sites like Google turn a blind eye to all of that rich content. If a potential customer searchers for “pasta near me”, they are less likely be able to find you via Google if you have a PDF menu on your site, whether or not you serve the desired dish.  

Claim Your Listings

Consistency is also a major component to search engine results. Search engines want to know that they are providing their users with trustworthy and accurate information. These search engines boost websites in the ranks if their name, address and phone numbers match across their local listings on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare and YellowPages. To make sure that all of this information is accurate and up-to-date, the restaurant owner should claim their listings across the web and monitor these profiles.

Google alone powers over 6.1 billion searches a day. Organic search has become a part of our lives and restaurants need to make sure that they are taking control of their online presence. SinglePlatform helps restaurants like yours get discovered everywhere that matters online. Learn more today.   

Sound Like a Professional Menu Designer


Collaborating with a professional menu designer can be a big boost for your brand, but when technical design terms get into the mix, it can sometimes feel like translating a foreign language. So, whether you’re creating a new menu with our online menu maker or interacting with our friendly Design Services team, here are 5 key professional menu design terms explained so you can make the most of your menu!

1. Typography

Artfully arranging text guarantees a more coherent and communicative menu. The specific terminology for typography can be tricky though, even for professional designers, so let’s break it down to the essentials and clear up the difference between font and font style. In the Must Have Menus menu maker ‘Clear Gothic’ is a “font” or “font face” while a style applied to Clear Gothic, like bold or italic, is known as a “font style.” The most balanced menus use just 2 or 3 unique fonts to keep from looking messy or overdone.

2. Hex Color

The most common way to represent digital color on the web is via a 6-digit hexidecimal number most often referred to as “Hex Codes” or “Hex Color.” Each number represents a unique mix of Red, Green, and Blue and the combination of these three colors yields a surprising 16 million possible colors – all of which are available in our online menu maker!


3. White Space

We’ve all seen menus stuffed from top to bottom with text and images. “White space” is what that kind of menu is missing. The term refers to the spacing, of any color, between graphics, columns, and lines of type that provides a visual break from content. Though seemingly unimportant, white space is an integral design element that not only guides a customer’s focus but stabilizes any menu composition.

4. Image Resolution

We know it’s tempting to grab your logo from anywhere you can find it but remember, an image that looks great on the internet can look grainy or pixelated when printed.

Generally, graphic images can be defined as either ‘raster’ or ‘vector’. Raster images are made up of thousands of pixels that, when resized, can lower visual quality. Vector images however are made up of points that have a defined X and Y coordinate and can be resized easily without any loss of quality.

So, when a designer requests a high resolution logo for your printed menus, we suggest providing a vector file or a high resolution raster image of at least 300 dpi. Not sure how to tell the difference? No problem! Just check the file type. Most commonly vector files end in .ai, .eps, .pdf or .svg while raster files end in .jpg, .gif, .png, or .tif


5. Contrast

In design speak, ‘contrast’ refers to the difference between paired but distinct elements. ‘High contrast’ refers to the juxtaposition of opposing graphic elements like dark and light, thick and thin, long and short, or textured and smooth. Contrast can also refer to highlighted elements or the pairing of inverse colors that make a menu really pop!


5 Foodie Vocab Words You Should Know

aioli cropped

Foodie might be an overused word right now, but it’s still one to wear as a badge of honor. Legendary chef and food lover Julia Child summed it up perfectly: “People who love to eat are always the best people.” And being the best means having a truly confident culinary vocabulary! Here are 5 foodie words to know, so you can keep your menu masterful.

An oldie but a goodie, aioli has been around since the late 1800s in Mediterranean fare. More recently, it has captured the imagination of modern chefs, who include it on their menus with everything from onion rings to prime cuts of steak. There is some debate among culinary purists about the accurate recipe for aioli; the name itself means “oil and garlic” but the inclusion of egg yolks and lemon juice is common. While many aiolis contain other flavoring, the truest version of aioli contains no seasoning other than garlic.

A liqueur made from cynani (the bitter chemical found in artichokes) may seem unorthodox, but like Amaro or any other Italian herbal liqueur, the benefits of this brew outweigh any weirdness. No stranger to versatility, Cynar is often mixed with orange juice and can be enjoyed as an àperitif, cocktail, or digestive. For mixed drinks, this liqueur offers a full flavor profile with a sweet honey beginning before the herbal finish. Low alcohol content also means that Cynar adds flavor without packing a strong punch. Salute!

Pronounced with a hard G (like “gift”), ghee is a trending alternative to standard butter. Ghee is a “clarified butter” prepared by simmering butter to separate the milk solids. The fat becomes caramelized which results in a nutty flavor. Popular as a component of South Asian and Arabic menus, ghee has become internationally prized for its low smoke point and used as a substitute for vegetable oil in many recipes. Not only is ghee shelf stable, it is also lactose free and has many health benefits!

A close sibling of the banana, the plantain is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient for tasty restaurant fare. Served cooked, plantains resemble green bananas but are often smaller and have a thicker skin that can appear black when ripened. As fruits go, this one is very low in sugar and has a starchy, durable texture that can be used to great effect in both sweet and savory dishes.

Ube (Purple Yam)
This sweet tuber is currently taking the culinary world by storm and starting to appear on menus around the world. Hailing from Filipino and Indian cooking, the purple yam is used in a variety of desserts for both its flavor and rich, natural color. One of the most popular uses for ube in the Philippines is in Halo-Halo (Haluhalo), a dessert served in a tall glass featuring shaved ice, evaporated milk, coconut, nuts, and fruit.

5 Ways to Increase Sales with Your Menu


Profits flagging? Sales of what should be your most popular items slower than you hoped? If your menu is in need of revamp, not to worry. A few simple tricks can lead to increased profits and a more consistent feel for your restaurant.

Mark Up Your Indulgence Items

Setting higher price points is, of course, the easiest way to increase your menu’s profitability. People see going to a restaurant as an outing, an indulgence — something they’re willing to spend money on. This is why people buy popcorn for $5.00 at the movie theater, when they can get it from their microwaves at home for a fraction of the cost.

Along with your main dishes, don’t forget to consider marking up and upselling your ‘indulgence’ items. These include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Wine & Spirits
  • Beer
  • Soft Drinks
  • Desserts

Consider The Price Barrier

The ‘price barrier’ is a term that simply means the price point at which most middle-income diners will balk. The price barrier will vary depending on your location and the style of your restaurant. If you are not running a fine dining establishment, you may wish to reconsider any items priced above $20-$25. Even lowering the price a small amount may benefit sales.

Think About Price Rounding – $10 or $9.99?

While the actual difference between $10 and $9.99 may be only a penny, studies show your clientele might think otherwise. In general, higher-end and upscale restaurants tend to use prices rounded up to the nearest dollar. This makes sense, as your patrons want a luxury dining experience. Price rounding can make a difference. This is more true the less a dish or side item costs. The difference between $25 and $24.95 is slight in the minds of your customers, but the psychological difference between $2.00 and $1.95 can be quite large. This is another great way to pump up profits.

Reduce Clutter

If some items aren’t selling, consider changing the offering or the way it is presented. Some items might just be duds – don’t be afraid to remove them. A dish that seems out of season is not going to sell; a heavy chowder appeals in November, but should be off your menu by spring. If your food menu exceeds 4 pages, you should consider focusing on what you do best. Keep the classics and customer favorites, mix in a few seasonal offerings, and don’t be afraid to let the rest go.

Your menu may also be overwhelming customers with options. Drinks, kids items, and desserts should be presented separately from your main food menu. This allows customers to look for only one type of selection at a time. Follow the guidelines for good menu design: legible fonts, enough space between items, prices visible and easy to understand. Write dish descriptions that appeal to the senses. A clutter-free design like this Steakhouse Dinner Menu will make it easy for diners to make a selection.

Try a Fresh Design

An updated menu design can give you a fresh perspective on your menu – try highlighting customer favorites, or eliminating dishes that aren’t big sellers. A current, seasonal, attractive menu design proves your dedication to your establishment and your customers’ dining experience.

MustHaveMenus clients often report that a new design gives customers the impression that all the food selections have been updated, too. Your regulars might have their favorite items, but they can get bored with your menu. Mix it up with a colorful cafe menu or a clean fine dining menu to inspire them to order something different, and keep them coming back for more.

New Business Hours Options for Online Ordering Customers

marketing BLOG OO business hours templateAt MustHaveMenus we pride ourselves on listening to and gaining understanding from our customers. After receiving some great feedback from our online ordering restaurants, we’ve updated how the Business Hours section works in order to accommodate the sometimes-complex operating hours of a restaurant.

Flexible Hours

Restaurants’ business hours differ for a variety of reasons. Some restaurants may close between their lunch and dinner hours, while others may stay open past midnight, offering a late night menu. Some restaurants only provide Sunday brunch, or dinner only on Fridays and Saturdays. And restaurateurs want their online ordering menu to accurately reflect these details.

With that in mind, we’ve built additional flexibility into our Business Hour system to accommodate almost any combination of hours, enabling restaurants to better serve their customers. Now MHM members can set up standard business hours, create breaks between different shifts, take orders after midnight, or offer different hours for delivery versus takeout service.

Setting up Business Hours

The new Business Hours section is available in our Online Ordering Admin application. Under Configure, you will find the Business Hours tab. From here, select Add to add a section of time that your business is open. These opening times can then be applied to one or multiple days.

Haven’t started online ordering with us yet? It’s easy to get started! You can also learn more about this feature here.

3 Tips for Delicious Do-It-Yourself Food Photography


Taking delicious food photography is fairly easy if you set time aside and follow these three steps. Start with some simple dishes and work your way to the more complex. Promote them on social media, on your website or takeout ordering.


Using a single light source will help you control where the highlights and shadows fall. Natural light from a window is best. You want to avoid direct sunlight, as that will cast very hard shadows and blow out the highlight areas or, what is referred to in the industry, hot spots. An overcast day provides optimum light, as it is filtered by the clouds. So don’t be afraid of shooting when the sun is hidden.

Place your surface within a couple of feet of the light source. Start putting your props (plate, napkin, etc.) onto the surface to begin to create the composition of your shot. This is your “set.” Do not put any food on the plate yet. You are going to make sure you have everything the way you intend before adding the food. There are two reasons for this: first, you do not want the food to look spoiled, wilted or dried out. Second, you will not be able to see how the light is being affected.

Use a 20" x 30" foam core fill card to bounce light into the shadow areas.

Use a 20″ x 30″ foam core fill card to bounce light into the shadow areas.


Though you are using a single light source, you will want to fill in the shadows. The best way to accomplish this is not with another light but with a fill card to “bounce” light from your single light source onto your subject matter. This will provide an overall balance. Your fill card should be about the length of your surface. Start with featuring one dish at a time before tackling a buffet. A good size fill card to begin with should measure 20” x 30.” The best material is foam core. It is lightweight and can be purchased at a local craft or stationery store (Staples or Office Depot).

Depending upon the time of day and the angle of the light coming in from the window, you may need to adjust the angle of your fill card from (for example) 90 degrees to 45 degrees. Put something heavy enough to lean the fill card against so it remains in place. You may need a second pair of hands to hold the card a bit higher or at a precarious angle, while you shoot the photo.

Start with stand-ins before switching out with your “hero” dish.

Start with stand-ins before switching out with your “hero” dish.


Be sure you have two matching plates or at least two of similar color. You will be putting your “stand-in” food on one plate to set your lighting. Put a sampling of the various types of food that will be on the plate so you will be able to adjust accordingly. (For example, cauliflower is a very light color compared to kale, which is very dark.) Have an idea of just how much food will be on the plate. Too little can make your portions look small for the price, too much can make it unappealing. That is why a stand-in is a good idea.

Once you have everything in place: distance from the light source, fill card angle and height, and how close up or far away you want to be from your subject, go ahead and prepare your hero plate. Do not prepare your hero plate on the set. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the food once you bring it back to the set. Any sauces or garnish should be added on the set seconds before you take your final shot so they will look fresh. Focus directly on the subject for crisp images. Take a few versions so you can choose the best. Try rotating the plate in case it offers a better perspective. And voila! 

Stand-in without a fill card.

Stand-in without a fill card.

Final hero shot.

Final hero shot.

4 Simple Tips to Increase Customer Retention

marketing BLOG image_5.25.16Retaining a customer is a lot easier and less expensive than attracting a new one. Once diners are in your seat, give them the opportunity to talk up your restaurant to their social network of friends before they even pay their bill. The potential reach can be priceless when raving fans spread the word for you.

Here are four enticing tips to engage with your customers:

1. Get Creative with Collateral

Give your customers something to hold their attention between putting down their menu and picking up a fork, such as an eye-catching table tent promoting an upcoming event or a menu insert containing interesting highlights or factoids about your restaurant’s humble beginnings. And before they head out the door, make sure they have souvenirs they can take with them—a check presenter insert with a special offer to encourage a repeat visit, a nicely designed loyalty program card or prominently-displayed takeout menus with your social media handles.  

2. Solicit Social Sharing

Invite your diners to snap a pic of their meal to share via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. Invent a theme and create a #hashtag to engage a stream of comments. Or, get specific by tailoring a social media campaign.  Located in a college town neighborhood? Dive into Snapchat. Distribute custom coasters to promote your restaurant’s snapcode. Invite diners to follow your stories and ask them to snap back drool-worthy photos of their favorite menu items for a chance to win rewards, coupons and VIP invites to special events.

3. Openly Ask for Opinions

Since everyone has one (an opinion, that is), casually ask if the new charcuterie plate won them over or if the suggested pinot grigio complemented the clams, while their experience is still fresh.  Even if they enjoyed the atmosphere and the food, solicit ideas to help make their next dinner outing even more memorable.

4. Promptly Respond to Feedback

When customers leave feedback on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon and other social outlets, be sure to respond in a timely manner. Let them know you value their comments, whether positive or negative. The attention will keep your customers around for the long run, and could even turn a negative comment into a glowing review.

Repeat customers are a restaurant’s bread and butter, typically providing the majority of revenue for businesses and the bases for building loyalty. Loyal customers come back more frequently, bring their friends, spend more per visit, and voluntarily promote your restaurant, becoming the best brand ambassadors you could hope for.

Turn Your Takeout Menu Into A Marketing Tool


Takeout is a great way to expand your business and increase your sales. After all, there are only so many tables in your restaurant, and during peak times, people don’t always want to wait for one to open.

In 2013, 60 percent of Americans said they ordered food for takeout or delivery at least once per week. While the demand is huge, many restaurant owners don’t realize that their takeout menu serves much more than its utilitarian purpose. A well-designed takeout menu is arguably your restaurant’s most valuable marketing tool, even ahead of social media and online advertising.

So, how exactly do you create a pamphlet that catches eyes, communicates your offerings and sparks taste buds? Here are a few tips:

Create a Great Cover

The cover of your takeout menu is your first impression. If you’re using an edge-to-edge photo in the background, be sure that it is in high resolution so there is no distortion or pixelation. If you’re using a design, don’t let it get too overbearing or distracting. Of course be sure to include your address and phone number.

Be a Brand

Customers connect to brands, and become extremely loyal to the brands they love. Your brand should be conveyed through your menu design, not just with your logo and colors, but in the overall style of the menu. A takeout menu for an Italian restaurant should have a much different aesthetic than that of a Mexican restaurant. This is why MustHaveMenus allows you to find restaurant menu templates by category.

Customize Your Template

A template is a wonderful tool that can help you to create a menu relatively quickly. Don’t stop at the first iteration, though. Customize your menu to the best of your abilities so that it stands out from the stack.

Tell Your Story

Surely your restaurant has a story behind it. And believe it or not, customers want to hear that story. Let your entrepreneurial and creative visions shine by offering a brief narrative (2-4 sentences) of how your restaurant started, why you started it, how it has grown, and why it’s unique. Include this narrative in a dedicated space somewhere on your takeout menu so that customers know they are supporting a truly meaningful establishment.

Highlight Best Sellers and Specials

Both for profitability and marketing, your takeout menu should include a few standout items. Bring attention to best sellers and specials by stylizing the text in different colors, bold or italics.

Share the Ingredients

People want to know what’s in a dish before they order it. Beyond minimizing the amount of questions you receive about items, short descriptions highlighting the fresh, quality ingredients you use can help to inspire customers and make their mouths water.

Incorporate Photos

Speaking of making mouths water, what better way to convey deliciousness than with photos? But that doesn’t mean you should try to squeeze in a small, poor-quality cell phone photo of every menu item. Instead, add a few professional, high-resolution images for the perfect dash of visualization.

Work with a Professional Designer

If you’re not fully confident in your design skills and/or don’t have the time to design your own menu, it might be best to hire a designer for the job.

You can incorporate all of the above tips into any MustHaveMenus template, or have one of our designers create a beautiful custom takeout menu for you! Learn more about our menu design service, now available at a special price of just $199.

Custom Menu Design Peaks Traffic and Revenue for County Seat Restaurant


Tracey Cifers, owner of County Seat Restaurant & Gathering Place, has been a MustHaveMenus customer since 2007. And she’s been delighting her clientele with custom menu designs ever since. With Powhatan County’s population just over 28,000, being the local go-to gathering place for three generations is a brand to be proud of. Tracey makes the time to “revel in her brand” through frequent menu creations. The result? Increase in the frequency of regular customers, new customer acquisition, and a boost in revenue.

MHM: You’ve been a customer since 2007. How did you come to find MHM?
Tracey: I think I just stumbled across it searching the internet for easy do-it-yourself menu creation. It’s a great option for people who like to be creative but aren’t graphic designers. I used to just scrap and piece together menus in the past. It not only took forever but they also didn’t look very professional. I love to reinvent our restaurant from time to time. It freshens our brand, re-engages our customers and attracts people visiting the area. You can always recognize a newcomer by the way the mispronounce Powhatan
(a dead giveaway that they’re not from Virginia). 

MHM: What do you like the most about using MHM?
Tracey: I love how I can enter all my information once and then switch between design themes to see which I like best. It’s so easy to do. I have done our main menu over about six or seven times, moving menu items around, experimenting using borders and highlighting certain specials. I also like the fact that all of my graphics and files are in one place. I can grab a menu I’ve previously designed, change the theme and I’m done. Simple and cost effective.

MHM: What enticed you to change your menus so frequently?
Tracey: I think it really speaks to showing our customers our sense of pride of place. My mother started this restaurant 23 years ago with one cook, a cashier, and a waitress. Now, we have 30 employees and do over $1 million in sales. That comes from loyal customers. We want to show our appreciation by continuing to be the gathering place they’ve come to expect. We know half of our customers by their first name. They love that!   

MHM: How have your customers responded to your menu designs?
Tracey: Whenever I create a new menu I put it on our website and post it on Facebook. Our customers get really excited when I introduce a new menu. What’s really interesting is how frequently a customer will order something they’ve never ordered before simply because it’s in a different spot or I’ve put a box around it.They think we have all new menu selections but it’s the same items we always have. We’ve even seen a rise in the orders of some of our more pricey dishes by calling them out with graphics.

MHM: How has changing up your menus impacted your business?
Every time I introduce a new menu there is a two-week spike in our restaurant traffic and revenue. We’ve noticed that our regular customers (50% of our clientele) come in more frequently and we also attract between 5% to 10% of new customers.

MHM: What other features do you use on MHM?
Tracey: I create a lot of flyers on MHM. I can design a flyer in just 30 minutes. It brings in a lot of additional business. I’ve used flyers to promote our happy hour, maybe a theme night or holiday. It creates an immediate “wow” factor. I created my first takeout menu just last week. I can’t wait to see the results.

MHM: Why did you decide to use MHM’s Design Services for your latest menu?
Tracey: We decided to update three menus at the same time, breakfast, luncheon and dinner menu. I was really pressed for time. They were able to do in a few hours what would have taken me days to accomplish, with all the changes happening at once. The MHM Design Services team was very helpful and fast. But honestly, I really enjoy carving out the time to create menus myself.


3 Reasons Online Ordering Drives Customer Loyalty

Online ordering is one of the most powerful tools that restaurant owners can use to ride the digital wave. By allowing customers to order online, you can generate a whole new stream of business that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible. Not only that, the customers you reach are also more likely to become regulars.

Your online menu is your first impression in a competitive marketplace. Customers will undoubtedly compare your menu against other restaurants before coming to a final decision and taking the first step toward becoming a loyal customer. Here are three main reasons why online ordering drives customer loyalty:

1. Convenience

The number one reason why customers love to order online is because it’s convenient. In fact, delivery and carryout are often the leading factors in their decision.

But those options alone won’t win you their business – not these days. Online ordering has turned what was once considered a convenient phone call into a pain point. In a world that revolves around text messaging and emailing, customers now want to place an order on their phone or computer. Online ordering makes it easy for them to order food without disrupting their day.

2. Efficiency

There’s no better way to win a customer’s heart than by lightening their schedule, and online ordering does just that. Think of all the time-consuming steps you’re eliminating from the dining experience: waiting for a table, waiting for food, waiting for the check…And if you offer delivery, you’re saving them even more time. With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps of the phone, their order is placed, paid, and in preparation.

3. Accuracy

Human error is a part of running a restaurant. Sure, you never want to get an order wrong. But quantitatively, if your staff takes enough orders, mistakes will happen. With online ordering, the chances of an incorrect address or item are virtually non-existent. Everything is systemized, and the customer’s order is relayed right to the kitchen.

Getting Started

Implementing an independent online ordering system can be a daunting and expensive project, but we’ve made it easier and more affordable than ever. Online ordering now comes with a MustHaveMenus membership, so you can maximize your takeout sales using a clean and easy-to-use dashboard that integrates with your MustHaveMenus account. Ready to take your business to the next level? Click here to get started.


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