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  • Writer's pictureMaya

Optimize Your Menu for Online Ordering

Photo Courtesy eatOS

Restaurants spend a lot of time and money perfecting their menu, but those that are new to online and mobile ordering may not know digital menus have their own design needs.

To get the most out of online platforms, restaurants have to think like their tech-savvy customers.

Here are some ways to bring out the full potential of the online ordering side of your business.

Usability — Food Categories

One of the most critical factors in a great online ordering experience is the layout of your menu. Customers can’t flip through a menu in seconds the way they can in person. Most likely, if a potential customer can’t find what they’re looking for immediately, they’ll move on to another option.

Creating many categories helps users navigate a digital menu. Instead of being flooded with too many options, they can quickly narrow down their choices. Sub-menus are also great for mobile navigation, which is often limited to small screens that only fit a few menu items at a time.

One helpful category is the recommended category. This sub-menu can highlight specialties, bestselling menu items, and highly profitable menu items. Make sure this category is short and sweet for easy navigation.

Usability — Customization

One frequent pain point users have with digital menus is not being able to order a menu item precisely as they’d like. In-person customers can directly tell the restaurant exactly how they’d like their order. Many digital menus are rigid and do not allow for the same kind of freedom.

During the ordering process, it’s essential to include customization options. Restaurants may want to cut down on some customization options to streamlining or cost-cutting. Still, it is important to give customers at least special instructions option to make them feel heard, valued, and to optimize their experience.

Usability — Food Logistics

Restaurants may have an urge to post their full menu online, but it’s important to think about how well certain menu items may travel or their peak travel time.

Due to the nature of delivery, it may take up to an hour or more for a meal to reach a customer. In that time, food cools off, gets soggy, warms up, and in general, becomes unappetizing.

Certain menu items are best eaten fresh out of the kitchen and may not travel well. Things such as nachos or mozzarella sticks may become soggy due to moisture. Sandwiches that include many wet items such as tomatoes may have soggy bread by the time they reach the customer.

Other items may pose a health risk if they are not properly handled during delivery. Raw items such as sushi, poke, or tartare may warm up and become unsafe to eat, especially if they are part of an order with hot food.

Anything that may paint your restaurant in a bad light should not be included in the delivery or online ordering menu.

Some items may be revived with some extra packaging or reheating instructions. Creating ventilation in some packaging may prevent steam from making crispy articles soggy. Hot and cold items should be kept separate. Any moisture like sauces or dressing should be kept in a separate container. Items that can be easily reassembled, such as sandwiches, should be kept as separate ingredients to prevent sogginess. Any deconstructed items should have photos showing what they look like before and after so customers can have a pleasant experience.

Remember to keep in mind how food items will travel and what condition customers will likely receive their meal and plan accordingly.


The importance of pictures on digital menus cannot be understated. Customers on digital platforms are often scrolling quickly and need beautiful and accurate images to grab their attention. Very often, customers may choose a meal based on photos alone. Multiple studies have shown that high-quality images can drastically increase sales. Conversely, poor images can turn off potential customers.

Photos aren’t just for individual products, be sure to include category photos as well. This will help indecisive customers quickly see what appeals to them.

Include up to date photos on every single menu item. Consider also including pictures of the meal in its packaging to set proper expectations.

Be Descriptive

Photos are essential, but accurate descriptions are crucial as well. Descriptions of menu items should be thorough if a customer has any allergies but should also well describe the flavors of items.

It’s helpful to use adjectives other than delicious. Using a variety of words like earthy, bright, sweet, creamy, savory, and others will go a long way to attract customers.

Multiple Menus

The beauty of using digital platforms means there are no printing costs to create various menus. Adding specific menus for promotions like value menus, lunch specials, limited-time menu items, or family deals simplifies price modifications and helps customers narrow choices.

Special categories can have their menus, such as health-conscious menus or vegan menus, which will make it easier for specific communities of customers.

Restaurants shouldn’t be afraid to show some personality. Some restaurants may want to include menus based on a meal’s spiciness level; others may wish to highlight popular menu items. Unique sub-menus are a way to show the customer how a restaurant is different than the other ten restaurants waiting on the platform.

As long as the online ordering menu basics are solid, restaurants can experiment to see what works for them. The pandemic may have caused an online ordering explosion, but every industry leader and expert expect this trend to continue even after the pandemic ends.


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