Dear Restaurants, stop using PDF menus.

11 FEB 2011 1

Dear Restaurants,

It's your friend Dave here. I just wanted to let you know how much my wife and I appreciate you being there for us when we've both had a really long day, and/or week, and we don't want to cook.  It's been really helpful! I don't want to seem ungrateful, but we've noticed something  that you frequently do which seemed like a cute quirk at first, but over the years it's become a bit annoying.

Truth be told, we know we're not the only ones... in fact a lot of your friends have been talking about it behind your back.  I know this may not be the easiest thing to talk about, but someone needs to tell you so that we can break the cycle. Please, I beg you, stop using PDF files for listing your menus on your websites! I'm not knocking the technology, it's great when used in the proper context. This is certainly not it.

Why you might be using PDF Menus:

  • It's a lot easier, as you can usually just use your existing menu files to export a PDF
  • You don't know what a PDF is, and your webmaster did it. (If you click on the menu and it takes a while to load and you don't see your website anymore, then it's probably a PDF)
  • You are far too busy, and would like less people to come eat at your restaurant
  • ???

Why you shouldn't be using PDF Menus:

  • They take a lot longer to load than a menu set up in your website would. The Internet has made us all impatient. At best your potential customer will be annoyed by the wait, at worst they will give up and go on to the next site.
  • They can be frustrating. If you don't use it often, your pdf reader may need an update.  Even today the most popular browsers can have difficulty with pdf plug-ins, resulting in browser hangs or crashes.
  • They are less useful.  Having an entire menu to look at, or multiple menus, may work when you've decided on a restaurant and blocked off the next hour to eat.  When you're trying to find a place to eat, you want to compare options and prices.  Having to scroll through pdf menus in multiple tabs or windows to find the things you're interested is time-consuming and frustrating.

I know what you're thinking, "So what Dave? My regular customers love me, and will put up with the wait!"  You're probably right about that, but your regular customers probably don't even visit your website, as they already know all about you. The focus of your website should be on showing and telling new potential customers about your restaurant, how great it is and hopefully converting them into new regular customers.

The two most important pieces of information for a new potential customer are going to be the menu, followed by the location. If customers are irritated when loading the most basic information, and that's the first experience they have with your business, you are starting off on the wrong foot. Despite what we want to tell ourselves, first impressions do matter and it's difficult to overcome a poor first impression.

I know it's not easy guys, it's more time consuming and complicated and just all around harder to do it the right way, but let's face it: the most worthwhile pursuits in life usually aren't easy. Also, I just happen to work here at Lifeline, so we can help you if you're stuck!

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