Evolving Technology’s Impact on Menu Development & the Surprising Benefits

Technology has made many changes in the restaurant industry. One of these changes involves how we create and edit menus. Using technology such as tablets and software for menus is convenient both for restaurants and customers. They also make it easier for customers to use apps and order online.


How Technology is Changing Menus

For many years, menus consisted of dishes listed on a piece of paper. Menu design trends might change, and menus could be simple or elaborate, but they were physical objects that diners handled, read, dirtied, and destroyed. Today, the situation is rapidly evolving. Just as people are increasingly reading books on Kindles and other e-readers, they access restaurant menus on tablets and from their phones and laptops. There are several ways that technology is transforming menus.

  • In 2020 and continuing into 2021, many restaurants were compelled to close down their dining rooms and offer only delivery and curbside pickup making online menus a necessity.  Today more than ever, customers prefer the convenience of online ordering even when in-house dining is permitted.
  • QR Code menus allow guests to view the menu on their phone and eliminate the need to print multiple menu copies.
  • Self-order kiosks permit customers to place their orders and pay all on their own – freeing up employees to focus on other tasks.
  • Digital menu display boards are great for changing menu options such as daily specials and supply visuals that help make the sale. They are also useful for complying with health regulations that require you to list calorie counts for menu items.

According to Technomic, 46% of customers want an online, mobile, or kiosk ordering option. While this is partly due to safety concerns caused by the pandemic, it is also true that as people embrace technology, they come to prefer these types of features.  The days of asking for a menu when you want a different beer for the second round may be gone.

Benefits of Digital Menus

Technology is making it possible to make your restaurant more convenient for both you and your guests. Here are some of the key benefits you can reap from digital menus:

Simple to Edit

It is much easier to edit a digital menu. With a traditional paper menu, you have to start over and print out a new menu every time a change is made. In most restaurants, menus are always changing based on the time of day, your daily specials, the availability of ingredients, amongst other factors.

Upsell Customers

A digital menu lets you instantly present side dishes, appetizers, specials, and other potential upsells. Just as customers on Amazon automatically see related items to put in their shopping cart, restaurant guests can be marketed to with add-ons, beverages, desserts, or anything that goes well with their order.

Speeds Up Checkout

With digital menus, the process of ordering and paying is expedited, reducing lines. For busy restaurants, it is essential to keep everything moving as lines can mean losing customers.

Perfect for Contactless Ordering

Social distancing is likely to remain a priority for the foreseeable future. One obvious advantage of technology is that it allows for online ordering. However, it also helps minimize contact when customers enter a restaurant. Using a tablet or QR code menu minimizes contact between guests and servers.

Flexible Payments

Customers are embracing new types of payment options. In addition to credit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay are increasingly popular among the younger generation. In the coming years, we can expect more options, possibly including cryptocurrency payments. Technology makes it simple for customers to pay using their preferred method.

Improve Customer Experience

Digital menus allow restaurants to improve the overall customer experience. By offering up-to-date menu items, it removes the frustration and wasted time that occurs when customers order items not currently available. It allows instant transitions when you want to change the menu, such as from breakfast to lunch to dinner.

Using Technology to Enhance Your Menu

Every restaurant must identify the best tools for optimizing all of its menu functions. You should think of everyone’s needs, including servers and customers. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of digital menus:

  • Keep your menu updated. Technology lets you make instant changes to your menu, whether it is because you ran out of an item or you are transitioning from one special to the next.
  • Test menu options. The ease of editing digital menus lets you test items for popularity. You can test entree names, pricing, daily specials, and any other possible menu features.
  • Use technology to provide news and entertainment. Tools such as digital menu boards and tablet menus let you do more than list menu selections. You can also display the latest news about your restaurant, mention your latest promotions (such as holiday meals or your rewards program), and display entertaining images and short videos.
  • Track metrics. Take advantage of the enhanced ability to track inventory and customer behavior. You can track various factors, such as when certain menu items are more popular, inventory turnover rates, and where to position items on a menu to maximize sales.

Each restaurant has to assess how it can best utilize technology to make improvements to its menu. Having options such as touchscreen menus or a digital menu board gives you the freedom to experiment with many options and help you create the ideal menu.

Get Help from a Menu Development Consultant

It is not always easy to know how to plan the ideal menu or take full advantage of the latest technology. Blue Orbit, the national hospitality consulting team, has experience working with all types of restaurants and helping them grow, manage their resources, and menu development. If you need help with menu development or any aspect of restaurant management, contact us.

Michael Maxwell – Partner, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting

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