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Should My Restaurant Menu be PDF or HTML?


Why You Should Get Rid of the PDF Menu

Important business info shouldn’t be hard to find. When you’re running a restaurant, it’s your job to make sure the menu is easily and widely available. But should you offer a PDF download, or write in HTML directly on the site?

HTML, “the language of the web,” is designed for on-screen viewing and interactivity. PDFs are aimed at retaining the exact appearance of a document, chiefly for printing.

When it comes to your restaurant menu, we believe HTML is the clear winner.

Here are four clear reasons to ditch your PDF menu for HTML.




Faster Load Speeds

Most web pages you see on a daily basis use HTML to display text. Because HTML is encoded inside the page itself, the text loads more quickly than were it part of an attachment. In short, it’s faster to load a webpage (already encoded with HTML) than it is to load a webpage with a PDF in tow. This is especially consequential when most customers will be accessing your menu on mobile.




Better Search Results

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a fancy term for google’s ability to “read” and analyze the usefulness of any given webpage. Because a PDF exists separate from the HTML that constitutes the webpage, Google doesn’t read it. The consequences of this are numerous, but chief among them is direct harm to your online relevance in search results.

A quick example: Your restaurant serves over two dozen pasta dishes, but Google can’t read those menu items because they’re in PDF form. Instead of thirty search hits tied to your menu, Google reckons you and Blockbuster equally competent in Italian cuisine. That’s not fair or customer-friendly.





Easily Updated

The problem with printed menus is, your cioppino supplier just went out of business and now you’re forced to sharpie thru your last appetizer on a whole stack of new menus. The same applies to an online PDF.

Without the original file to edit, any dish or recipe changes leave you with an inaccurate menu for the world to see. With HTML, you can simply edit your offerings on the website, and it’ll update instantaneously (even across multiple locations). Living documents like your restaurant’s menu are much more suited to the smooth and rapid change of HTML.




Better Customer Experience

Hungry for takeout, you whip out your phone, choose a new restaurant, and click "MENU." Are you pleased to see a new document suddenly download to your phone? Most people would confidently say “no.” They’re looking to find the menu items and read them quickly—no downloads required.

With HTML-based menu listings, customers can both find your menu items and see them right away. PDFs cause customer frustration, having to pinch and pull to read one section of the menu, then another.


The function of your site’s menu is for customer access, not for to-go copies. Because PDF’s only redeeming factor is its printer-friendly nature, HTML text is the clear winner for restaurant menus.

Remember that you want to be found, and you want customers to have a positive experience with your restaurant even before darkening the door. Change your menu to HTML ASAP for the betterment of your business.


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About Author

Adam Lambert
Adam Lambert

A Tennessee native, Adam Lambert is a creative writer based in Salt Lake City.

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