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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Fisher

What is a smart menu?

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

As we head into 2022, the hospitality industry is on the verge of an explosion in renewed business. For almost two years now people have been confined to their houses and discouraged from in-person experiences. But the world isn’t the same as it was in 2019. People want something else - something new. They want more than a meal or a drink. They’re looking for an experience. They hunger for hospitality, crave creativity, and have an appetite for adventure.

Finding an Experience:

Searching for a dining experience has changed dramatically since 2019.

In the past, customers had strong preferences for what they wanted to buy. Strong enough that they were willing to go through hoops (like a sub-par menu) to get a specific product or brand. Now we're seeing that people also have strong preferences for how they want to buy.

Do your customers enjoy how they go about purchasing your product, experience, or service? If not, they won’t jump through those same hoops they used to. Customizing your menu experience to the expectations of your guests is the bare minimum in food-service today. And that expectation IS NOT a PDF menu.

Instead, customers prefer a new class of food-service technology known as Smart-Menus.

Smart-Menu Definition:

A Smart-Menu is a dynamic menu experience where both viewers and hosts can easily alter how menu items are displayed. There are a variety of reasons why menu items might need to be altered or changed within a Smart-Menu. For the viewer, these reasons can include culinary preferences, health or dietary requirements, visual stimuli preferences or restrictions, social influences related to menu engagement, and the viewer's historical engagement across similar menus. For the host, motivations to alter menu experiences can include mass menu engagement, changes in hosting capabilities and resources, competition concerns, collaboration intentions with other hosts or service providers, updates to service areas and styles, promotional efforts, the proximity of viewers to hosts, and creating defined experience tiers.

With immediate answers in every pocket, guests today need to know more. They have access to instant endorsements just a tap away. Customers expect to see reviews, photos, and social validation before they make a decision. And with a Smart-Menu, they can access all of these benefits at once.

A Smart-Menu gets people excited about the amazing meal experience they’re going to have. When they see a visually-focused menu, it motivates them to explore. It appeals to their sense of adventure. Unlike a text-based menu, viewing a Smart-Menu isn't just a means to an end - or a guessing game where the wrong choice could result in a bad experience. It entices customers.

Show, Don't Tell:

Text-based menus were "good enough" for a time, but with an industry-wide shift to phone-focused displays, times have changed. Thanks to mobile delivery service experience improvements, the first place customers go looking for somewhere to eat is their phone. With widespread use of QR Codes, guests expect to view a menu on their phone in-venue as well. Due to platforms like Instagram and TikTok, the place where they discover new dining locations is - you guessed it - their phone.

Mobile-friendly is no longer enough. Your menu needs to be mobile-focused! Thanks in-part to the pandemic, providing an online menu that’s easy to understand and use on a phone has become an expectation of the industry.

Visuals Are Vital:

A one-sentence description can only tell customers so much about everything that goes into your food and drinks. In fact, text-based menus lead customers to make assumptions about your business based on past experiences with other food-service operators. When a customer's first reaction to

your menu is to consider someone else's food and drinks, how do you stand out?

Through Visuals!

Sure, a description can tell customers what's in a drink. It can even provide a bit of insight on where a dish came from or how it's made. But an image... An image inspires. It creates anticipation for the taste and smell of a dish. It conveys everything that makes you and your business unique. Most importantly: IT'S NOT BASED ON ASSUMPTIONS! Guests can see plain and simple, exactly what they will get when they order based on visuals.

How Can a Smart-Menu convey creativity, host hospitality, and allude to adventure?

When used effectively, a Smart-Menu is the best tool for marketing in the hospitality industry.

Why? Because the menu is everything! The menu is your inventory. The menu is your connection to your customer. The menu shows your creativity. It shows your quality of ingredients. It shows the professionalism of your plating. Your menu is at the core of your business, and it's how you differentiate.

So why are operators still using text? Why are they not putting their best foot forward? Because there was never a great tool for it.

Until Now.

At Foodi, we realize managing a visually appealing Smart-Menu can be difficult - so we created a better way to do it. Streamline consistent updates for engaging, dynamic, and enticing menus through our online platform. If you're ready to see how a Smart-Menu can transform your business, create one today. Set-up is quick, easy, and we're available to support you every step of the way.

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