Why your restaurant website shouldn't use PDF menus in 2022

A 5 minute read, posted Paul Dean on 17th June 2022.

Why your restaurant website shouldn't use PDF menus in 2022

According to an OpenTable survey, 9 out of 10 people will check a restaurant's menu before deciding where to eat.

It's obvious when you think about it, and the decision typically comes down to two key factors; do they like the food you serve, and do you fit their budget?

However, there are two other important, but often overlooked factors:

  • Can your visitors find your menu?
  • And can they easily read your menu once they do?

A considerable number of restaurants still use downloadable PDF menus on their website. Often, they're digital copies of their printed menus found in their restaurant.

While many restaurant owners say that they consider PDF menus "easier", the reality is that they're a terrible option — both for your customers and you as a business owner.

In short, PDF menus are bad for your business

In order for your visitors to decide if they want to dine at your restaurant , they actually have to find your menu first, which leads us neatly into the first issue:

PDF menus are less visible in search results

Sure, you added a link to your PDF menu in your website's header; what's the issue?

Unfortunately, PDF menus are substantially less SEO friendly than alternative approaches.

You're missing out on a considerable amount of organic search traffic using a PDF menu. You're also making it harder for people to book a table with you — and making it easier for your competitors.

The problem is that search engines have more difficulty understanding PDF content than a typical web page. Because of this, your PDF menu is far less likely to perform well in organic search results.

For example, If someone's wants to eat steak and your restaurant happens to serve an incredible filet mignon — but the only reference on your website to steak is within a PDF menu — then you could be missing out on that business entirely.

A PDF menu is a dead-end for your visitor's journey on your website

Technically speaking, your PDF menu isn't even a part of your website — it's just a file — and it sits there, completely separate from the rest of your site.

By using a PDF menu, you're effectively trapping your visitors in a dead-end, with the only way out being to go back or leave your site entirely.

Sure, you can open any links to your PDF menu in a new browser tab, but why make it more difficult for visitors to go beyond your menu?

Ideally, your menu should be a stepping stone to your table reservation system or a contact page.

Since search engines tend to prefer to prioritise larger websites in organic search, you need to consider that using a PDF menu makes your website smaller. This could mean that a more substantial competitor website could rank higher in search results than you.

Due to much larger file sizes, PDF menus also tend to load substantially more slowly than an HTML menu— and we've talked about why this is an SEO issue in another post.

As your menus are critical parts of your website, you don't want to make them hard to find, or slow to load.

PDF menus are far more difficult to update than you realise

Because PDFs are static files, you'll need to create and upload a new version if your menu changes - even a single price change will necessitate the creation of a new PDF.

Whilst it's reasonably easy for your graphic designer to update your menu, it usually comes with a cost and takes a days or two.

As a result, changes to your menu can be slow to propagate through to your website and be potentially costly over time — especially if you run multiple or limited-run menus.

You also must completely remove any old versions of your menu from your website. By that, I mean physically delete any old PDFs from your website, because search engines won't realise that the old PDF is no longer relevant.

So even if you're one of the lucky ones, and your PDF menu appears in search results, if you don't remove the old versions, people are likely to see out of date information.

Frustratingly, these older versions may remain in search results for a long time. They may even rank more highly than the new version for a while.

The easiest way around this issue is to directly overwrite the old PDF file with the new version — keeping the URL of the file the same — or to implement a '301 redirect' from the old menu's URL to your new menu.

They're also bad for your customers

Your customers probably won't tell you this — but they all hate PDF menus. Why? Because more often than not, they're an absolute pain to use.

They offer a terrible experience on mobile phones

There's nothing worse than when you're out and about with friends, looking for somewhere to eat, and you find a restaurant that looks great.

But, after waiting several seconds for the PDF menu to load, you get this tiny, barely-readable menu.

A menu that doesn't fit your phone's screen properly, forcing you to zoom in and scroll around slowly, reading one menu item at a time.

In the meantime, your friends got bored of waiting for you and found somewhere else to eat.

PDF menus on mobile are a nightmare for your customers. They're slow to load and hard to read, and the frustration they cause will be one of the main reasons you lose business to your local competitors.

They're not particularly accessible either

PDF menus aren't a good experience for your partially-sighted or blind customers. Whilst the text within a PDF can quickly be transcribed by text-to-speech software, all of the context and information within imagery is lost.

An HTML menu can provide alternative text for imagery. It will allow 3rd party tools to apply high-contrast or large text modes to improve readability for partially-sighted guests.

Accessibility goes beyond good readability, however. An accessible menu also makes it easy for visitors with allergies or particular dietary requirements to find safe items for them to eat — this is something that a PDF could never do.

It's time to ditch the PDF menu for good

We've designed Easy Eatery's menu builder from the ground up to fix everything wrong with PDF menus and HTML menus that have come before.

Easy Eatery treats your food and drink items like the products that they are. Our menu builder lets you easily create a catalogue of products that you can easily add into an accessible, engaging menu.

Our drag-and-drop interface lets you quickly create sections in your menu, which you can then quickly populate with product from your catalogue, in whatever order you prefer.

You're in complete control over the visibility of product descriptions and prices, and you can choose to highlight those extra-special products within your menu.

Updating your Easy Eatery menu takes just seconds. Like our page builder, you can preview your changes before you publish.

Our menu builder allows customers to filter your menu to show only items that meet their dietary needs. Of course, it's fully responsive, providing a fantastic user experience for desktop and mobile users.


The bottom line is that PDF menus might seem like an easy solution, but they do way more harm to your business than good. They:

  • Can prevent your menu from driving traffic to your website,
  • They're a dead-end in your website's user journey, which could lose your business bookings,
  • They're more challenging to update than an HTML menu, not to mention more costly to keep up to date,
  • If you forget to remove old versions of your menu, visitors may find out-of-date information,
  • They can be slow to load and difficult to use — especially on mobile devices,
  • They're also much less accessible than an HTML menu,
  • They have no interactive features what-so-ever, reducing visitor engagement

It's fair to say that menus are the MVP of any restaurant website. They're the pages on your website more likely to convert visitors to customers than any other.

So I'm sure you'll agree that your menu deserves a proper treatment — certainly more than a PDF.

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Paul DeanPaul Dean

Paul is the owner and lead developer at Easy Eatery and is also senior web developer at the award-winning Cardiff-based digital creative agency, Blue Stag

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