Awesome Idea: Social Restaurant Menus

One of my favourite aspects of being a digital business analyst is having the opportunity to take bits and pieces of web technologies and string them together into one fantastic solution. Over lunch a few months ago, I thought about how restaurants have huge potential to leverage web-based technologies for improved patron experience while promoting their brand with social media. Take a look at this awesome idea for restaurants.

The Inspiration

phone-stack

At the time this concept was born, phone stack was becoming a notable trend. Phone Stack is a “game” played at a restaurant, where everyone at the table stacks their phones on top of the other, after all orders were placed. This is intended to eliminate rude distractions and keep the dining experience civilized, with your company and conversation at the forefront. This concept goes above the “keep your phone in your pocket or in the car” sayings. It’s asking everyone to take out their phones when they sit down at the table, but put them away after ordering. Right. And since everyone all patrons will have their phones out, let’s give them a purpose to use them during that time frame.

The Concept

Restaurants have a huge opportunity to leverage technology and social media. We can get patrons to interact with the brand and others by strategically placing QR codes on restaurant menus.

irish-shebeen-etobicoke-restaurant-menu-with-qr-code

Conceptual Mockup Menu with QR Codes for one of my favourite pubs, The Irish Shebeen Restaurant & Pub in Etobicoke – Click to enlarge

When patrons hit this QR code with their mobile device, they are taken to a mobile-optimized page (we are using a mobile site, rather than a mobile app so it is accessible to all patrons faster). The patron views the mobile page which is specifically built for the menu item, which includes the same description which is on the physical menu, as well as nutrition facts, customer taken photos, and reviews.

social-restaurant-menu-mobile-site

Prototype mockup of mobile interface – click to enlarge

Getting Social

It’s not often that you hear table requests for one – yes, plenty restaurant go-ers ask for  one seat, but must are groups of two or more. Restaurant go-ers: they’re social. After years of social media sites being the “front page” of the internet, I need not go into more depth about the importance of social media marketing, other than to say it’s important.

Online Reviews
online restaurant reviewsI go to restaurants fairly often with my wife, and although she’ll probably tear me a new one for writing about her, but she can be quite indecisive about what she orders. She will typically narrow down her choices to 2-3 options, then get stumped. Being able to read online reviews to help decide between items would be a life saver (mostly for me). Patrons would be encouraged to review their meal online when their server brings the bill with a QR code pointing to a review page for what was ordered.

Facebook
facebook like restaurantLet’s take Facebook Likes a step further. “Liking” a restaurant is great, but “liking” a particular item on their menu is so much more relevant. Can’t decide on what to get? “45 people like cactus cut potatoes” but only 33 like potato skins. Decision made.

 

 

Twitter
twitter for restaurantsPlacement of a “Tweet” button on menu item’s page could be pre-populated to say “I just ordered [food] @ [Restaurant Name]”. This not only shares that the patron is visiting the restaurant, but also what was ordered. This opens a line of conversation with the patron’s followers and solicits online reviews and increased social media activity.

 

Foodspotting
foodspotting for restaurant sitesFoodspotting is a popular social media site for “foodies“. It allows users to share comments specifically about dishes, rather than the restaurant itself, and post photos. It’s visual. It’s positive. It is a must have for socializing restaurants.

 

Getting Technical

Web Application
With a web-based application, administrators could add/edit/remove food items on the menu to allow for a dynamically driven mobile website. All the administrator would need to to is enter the preliminary information (name of food item, price, photo), and the system could automatically generate a mobile and desktop page, with all content placed on the pages in predetermined positions. Sounds easy to use? It is!

Printable Menus – Extending the Web Application to Print PDFs
Now that all the menu information is in a web application’s database and is being used online, why not keep all that information in one place and not have to maintain the same information someone else just for your print material? Using TCPDF, an open-source PHP class, you can have your web application write to an aesthically pleasing PDF to print. TCPDF is an easy-to-implement solution as the main functions to place content and write to a PDF file have already been developed. The main cost associated to using this would be from a developer’s implementation so that the rendered result matches the creative design for the menu. TCPDF is exclusively for PHP, but there are alternatives for other programming languages as well.

QR Code Generator – Extending the Web Application to Create QR Codes
Whether you want to display QR codes on printable menus (highly recommended) or use QR codes elsewhere, there is an open source class to generate QR codes. Similar to the PDF class, PHP QR Code includes the main functions to easily generate QR codes.

Social Integration
Facebook – Like Button, developer documentation:
http://developers.connect.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like/

Twitter – Tweet Button, developer documentation:
https://twitter.com/about/resources/buttons

Foodspotting – API, developer documentation:
http://www.foodspotting.com/api

 

Takeaways

Get it? Like “take-out”? Aw. Anyway, this isn’t a ground-breaking concept, but rather a unique spin and intermingling of several web technologies fused into one cool concept. As far as I know, I am the first to string these together.

But if I am not the first, I arrived at it independently. If you plan to take away and implement any part or parts of the above, please let me know! I would love to know if I have helped out in any way.

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