I’ve been struggling for a while to make long restaurant menus look good online. Posting a PDF is a waste, typing the text into a CMS is a pain, and it’s hard to make anything work for mobile. But, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, I may have found the El Dorado of restaurant marketing tools. A service called Locu claims to make restaurant menus work perfectly online and sync it all to apps like OpenTable, Foursquare and Yelp. Sounds like an opportunity worth exploring.
When customers look for businesses online, they frequently use a geographic identifier like city or state in addition to their search terms. Search engine companies try to show maps, menus and other information about local businesses based on searches like that. Customers use apps like Foursquare and even Google maps to get similar information. This movement to improve local-focused searching is great news for customers, who get better info, and businesses who get better informed customers.
Unfortunately, up until recently these companies have just scraped the Internet for any fragment of information they can absorb. So customers looking for businesses online frequently get a patchwork of sometimes inaccurate information. And businesses have a crush of services to keep track of and keep in sync with the information on their website.
Locu creates a place for small businesses to take control of all that. You create an account, verify your venue and fill in as much info as you can. The idea is that you keep Locu up-to-date and push the same information out to their partner services. On the free account level, you get Foursquare and OpenTable along with a few others. In order to sync with Facebook, Yelp, YP.com and TripAdvisor, you’ll need to upgrade. The Premium account is pricey, but the opportunity to add Yelp to the other synced services is a treasure on its own.
If you’re a restaurant owner, the menu builder is the star of the show. Instead of painstakingly distributing your menu information to all the apps and social media accounts, create the menu in Locu, embed it in your website, and publish it once to CitySearch, Foursquare and others. When you get a new menu item, update Locu once to update your menu everywhere. With a Premium account, you can just submit a Word Document, PDF, or almost anything and have Locu do all the work for you. However, the manual menu editor is totally free and easy to use.
Even better, Locu and WordPress make it easy to embed your menus on any WordPress site. First, install Locu’s plugin for self-hosted websites. Then get the menu embed code from your Locu account and paste that into the plugin’s settings. It will generate a shortcode for you to paste into any of your WordPress pages.
Seen anything that works better than Locu? Have a question about starting a small business website? Let me know in the comments.