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PDF File Menus On Restaurant Sites


Holly Moore
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It's like a got-me moment - every time I am on a restaurant or hotel website, click "Menu" to look at the place's menu, and then Adobe Acrobat starts up, breaking my cruising stride as it churns away, slowly loading the menu.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Menus in .pdf format really annoy me as well - for what usually ends up to be a small document, it's very clumsy. It doesn't help that .pdf reading programs are slow themselves, though I've got a nifty Firefox extension that lets me try and open it as a HTML document instead (though it doesn't always work).

Ideally, I'd want them to have a version viewable on the website (like text), with a link to download a copy. Why do they do this?? I'm assuming that they do it because it's just the file they send to be printed and it's "less effort," but I could be wrong.

Edited by feedmec00kies (log)

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

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For me, that's much better than a Flash heavy website.

Yeah, some sites don't even end the introduction with an obvious way to continue. You have to keep clicking objects to get through to the site itself. Or you can hit the X and move on.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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The advantage of .pdf menus -- and of .pdf documents in general -- is that they preserve the original design. So a .pdf menu can look the same as the menu you'd be given in the restaurant. This is important because a menu is not just about the text it bears but also the aesthetic it projects. Given all the different browsers and platforms out there, .pdf is the best way to ensure consistency in this regard. (Flash is also viable but more difficult to implement -- it requires a whole second set of designs, whereas with .pdf you design the menu once and use it both in the restaurant and online -- and on balance Flash is probably no less annoying.) Restaurants are hardly the only businesses to use .pdf for sharing core documents online. Go to most any corporate website and look for the annual report; it will typically be in .pdf format.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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A PDF file can nicely communicate the entire menu. Or it can have to be sectioned so one must open on menu for aps, one for entrees and one for desserts. Or they can try to put up the entire menu in a single pdf, which my work great on a 19" screen but not on a laptop.

PDFs are not necessary for a restaurant to effectively and stylishly communicate its menu. Alinea for example, or Le Bec-Fin here in Philadelphia.

A goal of web design is to get the info to the viewer quickly. Otherwise the viewer may move on as I often try to do when a pdf file starts loading. Trouble is, you're trapped. Once the file starts loading you can't go back a step until it is finished. Sometimes you can't even x out of the browser.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I understand why it is done and it doesn't bother me to look at it - like when I'm looking at the menu to see what I might like to order that night or to convince someone we need to go to a specific restaurant over another one :wink: ! But I like to put the meals that we've enjoyed in my journal/scrapbook and it's wonderful to be able to cut and paste and print it out - rather than having to type it out or print the entire document. Silly, but there it is. :blush:

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One nice thing about the .pdf format is you can download it for offline viewing.

You can also easily attach them to an email.

Printing of a .pdf file is sometimes nicer than a flash or similar menu.

It is nice that you can cut and paste out of a .pdf.

Edited by Hard H2O (log)
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A PDF file can nicely communicate the entire menu.  Or it can have to be sectioned so one must open on menu for aps, one for entrees and one for desserts.  Or they can try to put up the entire menu in a single pdf, which my work great on a 19" screen but not on a laptop.

There are as many ways to screw up a .pdf as there are to screw up anything else. But in the end a .pdf menu based on a letter- or legal-size printed menu should look good on a wide range of screens or just require a little vertical scrolling on smaller screens. If the physical menu is some weird shape, it may require both vertical and horizontal scrolling when viewed at full size. In that case it would probably make the most sense to do a separate online version but that may not be in most restaurants' budgets.

PDFs are not necessary for a restaurant to effectively and stylishly communicate its menu.  Alinea for example, or Le Bec-Fin here in Philadelphia.

I'd hardly call the Le Bec Fin presentation stylish. I think it's clumsy. I'd much prefer a .pdf. The Alinea site is very nice, but design is a major priority at Alinea -- most restaurants don't have a team like Alinea does, so they just put their menu .pdfs online and I think that's a good thing. Even on the Alinea site, if you compare the graphical menus to the .pdf menus the .pdf menus are far nicer. So if I had to choose one, it would be the .pdf.

A goal of web design is to get the info to the viewer quickly.  Otherwise the viewer may move on as I often try to do when a pdf file starts loading.  Trouble is, you're trapped.  Once the file starts loading you can't go back a step until it is finished.  Sometimes you can't even x out of the browser.

I almost never have that problem and certainly have no more problems with .pdf than with most other types of current-generation web technology. Unless we want every website's design to be permanently frozen in the 1990s, we need to embrace new technologies. The .pdf format isn't even new, but I think it's right for our time.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Restaurants, as a category, seem to be the worst abusers of web technology. KISS -- keep it simple, stupid. We don't need music. We don't need mystery navigation (oh, I hover over this wheel to open up this cog to get to the menu?). We don't need an animated flash intro that we're just going to try to skip anyway -- if we can.

Show me:

A menu

Location / directions

Chef / restaurant profile

And some pictures of the restaurant so that I know the setting, the mood, and what I'm looking for when I'm driving down the street.

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I intellectually understand the motivations for using pdfs for menus, but like Holly, I just have a visceral aversion to them. It does indeed interrupt the flow of the web browsing experience, and the pdfs very often don't display as well as a web page does. When I'm clicking through a restaurant's website, I want information to come up quickly and smoothly. If I just want to take a quick look at a menu and my browser starts opening Acrobat, I tend to close the window and move on, and the odds of my going to that restaurant just went down.

There's a simple solution: offer both. It doesn't take that much work to put the text of a menu into basic html that maintains the look and feel of the original. I'd suggest that it's more important that the on-line menu presentation is integrated with the rest of the website design than whether it perfectly mirrors the printed version. Give me something that loads quickly and looks like the rest of the website. Serving up text is one of those things that websites do quite efficiently.

Then also link to a pdf for customers who want to print it out, or see it exactly as it was designed.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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As someone who works for restaurants that changes its menu fairly often, let me tell you, I spend a lot of time upkeeping our menu on the website. We, unlike others, don't have a PDf, but we do have a nearly full time marketing manager (Me!). However, without such a thing, I could definetly see having a PDF version being a much quicker way to keep an updated menu online. The difference between saving a document as a pdf and re-uploading it and retyping the whole menu in pieces into an html document is a huge amount of time...And you know how hard that is to come by in the restaurant industry.

Gnomey

The GastroGnome

(The adventures of a Gnome who does not sit idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages)

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I intellectually understand the motivations for using pdfs for menus, but like Holly, I just have a visceral aversion to them.  It does indeed interrupt the flow of the web browsing experience, and the pdfs very often don't display as well as a web page does.  When I'm clicking through a restaurant's website, I want information to come up quickly and smoothly.  If I just want to take a quick look at a menu and my browser starts opening Acrobat, I tend to close the window and move on, and the odds of my going to that restaurant just went down.

T

I agree with you. What a pain it is to have an acrobat attack. I blow it away most of the time.

This is another version of the Open Table debate. Will a restaurant lose business if it doesn't cater to the convenience of prospective diners?

Yes it will.

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I do not think I would base my dining decision on whether the menu on a website was a .pdf or some other format.

There are some god awful flash sites out there.

.pdf files work. They are stable. I know I will be able to open them with no problem. That other stuff can be iffy at times and offer data that is superfluous to my researching a dining option.

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