Online Menus vs. Paper Menus

As consumers and businesses become more environmentally conscious, health conscious, and generally more reliant on fast-paced technological solutions, aspects of everyday life have begun to evolve. The reliable restaurant menu, for example, has evolved out of our hands and onto our phone screens — but should we eradicate the paper menu altogether? 

Of course, there are numerous benefits to using online menus, but the tried-and-true paper menu is tried and true for its reasons, too. While online menus boast efficiency and the attraction of modernization, a quality, the well-designed paper menu is arguably an indispensable accessory to the restaurant experience. Whether you choose to use both or only one, make sure you’re providing customers with top-tier menus regardless!

Benefits of Using Paper Menus

Paper menus may seem outdated to some, but the traditional paper menu is still around because it’s certainly still useful. Paper menus are:


We’re on our cell phones a lot, and so skimming through a digitized menu on a screen doesn’t stand out as a totally unique experience for most. Physically holding a menu in hand creates a certain feeling that can’t be emulated in any other way, and many customers enjoy this distinct aspect of the dining experience.


If you’ve ever opened a digital menu through a QR code on your phone, you likely read the menu, ordered your food, and closed the browser tab forever. It’s not much different from scrolling through the news or Instagram. 

With a paper menu, especially a paper takeout menu, there is no magic button to swipe it away from existing in your presence. A tangible menu that you keep at home is one that’ll catch your eye or keep the restaurant in your mind more often or for more time.


Wifi is great, but it isn’t infallible! Lack of cell service, or lack of a smartphone in general (yes, there are people out there who don’t own smartphones!), is a foreseeable roadblock when using online menus. Having paper menus on-hand at your restaurant can help customers avoid frustration or inconvenience when attempting to read an online menu. 

How to Make a Great Paper Menu

Since there are plenty of benefits to using paper menus at your restaurant — even if you also choose to use online menus — you’ll want to make sure you’re using the best of the best. Here are some best practices for creating a killer, a memorable paper menu for your customers:

  • Use distinctive brand colors and logos
  • Make it eye-catching and colorful
  • Keep the verbiage to a minimum to avoid a cluttered appearance
  • Include prices, but not dollar signs
  • Include strategically-placed photos or graphics
  • Display restaurant contact info and location on takeout menus

Benefits of Using Online Menus

As the years go on, technology advances, smarter phones are invented, and the everyday consumer wants things to be easier than ever. Online menus are becoming more desirable because they’re:


We know we called paper menus accessible, too. While paper menus are accessible in that they’re straightforward and handy, online menus are accessible in a broader sense. Online menus can be accessed by a simple Google search or a scan of a QR code. 

This means that customers don’t even have to leave their homes to find and read through your restaurant menu. It doesn’t get more accessible than that! Likewise, customers may appreciate being able to view multiple menus at once online, toggling easily between lunch, dinner, and happy hour menus to inform their dining decisions. 


Even if your staff cleans menus regularly, they’re still never going to be as sanitary as contactless digital menus are. In a post-pandemic world, hygienic practices are important, and potentially germy paper menus could be a dealbreaker for some customers.


An online menu’s main appeal from a business standpoint is that they’re extremely adaptable. When you’ve run out of an ingredient, need to update prices, or have to make a last-minute change, you’ve only got to tap a few buttons. Reprinting a whole bunch of paper menus to make small changes can be time-consuming and costly, so the adaptability of online menus is greatly appreciated by restauranteurs.

Good for Sales

Menus are, of course, created to let customers know what they can order. However, when made well, menus can also be phenomenal sales boosters. With strategic layout, design, and verbiage, a menu can help upsell certain items or persuade diners to order more than they might have otherwise. 

A well-designed paper menu can certainly boost sales, but a digital format has even more upselling potential. An online menu can include moving graphics or vibrant photos that catch viewers’ eyes, pop-ups that promote sales of certain items, and even fast, easy payment options that benefit both the customer and the business owner.

How to Make a Great Online Menu 

Online menus aren’t only advantageous, they’re pretty much necessary in the modern age. When a potential customer searches for your online menu, make sure it’s easy to read, representative of your brand, and all-around impressive.

  • Make it easy to access with and without a QR code 
  • Make it easy to find on your restaurant’s social media pages and website
  • Use a user-friendly, professionally-made template
  • Use the same colors and branding you’d use on a paper menu
  • Include quality photos of food
  • Keep it updated
  • Include prices and, if possible, a way to pay through the menu

Also Read: Things to Consider When Searching for A PR Firm

Make the Most of Both Material and Mobile Menus

Today, most of your potential restaurant customers are going to learn about your business online before they ever step foot in your space. For this reason, having a quality online menu that’s easy for users to find is pretty important. 

However, once they’ve decided to dine with you, they just might want to hold a physical menu in hand to feel a more organic connection to your restaurant. You’ll want to keep up with competitors and provide a top-tier online menu, but you can also keep the traditional restaurant experience alive by doling out at least a few paper menus to your fellow foodies.