In Vogue’s popular “73 Questions” challenge with Hailey Baldwin, the questions are momentarily interrupted by the famous model pausing to fetch her Postmates order. Kylie Jenner and Chrissy Teigen, too, are huge Postmates fans. 

Even royalty sometimes needs a little help! Prince William had once ordered curry from Uber Eats to the Kensington Palace. 

But, this isn’t about how celebrities order food or how they use food delivery apps. 

It’s about how 60% of U.S. consumers order in once a week or that 34% of them spend at least $50 when they order food online. But, most importantly, this is about how 87% of Americans agree that using third-party food delivery services has made their lives easier. 

All of this directs us to only one thing – we’re online more than we give phones credit for. 

But, at the heart of it, this isn’t even about how much we order – it’s about what we see when we order.

Enter—interactive menus. 

What is an Interactive menu?

In short, it’s a menu that one can interact with. An interactive menu aims to make food selection more straightforward and collaborative. Customers can browse the menu and learn more about each dish. 

Let’s dive deep and understand.

  • In an interactive menu, the image of a particular dish may pop out, unveil its ingredients, and zoop back in. Or, it could also mean that the customer can play around and add elements. Picture yourself building a ramen bowl and adding ingredients, one after another. Now, imagine the bowl filling up with miso soup, strips of chicken, half-boiled eggs, seaweed, sesame seeds, flat noodles, and the like. This is just one example of how an interactive menu ‘interacts’ with a customer.
  • Another way to make the menu playful and interactive is by incorporating large high-quality images or food descriptions that instantly make the customer drool. Some include nutritional information. You can mention how many grams of pineapple are served in a Hawaiian pizza (yes, many people still order it) and the calories. And that pineapples are an incredible source of vitamin C and add to your daily value of copper, potassium, iron, and vitamin B6. 
  • Suppose you’ve walked into a McDonald’s any time in the past couple of years. In that case, we’re confident you’ve ordered through an interactive menu. Confused? Remember kiosk menus – it’s an ingenious design. A kiosk-based interactive menu can be a huge blessing when you don’t feel social enough to talk to a server or hate standing in queues. A customer can quickly and easily browse the entire menu and navigate through it to pick and choose what they wish to eat. Offers and deals, if any, are promoted in the kiosk too. Kiosk-based menus are one of the most common interactive menus. Yet, many don’t prefer them as they’re not a cost-effective choice. It also takes up a lot of space and may not work for establishments with elaborate menus that are customizable. However, it’s a highly user-friendly system that makes fast food even faster.
  • The tablet menu is a recent trend you might have encountered (to the chagrin of Boomers, might we add). For many, being handed a paper-based menu when dining out is as predictable as being asked if they’re ready to be seated. The act of perusing a menu, flipping through all the pages, and mentally going back and forth before finally settling on a dish is perhaps as old as the concept of eating out itself. So, when a thick tablet comes your way disguised as a menu, it’s only natural to feel a little out of it. Yet, tablet-based menus are quickly growing in popularity. The novelty isn’t just about the hardware. It’s about ordering through a medium that lets you pick and choose different dishes, toppings, and other condiments, as you “flip-through” pages in the virtual world without even flipping a page. Many bars and restaurants that typically play loud music prefer carrying tablet menus to eliminate the annoying task of yelling when a customer is ready to order. Likewise, the server has minimal chances of messing up the order too.
  • Over the past two years, the way we eat, spend time outdoors, and even socialize has completely transformed. As a result, we’re wary of touching surfaces that may have been touched by hundreds if not thousands of others on any given day. To tackle this problem, many restaurants are adopting app-based interactive menus. To use an app-based menu, diners are prompted to download an app or scan a QR-code to view the menu. While scanning a code may only take a few seconds, downloading an entire app to eat a meal may be off-putting to some.  
  • When was the last time you ordered a sub from your computer? Did the online menu heighten your cravings? As you pick and add ingredients, building a sandwich that caters precisely to only your tastebuds, the interactive menu goes above and beyond to fulfill your gustatory yearnings? As you continue building your sandwich, Subway’s interactive menu tallies out the calories for you too. This way, you know what you’re putting into your body and how much. Large-scale restaurants and fast-food chains prefer an online menu as it’s easily accessible for anyone with an internet connection, and it’s cost-effective. In addition, people can order online when there’s no room for dining in the restaurant, and people can view it at any time. On the downside, it’s not a solution for dining at the restaurant.
  • Guests can order food and pay on the app itself, ensuring contactless service. Online delivery services across the globe are quickly implementing interactive features in their menus. It’s also a great way to inform users about schemes, vouchers, and discounts through gamification of the buttons and elements. 

At the heart of it, everything boils down to user experience, and something as elemental as buttons can become critical to the success or likeability of any menu. When designing an interactive menu, one must think beyond what’s visually appealing. It should ultimately serve the purpose of making ordering food a task as basic as 1,2,3. One of the biggest design trends you can ride on is taking some typography risks yet simplifying everything. 

So, the next time you’re thinking about re-inventing your menu, ensure that it’s interactive. It’s an excellent way to communicate your ethos with the world and understand from diners and customers, how you can evolve and go that extra mile. 

Think of it this way. You’re not offering food; you’re offering an experience.

Are you looking for an experience-driven digital solution for your product or service?
Author Alka Jha
Alka is the Chief Creative Officer at Pepper Square. She has defined the user experience for some of the finest global brands over the last eight years.

User Experience behind the e-commerce Empire