Recent research shows that 83 percent of adults use a smartphone to look up information about a new restaurant. But if that restaurant’s website has a cumbersome, outdated PDF menu, diners may choose to go elsewhere.
PDF menus are difficult to download on mobile and not helpful on Google rankings. Most restaurant owners also don’t have time to add reviews to their website, forcing diners to go to third-party sites to see what other diners think — something that over 50 percent of diners want to know.
“As a product-minded person, I started coming up with ideas to create something more compelling than a plain text PDF,” Brendan Sweeney tells Hypepotamus.
At the time, Sweeney and his co-worker Tony Roy were exploring a lot of menus — while working at Career Builder in Europe, they were constantly wondering where to eat as they traveled to new cities.
“How people discover their next dining experience is overly controlled by third-party platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Open Table, and restaurants feel a real lack of control over how they present their whole business to potential guests,” says Sweeney.
Sweeney, Roy, and Justis Blasco founded Popmenu to provide a way for restaurants to catch up to the new generation of diners through their websites. By adding Popmenu to their site, they’re able to host reviews, photos, and ratings, plus provide real-time menu management.
The menu itself becomes interactive as visitors can rate dishes or star them to remember to try them later.
“Once we got some prototypes together and started sharing them with restaurant owners, it became apparent pretty quickly that we were tapping into a true need. People want to hear from the restaurant itself about the restaurant,” says Sweeney, now CEO of the startup.
If something comes off the menu or an ingredient isn’t available at only one location, the owner can easily make the change on the real-time menu management system, says Sweeney.
Popmenu allows the restaurant to add photos of specific dishes and pair them with reviews right next to it.
The platform also automates marketing, by sending emails to past and prospective diners when they interact with the menu in some way. It offers reminders with special offer templates for upcoming holidays in case the restaurant is running short on time.
“We’re building out an experience that helps guide them through not just the menu and the consumer side, but everything that’s happening and what’s their next best action to capture revenue,” says Sweeney.
Popmenu can be easily embedded into an existing website, but Sweeney says that they also started getting requests to just build the entire site from certain owners. They now offer the capability to host and build the restaurant’s website, which comes with enhanced SEO.
The Atlanta-based startup brought in their first clients in 2017 and, after refining the product, onboarded a total of 100 by the end of that year. Today, they have about 1100 restaurant clients nationwide and growing.
The team of 25 raised a small seed round in 2018 after being bootstrapped for a year and a half. They’re now in fundraising mode to raise a bridge seed round and continue fueling sales and marketing efforts.