Why Menus Are Slowing Down Your Delivery Marketplace

Janine Griffiths

Things are rarely as simple as they seem when it comes to food delivery. The most obscure processes can often turn out to be the biggest bottlenecks.

For example, when it comes to food delivery, you’d think that sorting out the logistics and coordinating with multiple companies would present the biggest challenges.

However, while mapping out routes and coordinating with internal and external teams does present its fair share of bottlenecks, extracting menus can prove to be a particularly tedious and laborious task.

The data-heavy process of generating hundreds of menus, qualifying and reviewing menus to ensure accuracy, tagging errors and structuring data can quickly take its toll on your business ops.

Let’s face it, nobody wants to spend all day, every day on the hamster wheel of menu extraction. 

Nobody that is, except Invisible.

But first, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of what menu extraction is and why it is seriously slowing down your delivery business.

So what is menu extraction?

Menu extraction is the process of extracting menus from other formats such as pdfs, word documents, images, et cetera. Most food delivery companies extract menus to make it easier for customers to use their service and view menus from various restaurants and also sometimes to streamline the registration process for providers.

The process usually goes something like this:

1. Menu creation: to create menus, restaurants need to extract raw data from a variety of sources. The most common sources to get this information is usually online ordering systems, images and pdfs.

2. Data transformation: Once the restaurant menu data has been extracted, it will need to be cleaned and structured within the delivery company’s in-house system, or in an alternative file format such as Google sheets, CSVs and JSON. 

This process is often the most time consuming. Many companies use software to help speed up this process. The trouble is, that this software is rarely as simple or user-friendly as it seems. For example, some of the most popular methods of extracting menu information (such as OCR) can sometimes interfere with the formatting and design of the menus.

At other times, some of the images and texts may not be formatted properly, 

3. Quality checks: Next, vendors will have to check for any tagging, formatting or content errors, from either the extraction process or vendors themselves. This can also be a lengthy process because when it goes wrong, then the low-quality extracted menus will need to be rebuilt.

4. Testing menu structures: The next step is to test the user interface for the generated menus and the ones that are currently live on the platform.

The cost of poorly built menus

Poorly formatted menus and a non-user friendly on-site experience can leave a bad taste in the mouths of both your customers and the vendors on your system.

After all, nothing is more frustrating than having to click through several irrelevant tabs only to give up in frustration - when all you wanted was a pizza.

When this happens - customers don’t just give up on trying to find what they wanted in the first place. They also give up on the delivery company that failed to deliver the goods. 

According to market research firm Zion & Zion, 62% of consumers who receive a bad food delivery experience often blame both the delivery company and the restaurant.

A separate study by orderTalk showed that 20% of customers who abandoned their online food delivery order said it was because their questions about the restaurant or menu weren't answered by the app or website. A further 28% of customers did so because a feature of the app was not working properly.

Ongoing problems with the online food delivery experience not only leads to customers abandoning their order - they’re likely to abandon the food delivery app that gave them such a poor experience in the first place.

For example, a survey by CleverTap showed that 86 percent of new users will stop using an app within 2 weeks of the first launch if they experience problems ordering online.

Therefore, the cost of getting this wrong is way too steep a price to pay for a process that can easily be automated or outsourced.

Other common problems with menu extraction

There are software programs out there that can automate parts of the menu extraction process, such as OCR (optical character recognition). However, even with this software, problems still exist.

This is often due to the complicated nature of some menus themselves. For example, if there are menus in multiple languages, fonts and font sizes, then the existing models within OCR technology can make it difficult to produce a template that accounts for that.

Many software programs rely on pre-existing templates, which are often restrictive in the variables they account for. Menu images can often be reproduced poorly, or in some cases, not at all.

Moreover, it is incredibly difficult to find datasets that account for variables such as noise, lighting, font sizes, et cetera. 

Another common challenge is that many open source or paid services do not allow users to build their models on custom data, which limits the scope and the use-cases within OCR technology.

How to get these obstacles off the menu 

So putting all cheesy puns aside, the question naturally becomes - how do you sidestep these well known issues with menu extraction? The workflows described above are often so labor-intensive, that delivery companies sometimes employ additional full-time staff members just to take on menu extraction. 

If only there was an easier and quicker way to do it all. 

Well thankfully, there is. 

A more affordable alternative to manual menu extraction and quality checks is to simply outsource it and use worksharing services. Rather than redirecting staff resources dedicated to this one process, it makes more sense to outsource this and other similarly onerous tasks, rather than creating entire teams to do them.

But not all outsourcing services are created equal. Menu extraction services are complex, and even with software, it is a difficult process to get right. Outsourcing this body of work to a company that doesn’t understand this well is likely to cause more problems than it solves. 

While some companies such as Invisible provide specialized services to food delivery companies, there are many others out there that have no real expertise in this area. So be sure to make extensive inquiries about this before you hand over the reigns of menu extraction to other companies.

Creating the perfect menus

Despite living in a tech savvy world with gadgets that can seemingly fix everything, many food delivery companies are still using the old-fashioned methods of manual extraction. Either that or they’re using software that simply isn’t aiding the process. 

But failing to modernize this very tricky and complex process comes at the expense of productivity, efficiency and eventually, customer satisfaction. 

To make the claim that menu extraction can slow down your business is in many ways deceptive. The truth is, it can do so much more damage than that and cost you your reputation, staff resources and eventually, users if this process isn’t automated with accuracy. 

A report from Bain & Company showed that a food delivery customer is four times more likely to switch a competitor if the problem they're having is service-based. Additionally, analysis from Salesforce revealed that 62% of customers will share their bad experiences with others.

But creating the perfect menu doesn’t have to be difficult. Indeed, the days of manual and laborious menu extraction are in the past. Companies such as Invisible can replace those old, clunky processes with seamless workflow automation, with the added benefit of human oversight and intelligence.

This not only frees time and space up for your teams, it also saves you a lot of money - and hassle - in the future.