Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Happy Birthday, to us!

This is true. The Menu Pile is a year old already and, my - how time has flown.

Happy birthday

It started out a year ago, with a small pile of about 5 or 6 scanned menus from two small towns in Cambridgeshire, namely that of ‘March’ and ‘Chatteris’.

A single, lonely, web-page that was simply hung-out to dry on the big, bad internet.  Not even in it’s own space, but that of a shared sub-folder, accessed via a ‘/menus’ tag on an existing domain name, purely to get some form of a memorably web address to it when telling people about it.

Gradually, more menus were added.

Then a few more – curry or kebab places, all of which were local to me, that I didn’t even know of, with menus I’d never of thought about using.

And then a proper web-page ‘happened’. A little ‘Cloud hosting’ here, a little ‘magic database’ work there. The real foundations were now being laid.

Various domain names were bought; one stuck, the idea grew.

I then had ‘the bug’. The need. The urge to gather more.

Some nights, after getting the children to bed, I would be out driving around Cambridgeshire, collecting menus from villages and towns that I’d never heard of, despite being within 50 miles of where I live. I’d park the car, run into restaurant or takeaway, grab a menu, and leaving sharpish as there was always more places to go before calling it a night.

At times, I’d have about 10 or 12 in my hand whilst walking into a takeaway. The person serving behind the counter would look at me as though they knew what I was doing. Obviously gathering menus, due to just moved in to the area.

But they were wrong. They weren’t to know my secret, that I was hoarding menus to subsequently sit for hours the next night, scanning and publishing PDFs of them, just to upload and link them to the growing rows-upon-rows of places in the database, forming the basis of the website.

People I work with would bring them in for me, each person happy as Larry that they’ve helped and contributed. But no-one more happy than me, having received menus but without having the cost in petrol. Some were fresh from their letterbox the day before; some were retrieved from the back of ‘that drawer’ in the kitchen that we all have; some, much to my surprise and utter disbelief, were hand-collected from their part of the world previously unknown/unvisited by me, but all were contributing to the overall pile of menus that I’d have with me.

The team behind The Menu Pile triples; I am no longer alone in this. The ‘big guns’ have been brought in; this is quite obviously a ‘bigger-than-I’ job.  Vision status: shared.

Menus are still being added today, now in batches in order to fit in with the development workload.  But now, they’re arriving in the post. Or via the Facebook Messages. Or even by WhatsApp. Some of which are from friends around the country helping out a mate. Some are from new friends on the (then) new Facebook Page, some by restaurant owners driving them to my door themselves.  And some just arrived from distant parts of the country, in a large envelope with no other markings than my home address. (Thank you!)

We. Love. Them. 

Yes, all of them. Single pages, fold-out pages. From black and white, single-sided A4 landscape menus, right through to the front/back A3 spreads in full, glorious Technicolor and seven folds.

Each menu added to The Menu Pile website, as it stands today, symbolises a choice. An option. A decision based on accessing a normally-tangible ‘thing’ in the real world, but now digitised for the virtual world. A question: “where to eat?” shortly followed by another. “What’s there to eat?”

Help us, to help you to eat better takeaways. (And from places you might not have tried.)

Help us, to get restaurant owners to hear your words on how well (or not) they’re doing. Giving feedback is the only way they know whether they’re making or breaking your Saturday night takeaway.

Help us to make the next birthday we have, a mark of another year where we’ve been able to bring more takeaways and restaurants to your phone, tablet or desktop computer.

Send your menus in to us - we promise to look after each and every single one of them.

No menu will go neglected, mistreated or discarded.

All will be at home at The Menu Pile website.

Thanks for your support for the last 12 months. Here’s to the next 12 months ahead.


The Menu Pile Team

Monday, 28 September 2015

Like the old, but much better!

Well. It’s taken a little while, but we, at Menu Pile HQ, have been very busy working constantly on not just the website part of The Menu Pile website, but on ‘the bits behind-the-scenes’, too.

We’ve added lots of new elements and features, some of which are now available, including:

  • A new LOGO
    LogoGreen1The old logo has been around for almost a year now, so looked tired and worn out. So, we’ve given it a permanent holiday and welcome the new logo in it’s place. 

    We’d love to hear your thoughts on this, by email, Facebook comments, Twitter, or whatever.

  • LOTS more places from across the UK
    The Menu Pile website now lists well over 100,000 places across the whole of the UK, from the very top, to the very bottom; from the far place in the East, right across the puddle to the other side of Northern Ireland. 

    Over a hundred. THOUSAND. restaurants. (That’s six noughts and a comma!)

    That’s a staggering amount of curries and kebabs out there, people!

    As more places open up, as well as those that close down, we’ll keep adding them on. 

    But our appeal still stands – if you have a menu that we don’t, send it into us! Details can be found here on The Menu Pile website.

  • Food Hygiene Ratings – increased frequency of checks
    We know that you all love checking the Food Hygiene Rating of your favourite takeaways and, for better or worse, they’re a main part of our website.  As part of our commitment to everyone who uses our website (takeaway customers and restaurant owners), we’ve dramatically increased the frequency of our checks in with the Food Standards Agency.  The dates beneath the logo still show when the FSA last checked a restaurant over, and the date (or wording) beneath that shows when we checked in with the FSA.

  • FASTER search results
    We found out (the hard way!) that adding another 95,000 places to our growing database could cause us problems. And it certainly did.

    A few of your ‘more honest’ comments came our way, and we’ve taken heed and swatted a few problems with the speed issues during when the search results came back. 

    Now, the results simply FLY in. The performance of the website has been massively increased from a geeky/techie level, and so we’re quite happy with it at the moment.  But the question is, are you?!

  • Restaurants Sign-Up page
    This is something we’ve banded about for a little while, but now we’re please to announce that restaurant owners can register (entirely for free) to see stats, etc. about their restaurant. 

    In addition, the feedback that is left by you, the user of the website, is shown to them but only the comments – your names and details are not available to them, so don’t panic!

    There’s a few more things to come in the pipeline regarding Restaurant Owners, but we’re conscious of getting this all out to start the ball rolling. (More about this to follow soon.)

So, let us know what you think!!  At the end of the day, we’re human beings too, (despite our constant inability to pass Captcha tests!) and our goal with The Menu Pile website is to please you, our visitors, by getting a takeaway menu in front of you, fast.  If there’s something that you think we can improve upon, tell us and we’ll see what can be done about it!

Thanks for reading – happy takeaways.

The (small-but-growing) Menu Pile Team