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March 2, 2011 8:42 AM   Subscribe

What's the deal with restaurant websites? Devra First, the Boston Globe's restaurant critic, wonders too. Previous discussion on the blue (tangential to discussion of OpenTable).
posted by catlet (52 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
the answer to the question is : Use Menupages
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This xkcd venn diagram about university websites applies here.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:54 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


See also, Things Never Said About Restaurant Websites

Which may have been on the blue before, but I think it's relevant here.
posted by troika at 8:56 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh jeeeeez that is mentioned in the FIRST LINE OF THE ARTICLE, which I read and immediately forgot. Mods, please delete that post (and this one).
posted by troika at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2011


Why any restaurant would want to make their website difficult to use on mobile phones is a mystery to me. That has to be a huge percentage of the usage.
posted by caddis at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Oatmeal agrees with you.
posted by DJWeezy at 9:00 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do online stories like these always include a photo of two or three people looking at or gesturing toward a computer?
posted by hal9k at 9:02 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because no one wants to hire a decent illustrator anymore?
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why any restaurant would want to make their website difficult to use on mobile phones.

The restaurant doesn't. The web developer they hired on the cheap does that.
posted by mhoye at 9:04 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


My favorite pub/restaurant has its own iPhone and Android apps.
posted by tommasz at 9:08 AM on March 2, 2011


Much like how it's said that straight women dress to impress and intimidate other straight women, restaurant sites are not for a restaurant's guests.

I once was building a Web site for a company. The CEO said, let's make it all in Flash. Why, I asked. You'd only make it expensive and difficult to use. Yes, he said, but it will look good to the people I'm trying to impress -- potential business partners.

In other words, it will be specifically built for people that won't use it.

By the way, that company went out of business.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:09 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not officially to the point where I won't eat at a restaurant with a Flash site, but I've been foiled in attempts to get to a web site by Flash so often on my iPhone that it's functionally true.
posted by immlass at 9:09 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Restaurant web pages will all eventually be obsoleted by Yelp, Google Pages, and the like.

Why on earth would you go to a restaurant's web page any more?
posted by device55 at 9:14 AM on March 2, 2011


What's the deal with overcooked lobster in the lobster rolls at web developer offices?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2011


Why on earth would you go to a restaurant's web page any more?

So you don't have to go to sites like Yelp.
posted by juiceCake at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2011 [33 favorites]


Why on earth would you go to a restaurant's web page any more?

Many of the ones I eat at regularly change their menus.
posted by vacapinta at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why do online stories like these always include a photo of two or three people looking at or gesturing toward a computer?

WE GOT THAT B ROLL! (Only in still pic form.) Because if those people weren't there gesturing at the computer, how would you know what the story's about?

And for the record, much as I hate the autoloading jazz muzak as a default feature - and much as it sends me off on a tangent about how if you're gonna agonize over where you source your meat and just the right California zinfandels and charge me $30-plus for a steak, could you please think of something other than St Germain or the Gypsy Kings to enhance the sonic atmosphere? - but if I could change just one thing it'd be to kill the pdf menu dead forever.
posted by gompa at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2011


Here's the McSweeney's article called If This Fusion Restaurant's Website Could Talk, which the Boston Globe quotes but doesn't link for some reason.
posted by John Cohen at 9:16 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


the answer to the question is : Use Menupages

Unless you live in a city that has less than a million people in it. In which case, you're back to square one.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:17 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why on earth would you go to a restaurant's web page any more?

Why would you not? Your argument seems to be that I could get the same thing elsewhere. Guess what? Restaurants serve food, which I can also get elsewhere and yet you aren't asking why people go to restaurants anymore.
posted by DU at 9:24 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Websites have shelf lives. What may have looked good five or six years ago seems impossibly dated now.

NO

THEY NEVER LOOKED GOOD

NEVER NEVER NEVER

HURRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH

Often, there’s simply not the budget to create a great website, something that might reasonably cost anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000.

FUCKING BASIC HTML THAT SAYS "PANCAKES ARE $6.95, WE ARE OPEN TIL 7" DOES NOT COST $5000
posted by Greg Nog at 9:28 AM on March 2, 2011 [35 favorites]


Crazy idea: restaurants could host design competitions that website visitors can vote on. The main page is the most basic page - location, hours, phone number, pictures of the menu. Then links to re-designs. Come into the restaurant, vote on a design, get a free drink or dessert. The winning design gets $100 gift card, second place gets $50, third place gets $25. Scale the winnings for the class of the restaurant.


Cool Papa Bell: The CEO said, let's make it all in Flash.... [The website] will look good to the people I'm trying to impress -- potential business partners

Sounds like the same thing from the XKCD comic - different "customers" but one website.


device55: Why on earth would you go to a restaurant's web page any more?

For actual phone numbers and current menus. I've seen Yelp pages with phone numbers that lead somewhere other than the restaurant. Crowd-sourced information isn't always that great.


troika: Oh jeeeeez that is mentioned in the FIRST LINE OF THE ARTICLE, which I read and immediately forgot.

But they don't link to it, so thanks for the actual link.

posted by filthy light thief at 9:29 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can get the hours of operation, address, a map, etc today without going to a restaurant's shitty website.

How long before these services add their menu?
posted by device55 at 9:30 AM on March 2, 2011


I'm continually baffled by the number of business websites -- especially for restaurants, but also for museums, galleries, tourist attractions, retail stores, salons, nightclubs, etc. -- that make it SO convoluted to find the address, open hours, and phone number. All of that should be on the front page, not linked to a separate page for each one from tiny little words at the bottom. Yelp usually has the address, but often doesn't have the hours -- and of course if I have to go there to try to get your business' vital info, I might see the one-star review someone just left.
posted by lisa g at 9:30 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I became friends with a guy who started a Japanese restaurant near me. His first concept was great quality, but that didn't catch on. He had to keep poorer quality fish on hand, because people would complain that his high-quality offerings didn't taste right. He tweaked the price and the menu and the specials, but it didn't catch on. He finally sold out after 5 years, and within weeks the new place had raucous crowds of birthday parties doing Saki bombs in glasses of beer, and Icing each other with Smirnoff's tucked in their socks.

I asked the waitress where all these people came from, and she said that they advertise through facebook and twitter.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:30 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This article reads like a paid advertisement for a trio of black-clad designers.

The one on the right, his glasses look a little dated, though, so you may want to hire other talent.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 9:31 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't know about Menupages until now. I like it okay, except their map of Boston bears a disturbing resemblance to the "how to use a tampon" diagram that shows up in every box of Tampax, but with a lobster instead of a tampon.

I happen to live in the map's uterus, where there are no menus, so I'll pass.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:32 AM on March 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


bears a disturbing resemblance to the "how to use a tampon" diagram that shows up in every box of Tampax, but with a lobster instead of a tampon.

Have you considered switching to the Diva Prawn?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:33 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Greg Nog: FUCKING BASIC HTML THAT SAYS "PANCAKES ARE $6.95, WE ARE OPEN TIL 7" DOES NOT COST $5000

Sadly, not all restaurants are pancake houses. I agree that the website can set the mood, and not all moods are "down home and casual." But there's a small move from basic HTML and tables from 1996 and simple html + decent graphics.

From the article: We’re creating Facebook sites for all the individual restaurants. Anything with social media is really important right now. No it's not. Not everyone needs to be "discussing" businesses on FB. GRAR.

And FFS, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH when taking pictures of food -- offer a free meal for a good photo of that meal, done and done. (Double GRAR!)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:33 AM on March 2, 2011


There's a pizza joint I like. They're website is a big flash blob. One part of this flash blob is a scan of their menu. Ugh. There's nothing tricky or impressive about the website. So why do it in flash?

The people who run this joint are not computer people. They found some website that purports to let them create a website on their own with no scary computer skills required. I can see how that would be appealing. So that's what they used. Unfortunately, the product is a flash blob.

I suspect some variation on this story is behind a lot of shitty restaurant websites.

An enterprising young person could do OK going around to restaurants with shitty websites, showing them how their websites totally fail on an iPhone, and offering to get them set up with something less shitty for a reasonable fee.
posted by adamrice at 9:33 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


is this problem really specific to restaurants or is it that most people who design websites care very little why the customer base actually comes to the website? The best websites are of minimal design with all the pertinent links on the home page. If I have to click more than once to get to the base page of the information I'm looking for, your website sucks.
posted by any major dude at 9:34 AM on March 2, 2011


The problem for most restaurants is that anyone who knows anything is generally too busy to sit down and maintain a website.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:36 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Several years ago, I looked at the web page for a new restaurant that had opened in southern Indiana. Their menu was a downloadable PDF. That wasn't the problem.

Their menu PDF was 40 Mb. THAT was a problem. It took FOREVER to open that file.

By coincidence, the restaurant's owner announced the opening of the restaurant that day on a local foodie online forum. I posted about the size of the menu PDF, and he immediately posted back that he was sorry, it would be taken care of, first thing.

It was never fixed. They went out of business less than a year later.

The two are not related, of course, but I think of that restaurant every time I have to download a menu PDF.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:42 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem for most restaurants is that anyone who knows anything is generally too busy to sit down and maintain a website.

This is true, but people use Google and smartphones now instead of the Yellow Pages, so restaurants better get some kind of clue.
posted by everichon at 9:44 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem for most restaurants is that anyone who knows anything is generally too busy to sit down and maintain a website.

They're also unwilling to pay up front for a site that will cost them less down the road. With a proper CMS sitting down to maintain the site is hardly a challenge. Or they've got a developer who doesn't know what a CMS is.
posted by juiceCake at 9:52 AM on March 2, 2011


It's pretty much the same thing with websites for artists, photographers, and bands. Basically, someone who isn't terribly web savvy hires someone to do a website for them. instead of making a nice, functional website, the designer gets carried away and makes A FULL-ON IMMERSIVE MULTIMEDIA ENVIRONMENT!!!! And the client doesn't know crap about usability, and plus they're "creative," so they let themselves get bowled over by all of the designer's happy talk. And then you get these shitty websites where you have to sit through a bunch of animated garbage and learn an entirely new interface, just to do something simple like find tour dates, see some photos, or look at a goddamn menu.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:53 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


You can get the hours of operation, address, a map, etc today without going to a restaurant's shitty website.

How about if search engines are just smart enough to offer the option of NOT SHOWING a business if it's closed?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:55 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remain baffled that so many restaurants don't use at LEAST a simple, free Blogger or Wordpress site that...um...literally ANYONE could maintain and update.
posted by davidmsc at 10:24 AM on March 2, 2011


I guess I'm the lone voice in favor of restaurant websites, but I still find them useful when we're planning a night out (or I'm deciding whether to spring for a Groupon or Living Social deal.) Not all are well designed, but many websites provide a nice sense of what the place looks like and its ambience. Plus, of course, a current set of menus, hours, location, and other handy info. I usually look at other places too like review sites, but I do like restaurant websites, because I always like more information rather than less.
posted by bearwife at 11:10 AM on March 2, 2011


From the article: It also features an instructional section titled “How to make a less horrible website.’’ Instead of using PDFs, it suggests, simply photograph the menu each time it changes.

This seems like a somewhat dumb suggestion to me. How much harder would it be to ask whoever is implementing the changes to the new menu to export a low-res png for the website so they don't have to fuss with getting a readable photograph of the menu?
posted by girih knot at 11:25 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or just do it in HTML so it can be properly indexed... So much easier than taking a photograph, optimizing it, uploading it. The suggestion of a photograph of a menu is entirely absurd, as would be taking the PDF and making it into an image.
posted by juiceCake at 11:55 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the restaurant can only afford to pay some guy $1000 for a two page website and they lack the knowledge to do serious editing to it themselves, images in place of an HTML menu make some sense. It's not the ideal in usability, but it still gets the menu out there.
posted by girih knot at 11:59 AM on March 2, 2011


There's totally a weird class/English thing tied into this too — a Thai or Mexican joint in my neighborhood, I don't expect them to have a site, and if they do, it's likely entirely incoherent and designed by Yu-Gi-Oh animators to break your brain into wanting that Panang, almost on the theory that if they're still in business despite this crazy site then most of their clientele must not use the web at all and the food is so good that the ones who do are willing to suffer.

On the other hand, when it's a chi-chi place, their broken websites read as pretentious and alienating rather than charmingly dysfunctional.

Likewise, I tend to be harder on Japanese restaurant websites here in LA than Chinese or Korean, because the Japanese restaurants always pretend to this class and atmosphere in ways that make them seem like they'll have expensive but crummy food.
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 PM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the restaurant can only afford to pay some guy $1000 for a two page website and they lack the knowledge to do serious editing to it themselves, images in place of an HTML menu make some sense.

If that's how your clients work then that's fine. In my experience it would be much easier for them to login to the site and input the menu item name into a name field, the description into a description field, the price into a price field, and serve it up as HTML. Teaching them how to optimize images, FTP, etc. is more difficult but mileage varies on the type of person obviously.
posted by juiceCake at 12:17 PM on March 2, 2011


My favorite restaurant websiteIl Cane Rosso. Hours, prices, location, today's menu. Done simply, as suggested upthread, in wordpress. At this moment, tonight's dinner menu isn't posted, but it goes up sometime in the afternoon, as far as I've seen.
posted by mollymayhem at 1:03 PM on March 2, 2011


Related AskMe from kirkaracha.
posted by catlet at 1:12 PM on March 2, 2011


The article immediately made me think of a rather good banh mi place near my apartment whose website includes better-than-usual music and an absolutely baffling sepia-tinted slideshow with bonus overlaid nixie-tube countdown clock of fucking doom.
posted by theodolite at 1:28 PM on March 2, 2011


theodolite, more impressive is that there's a flash-free version hiding behind that bizarre flash interface. Blocking scripts, you still see a series of sepia-toned photos, weird renderings of the restaurant, and then the menu in plain text! Oh, and a picture of ham.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:55 PM on March 2, 2011


Same thing for bars and cocktail / wine / beer lists, btw.

I'm not such a sucker for internet standards that I won't go to your place if you make me download a pdf of the menu, or if you clearly don't update your tap list regularly, or whatever it may be. But if you have clear, up to date info in normal text that I don't have to fuck around to see then there is a good chance I'll stop browsing and just plan on going to your shop.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:02 PM on March 2, 2011


There's totally a weird class/English thing tied into this too — a Thai or Mexican joint in my neighborhood, I don't expect them to have a site, and if they do, it's likely entirely incoherent and designed by Yu-Gi-Oh animators to break your brain into wanting that Panang, almost on the theory that if they're still in business despite this crazy site then most of their clientele must not use the web at all and the food is so good that the ones who do are willing to suffer.

This comment reminded me of the website for Lucky Dragon, a local Vietnamese place. So, I looked up the site to link it here, and realized that this Myspace page has business hours, location, and the full menu displayed with no need to click or download anything. I also learned that Lucky Dragon is in a relationship and could probably stand to lose a few pounds.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:12 PM on March 2, 2011


> If that's how your clients work then that's fine. In my experience it would be much easier for them to login to the site and input the menu item name into a name field, the description into a description field, the price into a price field, and serve it up as HTML. Teaching them how to optimize images, FTP, etc. is more difficult but mileage varies on the type of person obviously.

Or you could use a (free) CMS platform. Or build it using WordPress. Or on a hosted wiki site. There are a million ways of making editable websites for cheap or free. Taking a photo of the menu and uploading it strikes me as one of the worst solutions here.
posted by iivix at 5:54 AM on March 3, 2011


Well yes, entering the description of a menu item into a description field would be through a CMS (we tend to customize the backend of the CMS to help guide clients in inputing and updating their sites).
posted by juiceCake at 7:37 AM on March 3, 2011


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