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Restaurant Web Sites - the horror

Why must restaurants succumb to overblown websites? When I check out a restaurant website, I want very specific information: what's their menu, how much does it cost, where are they, when are they open, how to reach them for a reservation.

I don't want: music, movies, wading through pages of reviews, flash anything. But all too often, that's what I get. I estimate at least 50% of the restaurant websites I go to are like this.

Is this just me? Is it just a San Francisco Bay Area thing? Are there people out there who really like watching a video of how exciting a restaurant is? It turns me off and makes me not want to eat at that restaurant.

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  1. Blame the web marketing companies who sell the restaurants on these expensive high maintenance sites in order to collect large "service" fees for their work.

    7 Replies
    1. re: hannaone

      My friend designs (and often maintains) websites for small businesses. The fancier, more interactive ones definitely provide her with a larger pay check.

      1. re: enbell

        I figured it was like that. But why do the restaurant owners think it's worth the money? It drives me away!

        1. re: 512window

          Most restaurant owners don't know much, if anything, about web design and site promotion. (please note that some know a lot, but these are exceptions)
          The person who sells the design talks a slick pitch, providing a glowing description of how "enhancements" are all the rage and will help attract viewers, get better placement in search engine results, and on and on.
          There are some good ways to use the bells and whistles in restaurant web pages - like a slide show of pictures of the dishes - just put them in a "click to view" format instead of force feeding them to viewers on the entry page.

          1. re: 512window

            My friend doesn't manage any restaurant websites that I know of, but I will surely ask her. I'm pretty utilitarian myself; the less bells and whistles, the better :)

            1. re: enbell

              So, I got around to asking my friend about her web site clients. I was correct in that she does not currently work with any restaurant owners. I was unaware, though, that this was an conscious choice on her part, as she used to. She discontinued services with her restaurant clientele because of the overwhelming volume of emails she received directed to the webmaster for...wait for it...TO GO ORDERS! Too funny :)

            2. re: 512window

              Because the web developers hard sell the bells and whistles. That's how the developers make their money is servicing the site (and optimization) once it's up and running. I I managed a site for my friend's resto and we were given two free services a month. Anything beyond that and we had to pay big money for it. We,fortunately, didn't opt for any of the bells and whistles.

              I'm with you, I hate all that stuff - it just gets in the way of me trying to get the info. I'm looking for.

          2. re: hannaone

            I blame the client. As a web designer, I'm more concerned with a website doing its job than distracting from the content (I visit restaurant websites as well). I want people to go to the website and get to what they need. I also dislike movies, music, etc that do nothing for the site. Occasionally, I can see a movie helping if a 'tour' section presents itself. There's only so much you can do when the owner wants his poorly shot, local commercial presented on the home page.

          3. I am finding that more restaurant websites are a lot more user-friendly than a couple of years ago. When they have those intros most of them have a "skip" button, a way to turn off the music, or a link to get right to what you are looking for. My pet peeve is a restaurant menu that omits prices -- I'm finding a lot fewer of these than I used to. My biggest complaint now concerns looking up restaurants in St. Louis for return visits to family -- many places there still are neanderthal in that they permit smoking, and it is rare that a restaurant will specify its smoking policy on its website, though reviews in the Post-Dispatch or other sites usually mention it.

            5 Replies
            1. re: nosh

              God love the SKIP INTRO option! On the other hand I feel likes fewer and fewer websites list prices, which is indeed a pet peeve of mine as well.

              1. re: enbell

                My biggest peeve about restaurant websites is when the hours aren't explicitly (and obviously) listed -- particularly closing times. I surmise this is so the owners/staff/management can make judgement calls about when to shut 'er down if business is slow but argh. I'm in Vancouver BTW.

                1. re: grayelf

                  I finally figured out that most restaurants list the hours under "contact." I never used to click on that because I didn't *want* to contact them.

                  Even worse than music, I think, is the sound of laughter, murmured conversation and clanking dishes -- especially combined with a low-light picture of a crowded dining room. "Oh, that seems nice -- I'll go there!"

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Yea, a place I worked at only listed opening times for the exact reason you mentioned.

                2. re: nosh

                  The thing is though, the navigation is still usually Flash based. Web designers who use Flash to replace basic HTML navigation should be kicked in the teeth.

                3. I hate, hate, HATE music on restaurant websites. Any websites, really, unless they are a music-specific website.

                  Granted, in maybe 500 cases, there will be odd one out where I think 'hey, nice tune'. But apart from that, I immediately shut it up. If I can't find the pause button on the website, I turn of my speakers. WTF!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: linguafood

                    when you are at work and some irish jigs starts up!LOL!

                    1. re: linguafood

                      My speakers are permanently disabled for this reason!

                      1. re: linguafood

                        I so loathe the loud trendy music on a website (do we REALLY need a blast of techno to enjoy a meal?) that I assume that the restaurant probably plays music too loud on the premises to go along with the image they've set forth on the website -- so I don't go. I really, really, hate loud music while I'm trying to eat.

                      2. I should mention that I really like the recent innovation on some restaurant websites where you can smell the food that is pictured.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nosh

                          I agree but I hate those all those little scratch marks on my screen.

                        2. Ok, i'll play devil's advocate, but I like restaurant websites, and sometimes I like the ones with the music etc, as long as it doesn't sap the hell out of my computer (like some of the ads here do, btw). As has been said, most places have the skip intro option. Plus i'm always happy when a restaurant actually HAS a website, a peeve i've been vocal about before (the lack of them, I mean)

                          If I have travelled somewhere, and eaten at a great restaurant, sometimes i like to just go back and revisit the site, and get that feel for the place back. It's like a litle trip down memory lane, :)

                          Besides, restaurants have to distinguish themselves somehow in the eyes of the unknown customer. If i'm going through the yellow pages on line trying to find a place to eat, you can bet i'm more likely to go to the place with the full website, than one with just a small ad with phone number, if it's not known to me.

                          1. My pet peeve: restaurants that don't list the price of their items or keep their menu current. I was recently really disappointed when I went to a restaurant and did not see something on the menu that was listed on its online menu. I pointed this out to the waiter, who sprouted some nonsense about how it was Restaurant Week and it was time consuming to keep this particular dish on the menu during this time, etc. What??? It was an antipasti plate consisting of several different components, all of which were offered separately on its menu (but, of course, it costed much more to order them separately). I basically zoned out and stopped listening.

                            Does anyone know if the law of "bait and switch" applies to restaurants as it does to grocery stores? Somehow I don't think so but am curious.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: gloriousfood

                              Good question. I know most places (including the resto's who site I manage) have a disclaimer at the bottom of the page that says "prices subject to change without notice).

                              1. re: gloriousfood

                                also usually says something to the extent of menu being an example and subject to change/substutions, etc.

                              2. having several websites myself, I love to see what is working and what is not..
                                I hate when things take forever to load..when that hourglass is stuck on 56%..no prices on the menu but understand that things change but I still want to know what its going to cost me...and please leave off your bad music choices.
                                What are the legal issues if the website says one price and at the restaurant is another..can you make them honor the website price?

                                I love how Market Del Mar did their website..crisp, clean and stunningly visual.


                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  The site for Market Del Mar is slick but I hate the music. If I'm surfing at work I don't need music blaring out of my speakers unexpectedly. The flash is done better than most, I'll admit but the music is a deal breaker.

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    I have my volume control on low, so I had no idea there was music..and its loud and not all that!
                                    I agree that the Flash is done better than most..and totally agree Peg on the copying and trying to paste the address into Google maps.

                                  2. re: Beach Chick

                                    See that site still bugged me.

                                    It should not take 10+ seconds to get *any* information about a restaurant. Don't want fully reloading pages each time you click on something. Get rid of the splash page at the beginning (often the SKIP INTRO button isn't immediately discernable), and definitely get rid the music! Just let me click on things from the immediately loaded main page. K.I.S.S.

                                    Plus, all that flashy-Flash stuff doesn't show up on Google, as I've read in this previous thread, so you're at the mercy of word of mouth or written reviews.


                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      It took 0.2 seconds for me to load it. Why? Because I don't have Flash on this computer, so it didn't do jack :)

                                    2. re: Beach Chick

                                      Market Del Mar is a strange example to hold up for admiration, BC. The intro screen was very artsy and visually imaginative, although it had nothing to do with a restaurant. The music was VERY annoying, and when I clicked for the menu I waited and waited, looking at a blank screen while that music kept drilling away.

                                      Finally I got an Acrobat load announcement. BAD SIGN! It meant that they did not create a menu for website purposes. It meant that somebody just took a photo of the hardcopy menu and they are shoving that onto the screen. Sure enuf, the menu was a typical Acrobat lame display, hard to scroll and impossible to navigate.

                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                        I liked the site...and the music.

                                        with all due respect KT....maybe you shouldn't be net-surfing at work.

                                        1. re: im_nomad

                                          Why not? It's part of my job. I just don't need to have audio blast through.

                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                            It's just *exactly* this kind of site that led me to make my original post. I don't need this - I need the location and phone number, and pages to get to the menu, directions, make a reservation, a few pictures of the inside, etc.

                                            No music, no dancing words, no big picture of grass. No hiding the button to turn off the loud music inside the big picture of grass.

                                            It is a restaurant website horror.

                                        2. I totally agree with most of the sentiments here. Don't give me a landing page with no information. Don't give lots of Flash that takes a long time to load. Don't make it difficult for me to find basic information like your hours, your location, how to make reservations or your menu(s). And definitely *do* list prices so I know what to expect.

                                          One minor annoyance I don't think has been mentioned: Web sites where the address is part of the graphic so I can't just copy and paste the address into Google Maps.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: PegS

                                            RE: Market Del Mar. It loads fast and is slick/well done. I wish the music would end or be an option to let it continue. Kinda feel like The Sopranos is starting.

                                            Many sites/site designers put addresses, phone numbers and any pertinent data in as images, so it can't be mined and used for spam, mass mailings, phone solicitations, etc.. The fact that a site has an email link (Contact Us..), leaves them vulnerable and has to be dealt with software, and costs a site extra money each month to filter and protect against spam.

                                            1. re: Scargod

                                              With most web pages I can use Ctrl and the mouse scroll button to increase the size of the font so I can read the page without reading glasses. I can't do that when the page is an image or flash. Also when data is in an image I can't cut and paste it into something like Google earth/maps or a phone dialer. I also hate music on web pages. I found enough irritants on Market Del Mar's web page that I probably wouldn't even try the restaurant.

                                              I prefer simple web pages that are frequently updated and contain accurate pricing information. The following is an example of what I consider to be a good web site.


                                          2. A lot of my pet peeves about restaurant websites are listed, but I've been finding another big problem recently. My security software requires permission to load java/flash sites, so if I get to a restaurant website that is all java, I need either to deactivate my security software or add the restaurant site to the exceptions to the security software. They annoying thing is that, on most websites, it is only the welcome page that has the java/flash. So if there were a way to just bypass the intro page (i.e., if the flash was in a box), I could navigate the site without having to deal with my security software.

                                            One other pet peeve to add. Not just the elaborate sites, but the ones that go on and on about their "culture" and "mission." The website for the brand new Rivera restaurant in Los Angeles -- http://riverarestaurant.com -- sums up everything I hate about restaurant websites. They don't have menus up yet or details about special events, but you can read lengthy columns about their "philosophy." The "tequila" link doesn't really tell you what tequilas they have, but has three paragraphs about their comfy "tequila chairs."

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Jwsel

                                              Rivera does have a particularly awful site - and an hour after I moved away from it, the music somehow persisted in my browser. (I had no idea what it was.) It's a wonderful restaurant, too!

                                            2. I suppose that soon they will be able to pump the aroma of sauteed garlic through my hard drive...

                                              1. Having designed a few websites, I gave advice to a restaurateur friend about getting rid of the raucous music and horrible wood paneling background for one of his websites. He didn't get it and was offended... He eventually dropped the music.

                                                It's not you; many sites are very bad. I don't mind a splash page if they get with the program after that. Way too many have dead links and non-functioning pages. Sometimes too self-aggrandizing.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Scargod

                                                  I'm sorry, but splash pages really were passe by 2001. I do not need to be overwhelmed by the technological wonders of a restaurant. I just want basic information that is hopefully not obscured by horrible music, bad flash animation, and other little "features" that make me have to click more times than necessary to get the information I want. I'd rather have it be minimalist and fully functional than have a fancy splash page and 20 links that don't work. I know I have flashblocker, so I hate those sites that are 100% flash and I have to click the screen a million times to see anything.

                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                    I think in the context you are referring to, I agree. I am thinking of a simple image page where you click to enter. A picture is worth a thousand words? A small splash...hardly a splash. No animation, etc. that takes a long time to load.

                                                2. My big hope is that the popularity of the iPhone helps kill Flash once and for all.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: huaqiao

                                                    No such luck. Apple is in works with Adobe to get Flash on the iphone.


                                                  2. I get really, really, really, really annoyed when a website is all flash (or even "mostly flash"), because that's not really how flash should be used. For whatever reason, this seems to be extremely common with restaurants. In several cases, I've actively avoided a restaurant for no other reason than their website was Flash based and I couldn't be bothered to deal w/ it (in some of those cases I regretted that when I did finally go there, but hey)

                                                    1. One of the worst websites I've ever been on. Not a restaurant, but a company that sells kitchen cabinets: http://www.scavolini.us/index_content...

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Scargod

                                                        Reply from Scavolini: They are about to launch revised website! Perhaps it will be even more fun?

                                                        1. I can't stand them, no I don't think it's a SF thing at all. I think that they get a web designer that talks most of the people with those kinds of sites into that nonsense. Especially if an owner goes in with no knowledge and puts complete trust in the designer's hands. I would almost feel too, that if they are paying them a lot of money, they are going to expect that the designer earns it and the designer thinks all the bells and whistles prooves they've worked very hard. And I love that they tell you, that they are doing all this because it will allow for changes that can be made without charges later, so the mess somehow has value now.

                                                          It doesn't deter me from eating there, it's just annoying as all get out.