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Feb 7, 2009 11:10 AM

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.