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Sep 19, 2011 12:54 PM

Restaurant web sites and outdated information

We're going to Boston in October and I've been reading the Greater Boston Area boards for some restaurant recommendations. A few people talked about a place called Erbaluce so I clicked on a link and went to their site to look at a menu. As I was scanning the home page, I came across this outdated message (see attached screen capture). It immediately turned me off to the restaurant. It makes me wonder what else on the site is outdated information. Why would a business not keep their web site up to date in this day and age? For me, it is my prime source of information these days. Does this bother you as well?

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  1. Positively maddening.
    BUT, I have found it to have no correlation with any other aspect of the restaurant's performance.
    My favorite example is Central Kitchen ( with the hilariously outdated "Kitchen Journal" from 2004.

    Central Kitchen
    567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

    2 Replies
    1. re: jajjguy

      An explanation of why restaurant websites are frequently so terrible.

      1. re: tdaaa

        Loved this article, shared it on my networks.

        I agree that many chef/owners have no idea what users really need from a restaurant website, especially mobile users. I expect that some of them look at vanity sites like Todd English's and want their own egos massaged in similar fashion.

        But I also believe that web developers share some culpability, as simple, non-Flash websites don't require their more rarified, expensive design and coding skills.

    2. i completely agree w/ you and i know that this too will change as technology changes. what really bothers me about erbaluce is no posted menus.
      <yes,erb,i underSTAND that your menu changes daily, but how bout a few recent menus?>
      still, it is so raved that i will eventually get there, despite this sorepoint. same for Craigie on Main.

      Craigie on Main
      853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

      2 Replies
      1. re: opinionatedchef

        I agree, OC. I know I whet my appetite based on a review of web menus. For example, recently scouted out T.W. Food and saw the "Black pepper and cabbage" soup and was really intrigued, and likely played a role in my decision process. Had they listed nothing, I probably would not have gone there. If that soup was not on the menu when I dined there, I would have been a little bit disappointed, but I would have gotten over it pretty quickly.

        As for Erbaluce, I love the chef's cooking, both there and when he was at Marcuccio's, and would probably go back much more often if I had more of an inkling of what was going on at this time of the year.

        I know some customers think a web menu is some sort of promise, but personally, I don't form any grand expectations - the web menu just gets me in the mood for the food...

        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          bob, that is an articulate and perfect you!

      2. Main reason a small business doesn't update its website is that it can't do it on its own. Most sites are written by and controlled by a developer. You as the business then have to call that person to make even minor changes. This costs money. It takes time and you don't have time or money.

        Some developers - more, these days - empower their customers to make basic changes, like posting a new menu, changing prices, etc. But most restaurants are mom & pop and don't have expertise and don't realize what they're committing to when they buy a site.

        1. IMO an outdated menu with slightly outdated prices is better than no menu and prices at all. At least it gives me a feel of the type of food I can expect from a restaurant and the general price points they offer when I have no previous experience with a place. I am more likely to avoid a new restaurant these days that has no website and/or no menu.

          And I always just love restaurants that blame their lack of knowledge/skill/ability to not provide up to date info on their website - a simple link to a blog or facebook page with the info about hours, parking, phone #'s, etc. and a menu - which could be as simple as a cut and paste text menu or a picture of the menu itself - is in the basic grasp of anyone that could post a response on Chowhound about outdated website info. And claiming that you are not able to update your site because the web developer does not allow it or can't be contacted because they are in a different country tells me you were just as inept at choosing a web developer as you are at updating a web page.

          4 Replies
          1. re: LStaff

            gee, l, while i think yours is an excellent post when it comes to technical knowledge, your last sentence comes off awfully harsh. Ya gotta cut ahtists some slack, you know, particularly when their food COULD just provide you with one of life's epiphanies. :-}

            I would suggest that these talented but non-techie chefs need some knowledgeable techie help, not a slap upside the head.

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Is there any way to check websites that once existed, but sadly no longer exist???

              like it's a dead URL, is there any place were dead websites go to.???

            2. re: LStaff

              Exactly. One of my new favorite places changes their menu daily. They offer breakfast and lunch weekdays, brunch on weekends, and dinner one night every two weeks. They have a single chalkboard menu - every day they take a picture of it and post to facebook. Incredibly easy, especially if at least one person on staff has a smart phone.

            3. I can see, as an out of towner, how you'd be frustrated with a site like that. I have to say that Erbaluce is a fantastic restaurant. It may be plain in decor, but it has always pleased me with its creativity in the food and the warmth of service. They update their menu almost daily, so I can understand why they may not have a current menu on their site. They should probably update it at least once a month to reflect the seasonal changes.

              69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

              7 Replies
              1. re: ecwashere7

                Places such as Bondir manage to post their changing daily menus. It really doesn't take too much time or resource, but rather just willingness by a restaurant to listen to their customers instead of taking the attitude that they will complain no matter what they do. Giving the customer what they want in terms of access to information via desired channels may certainly play a part in a place like Bondir being booked out for weeks, while prime time tables at Erbaluce are readily available.

                1. re: Gabatta

                  Who knows what accounts for people's choices, though I personally agree that current information on a website plays a big role. But on the other hand, if Bondir is booked out weeks in advance, then it is not entirely as a result of the daily menu updates.

                  Which actually may tie in directly to my point above - in today's dining scene, the online menu is more about whetting the appetite as a draw and marketing tool, as opposed to just mentally "pre-ordering."

                  Which is obviously not the impression that Erbaluce's chef has (based on what he said in his unfortunately deleted post). If it is truly his experience that customers are inconsolable by menu inaccuracies, then far be it from me to question his reasoning. He may indeed be listening to his customers. Or he may just need to hire a tech-savvy waiter - might be able to find one at Bondir. ;)

                  As for the OP's question, is it worth your time? Personally, I would say give it a try - have been twice and have enjoyed it, but our guests the second time were not all that wowed, so who knows? All I know is that I would probably have returned again sooner, had the menu been online.

                  Actually, to be totally honest, I would have never gone to Erbaluce in the first place, but for the positive reviews on this board.

                  Like the chef +1
                  No way to preview menu -1
                  Kind of a pain / $$ to park -0.5
                  Chowhound approval +1 <-------There's the tipping point.

                2. re: ecwashere7

                  "I can see, as an out of towner, how you'd be frustrated with a site like that. "

                  This would irk me even if I lived next door to the restaurant. My point is that if you own a business and keep 2-month old, outdated information up on your site, it tells me you just aren't very business savvy and it makes me wonder about how you run the rest of your business.

                  That said...should I really give Erbaluce a chance? I have 3 nights in Boston. Will Erbaluce be worth it? Tell me more about it if you have the time, ecwashere7 .

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    My comment about you being from out of town is only based on my experience in traveling to other cities and trying to do some homework beforehand. If I lived in town and heard something was good, I'd give it a shot. You don't have that luxury with just a few days here. That being said, I really enjoy Chef Draghi's take on Piemontese food. It is not your typical Italian. He uses very little in the way of butter or cream, so his flavors come from other source (herbs, etc). I enjoy his game dishes that seem to pop up on the menu in the fall (If rabbit is on the menu, I generally order it).

                    OTOH, I could see some people not enjoying the food. The flavors are a little out there and he deals with less familiar ingredients. The rack of wild boar has never really blown me away (but the wild boar meatballs are awesome!). Every time I've eaten there, I've been extremely happy. To say it's one of my top 3 choices for dinner in the Boston area would be a stretch, though. There are a lot of great options in the city and in Cambridge (Toro, Craigie, Oleana, Bondir)

                    If I were looking for delicious, regional Italian (Piemontese), I would definitely consider it. I would go there over most places in the North End. There, you'll find mostly red sauce style Italian which you can certainly get a lot of in Hoboken/NYC.

                    1. re: ecwashere7

                      "If I were looking for delicious, regional Italian (Piemontese), I would definitely consider it. I would go there over most places in the North End. There, you'll find mostly red sauce style Italian which you can certainly get a lot of in Hoboken/NYC."

                      Sounds like we would really enjoy the food at Erbaluce. Thanks for the response. As for 'red sauce" Italian, you are right about the abundance of it where I live. Plus, I am Italian American so I can whip these dishes up myself whenever I feel like it. Still, there's nothing wrong with a good Italian American restaurant; this cuisine is an important part of American dining. Plus, I bet Boston area Italian American restaurants have a slightly different spin than New york area restaurants on certain dishes, which could make for an enjoyable meal.

                  2. re: ecwashere7

                    Despite being a huge fangrrrl, I actually really agree with this criticism of Erbaluce. I love the place, I"m always happy when I dine there. But I'd love if they could put more resource into updating the online menu. Chuck does FB post sometimes about something really special, but I'd like to get a sense of what's seasonal before I go. I honestly don't think he or Joan have the time. The notion of getting one of the web-savvy servers or bartenders to do this isn't a bad idea.

                    69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                    1. re: yumyum

                      Someone's got to write the menu and code the POS, right? Just put the website update in the same workflow. It can't take more than 10 minutes. Heck, tweet a photo of the day's menu (a la Lord Hobo's "daily" taplist updates).

                      Lord Hobo
                      92 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02141