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Restaurant Websites - At this point they should pretty much be mandatory [moved from General Topics]

This day in age the vast majority of the US public has internet access. For whatever reason there seem to be plenty of restaurants that still don't understand that they need to have a website, and it needs to have certain basic information such as: phone number, hours of operation, and perhaps most important of all a current menu with prices.

I always Google a place before visiting for the first time, or if I'm not sure where to go I just do a search for the type of cuisine I'm looking for and wait to see what pops up in my area. I am many more times likely to go somewhere that I know will be open and where I can see the menu and decide what I might like beforehand as opposed to just driving out and testing my luck, and I don't think I'm alone here.

It's 2012, websites are available for next to nothing, there is no excuse not to have one. Even one of those insipid Facebook fan pages is better than nothing, as long as the menu and the basic information is posted. A gourmet hot dog joint in my town has the Facebook fan site, but no hours listed, and no menu, just a bunch of photos of people attending some event there, which tells a potential diner exactly nothing.

No matter if you have three Michelin stars, or run a mom and pop take out joint, there is no excuse not to have your phone number, hours, and current menu with prices available on the web.

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  1. If your universe is limited to web links, you will miss some good stuff. For you, the web is as essential to life as air. For many ethnic mom and pops, they don't know what you are talking about. And they are not hearing you now. Yesterday's foodie used a machete; tomorrow's only a keyboard? Let's not surrender today.

    21 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      I may be missing out on some experiences (I do visit places without websites, but as I mentioned, it's less likely if I don't know the place exists) but those restaurants are losing a lot of business.

      Chowhound is a great resource, but it's more useful inside of major cities where it has more active members. There are plenty of great places to eat in my town, and I've mentioned them in the locations board, but I'm sure there are many others I've missed because Ft. Myers doesn't have the same representation on Chowhound as does NYC, Chicago, Miami, etc. Without foodie friends making recommendations, an active community here to bring places onto the radar, or the restaurants themselves being proactive enough to put up a simple website to let potential diners know they exist and what they serve, there's no way to really explore the possibilities other than driving down random backroads and taking blind chances on whatever you stumble upon.

      A lot of mom and pop chinese places print out tens of thousands of fliers and have them dropped door to door. For far less than the cost of that they could set up a website and reach more people.

      I don't buy that small ethnic restaurants don't understand the internet. Aside from luddite octogenarians and paranoid survivalists living in the backwoods of Wyoming people by and large understand and use the internet.

      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

        It is clear that you are young and have not yet traveled the world. There are wonderful experiences in store for you, where your computer is extra baggage.

          1. re: Veggo

            Ouch! Just Tute may or may not be young and may or may not have travelled extensively doesn't make his opinion any less valid.

            I interpret the point of the original post to be that websites on the internet are taking the place of looking up a restaurant in the yellow pages, calling the restaurant to find out their hours, and getting directions to the location. Having this information readily available at minimal effort to the consumer is an easy way to help customers make dining decisions. Not having this information readily available on a website may not deter all would-be diners, but may steer some towards a second choice where the information is available via website.

            True, wonderful experiences await for those who go with their gut and try a place on a whim, just as there are frustrating experiences who decide to try a place on a whim only to find out they don't open till noon and it's 11:30 right now.

            1. re: goldy12

              You youngsters need a little ink in your passports from third world countries....you'll see what I mean. I'm not sniping, I'm wishing you good eats. Tech toys are great for knowing your 'hood day to day, but your life's most memorable eating adventures will be elsewhere. Trust this geezer just once?

              1. re: Veggo

                In the original post I was thinking more in lines of places in the US, Canada, UK, etc, 1st world generally wealthy nations where internet access is mostly universal. I wouldn't expect to find a menu online for some hole in the wall in Bangkok, Chengdu or Oaxaca.

                I'm all for taking chances and exploring while traveling and on vacation, but I will likely do some reading on some must visit places as well. If the locals are gaga over a place then I'm sure to give it a shot while traveling, website or no, but I don't see wanting more places to make their presence and offerings known via a website as being at odds with that.

                1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                  Internet access is nearly universal in France, too -- a wealthy, industrialized, developed nation by anyone's definition -- but I'd sure hate to limit my dining choices to places that have a webpage.

                  We'd be hungry a lot.

                2. re: Veggo

                  Not only do I trust a fellow geezer but the idea that websites are the answer is confusing anyway. Websites are passe, apps/google maps/social networking sites like Twitter & FB, etc. in a handheld "toy" are where it seems to be at.

                  The cost of a web server is low today (I pay 4.95/month) but the time/energy/cost to hire if you don't know web-editing is ongoing and high. For folks focused on the food, running the day to day business a web site or online social networking (twitter/FB) to reach a customer base is not a one size fits all answer. And many restaurant folks who started out with a website have since taken it down because word of mouth both on and off the Net is better advertising.

                  However, information on a restaurant can be had thru any number of searches without a formal website if that remains your preference for information.

            2. re: TuteTibiImperes

              "...driving down random backroads and taking blind chances on whatever you stumble upon."

              and this is a bad thing because why?

              1. re: sunshine842

                I don't think it's a bad thing and indeed, I've stumbled upon some great eating experiences that way....I've also had some god-awful ones. There seems to be this idea that the more off-the-radar and hole-in-the-wall the better, but that's really just a romantic notion.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Because it wastes precious gasoline and is harmful to the environment to drive aimlessly on end.

                  Playing devil's advocate, but there was a point in my life where I enjoyed a good country drive.

                2. re: TuteTibiImperes

                  Tute, it is not enough to have a website to be found by potential diners, you have to get your website 'found' by meta crawlers, know key words to use, etc. so your ranking is high enough to show up in searches. This is a much more complex tool that many resto's don't know how to do, and many companies pay for this, and regular updates to keep your ranking up there... I don't think some of the funky 'mom & pop" joints, or sister/brother ethnic places I so enjoy have done this - they are too busy serving their customers!
                  That is why places like chowhound can be such a help - to have us find those that are not so easily found just with a Bing search...
                  Especially in many other countries, internet use is not nearly so widespread yet, so you would find searches to leave many stones unturned to your detriment, if you only ate at places that show up in the ether.

                  1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                    >>> there's no way to really explore the possibilities other than driving down random backroads and taking blind chances on whatever you stumble upon

                    OK, rant about this site's restaurant database aside. this is easy because you live in the US.

                    Even on an active board like the SF Bay Area, I get a lot of leads from yelp. Forget about what yelpers often banal reviews. At a minimum it will give you info that a restaurant exists. So these are the restaurant in FT Meyers, FL


                    There are 485 currently if you restrict the search to that city. Then you can scroll thru and see what looks interesting.

                    If I'm really interested, I'll post an inquiry on Chowhound to see if there is any opinion from posters here.

                    I can't say how good yelp is in linking to menus in your area, but you can get a feel if you want to look further.

                    Add to that local restaurant sites ... especially delivery sites ... that may have menus.

                    Some of these sites are duds. They list every restaurant with an option for a menu link and then say 'menu not available'. Hate that

                    A few in your area



                    Take out tonight




                    There are more, but if you really want to see menus, they are out there. As some have said, it might just be a blogger who snapped the menu.

                    When I was more active in updating the Chow restaurant database before getting blown off, I learned a lot about tracking down menus.

                    You might say ... sure, San Francisco that is easy.

                    Well, I did the same thing in Guatemala ... and that wasn't one of the easier exercises.

                    However, it was to my benefit. I learned about lots of great eats in never would have without a little cyber research.

                    1. re: rworange

                      The problem with a lot of the aggregater sites is that the information is often non-existant (just as you mentioned, 'click here for menu' then nothing), incorrect, or out of date. Yelp is nice, but it lists every place in town, but the number that have useful reviews, details, or menus is a very small portion of the whole.

                      If I'm thinking about trying 'Jorge's Taqueria' for example (doesn't exist, just an example) and I do a google search for 'Jorge's Taqueria Fort Myers' it's frustrating to go through page after page from menupix, metromix, etc, who have nothing to offer me but unwanted ads when all Jorge needs to do is take a couple hours one day to set up a website and maybe half an hour a month after that to keep it current to let myself and other potential diners know what he's offering, for how much, and how late it's available.

                      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                        Yeah, that ain't gonna happen, so the only one frustrated is you.

                        Also, as others have pointed out, if they are not search savy you will still go through all the same crap ... I detest menupix.

                        I've updated gazillions of restaurant records on this site. When I update i fill in ALL the info available. So Joe Smoe's BBQ is a site that is slapped but the search strategy is ignored. You are still wading through pages on google until you come to that site. Really, there are joints that don't show up until page 20 of search results. I always thought that Google should automatically push to the top the actual business. It ain't the way it works.

                        That's what pisses me off so much about the restaurant database on this site. It was the best option to store all that info and then things were screwed up and that data doesn't appear in Google searches except for rare circumstances.

                        1. re: rworange

                          In my experience if I google the restaurant name and the city it's in the official page is one of the first results as long as it exists, so I'm thinking SEO might not be that big of a factor. It might not show up the first day, but give the google-bot a bit of time and it should. The restaurant owner being a bit proactive and linking the site to the location data on google maps and on any Yelp review would of course help too.

                          A facebook fan site is free, a dedicated domain website can be had for under $10 per month. Even if putting the info out there only brings in one extra diner per week (which seems like an absurdly low barrier to cross) it will result in extra profit for very little work.

                          To set up a restaurant in the US you need to have a business license, get financing and insurance from somewhere, pass health inspections, and jump through plenty of other hoops. Compared to a lot of what else that goes into running an eatery setting up a website is a cakewalk.

                          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                            Could be the reason you are not finding websites is that they are on page 15 of the search and you are under the impression they will be on page one. Having updated way over 1, 000 restaraunt records on this site, I know from my exprience that what you are saying is not always true.

                            LIke I said, business opportunity should you choose to take it.

                            Everybody has their own abilities. The guy who can navigate the things necessary to set up a business may be internet illiterate ... or just doesn't give a damn because the clientel doesn't give a damn.

                            I don't think a website is the be all you think.

                            From my experience, often the online menu doesn't have everything on the actual menu. A smart restaurant won't post prices which can change, so you have the potential to piss off a customer if you forget to update the website.

                            Then there is the place that posts that sexy menu when it opens and doesn't sell the unique dishes, so when you show up the menu has been whittled down to the crowd-pleasers.

                            Anyway, preaching to Chowhounds isn't going to change anything. Talk to the restaurants that don't have a web presence and ask why.

                            1. re: rworange

                              I don't have a lot of experience with the Chowhound restaurant database, but when it occasionally popped up I wasn't sure of the purpose. Third party information is useful when it comes to reviews, but it doesn't replace information from the source about the basics such as business hours, contact information, what's offered and for how much.

                              Sure, a poorly maintained website with out of date information would piss people off. A poorly maintained dining room with dirty tables and floors will also piss people off. Just because doing something halfassed could hurt business doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing well as a way to help business.

                              I'm not saying having an informative web presence is a be all and end all, but if the information is relevant and kept up to date it can only help. As a society we are moving towards more reliance on the internet as a source of information. Today's 20 and 30 somethings are far more tech saavy than their boomer parents, and today's kids and tweens will be even more technology-literate and dependent than the current gen-x/y'ers.

                              Many people don't use phonebooks or yellowpages anymore, and plenty of people don't even have landline telephones anymore. When making plans it's not uncommon for many people to just pull out their iPhone and type what kind of food they want or what type of bar they are looking for into google-maps and seeing what little red pins show up around them. Those little pins that have more information available at a click are going to get more business than those that don't.

                          2. re: rworange

                            Position in Google searches is a big problem for restaurants and other food businesses in the Chicago area because we have a ridiculous number of directory sites with very dubious information in all too many cases. Yelp reviews sometimes pop up many pages of search results before the business' own site. Failure to put a business' site high in the results is a major defect in Google's algorithms.

                    2. re: Veggo

                      There was a thread on the Manhattan Board awhile back and Le Veau d'Or (an old warhorse) was discussed. I resolved to go back after some years absence because it fits my particular bill. One point in its favor was that it does not have a website...although that will certainly change.

                    3. I hear yeah Tute. I get really frustrated when there isn't a website. We don't get the chance to go out that often and when we do, I want my to know what options I have. I don't like to fly by the seat of my pants when I want my money to go far. Not to mention, I watch what I eat and get really ticked if I end up having to choke down some garbage food b/c this was all we could find open after driving around thinking places were open that aren't.

                      Now, when it comes to traveling that's a whole other ball of wax. Although I like to be organized/prepared for most anything in my life, I'm a lot more lax on the funds and don't mind spending money here and there with the "oh well" if wasn't that great or it's not open let's move on. Who cares, I'm on holidays but, at home it's completely different.

                      Totally do not understand why flyers are still being scattered everywhere. What a waste.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: livetocook

                        Because when it's lunchtime at work I'm not heading to the Internet to decide where to go, I'm looking in the menu drawer.

                        In my (somewhat smallish) circle of friends and family, I'm the only one who uses the Internet to research dining options. They all think I'm "clever" or have some special skills. They are always impressed with what I come up with. And they all think they themselves couldn't do the same thing. Ages range from mid 20s to 70s and everything in between. Just because you and I use the Internet regularly and thoughtfully does not mean the majority of folks do.

                        Locally, our newspaper is the most widely used source of restaurant information, along with word of mouth. The Internet is a fabulous tool but it's not the only way to get people in the door. That said, I do like when I can find more about a place online, particularly when I'm traveling.

                        1. re: lisavf

                          "Because when it's lunchtime at work I'm not heading to the Internet to decide where to go, I'm looking in the menu drawer. "

                          Really?? I just go online :P

                      2. And it's not enough to just have a website it needs to be maintained. Too many don't have the interest or sense to regularly up date the information. One of the more famous restaurants here even forgot to pay their renewal fee so the website is now available to their competition.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mexivilla

                          What the hell did you people do before the web?

                          1. re: ericthered

                            we used the phone book or yellow pages.

                            The www is part of life today, I want websites too with an address, phone number, directions and map. I want an easy website to navigate, menu and prices and pictures and sometimes the ability to make a reservation online.

                            1. re: smartie

                              lol. Speaking of phone books. hubby and I finally decided, the next time they are dropped off at the door let's put them in the basement and see if we open it up and use it before the next set arrives. (We used to throw the old one away and put the new in it's spot and I always wondered, 'did we even crack this open?")

                              Nope.....And that was 3 yrs ago.

                        2. If it was only that simple - put up a site and people will come.

                          There are plenty of threads on here of people complaining about bad sites or outdate sites or sites that have old menus (god forbid a restaurant should change their menu seasonally) or sites that have outdated prices, etc, etc, etc. And then there is SEO (search engine optimization) that you have to worry about if you really are thinking your site is to draw in new customers . . . . . Creating a site might be easy these days (at least a cheap site) but having it be useful and relevant isn't.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: thimes

                            Whenever you update your menu, whether it be seasonally, monthly, weekly, or daily, presumably you are also printing your new menu's to hand out to customers who come in the door. While you are doing that just update the information on your website, it will take all of ten extra minutes. You don't even have to know basic HTML coding, just use a WYSIWYG editor and call it a day.

                            Yes, there are bad sites, but most of those are people trying to do too much. KISS is in full effect here, all we need are hours, contact info, and a menu with prices. If you want to get really fancy maybe add some photos of your dishes, your space, a couple recipes or some detail about the history of some of the dishes, but none of that is required.

                            Flash, music, animated gifs and anything else that's (bad) style over substance does nothing positive, so skip it.

                            Each individual restaurant can decide if they want to pay for SEO or not, but even if you don't use that kind of a service more people will see your website without SEO than people would see it if you didn't have a website. Add the link to your Yelp page and Google Maps link and you'll automatically catch a lot of people that way.

                            1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                              As someone who works closely with IT folks I hear you. But the vast majority of current restaurant owners wouldn't even know what WYSIWYG meant and you would have lost them right there. And most of them have likely bitten off more than they can chew (haha) and are barely keeping up with cooks, waiters, investors, vendors, loan officers, etc . . . .

                              I think it would at least be great to have a one page site with name, address, phone number, hours, and general atmosphere/genre description. I think once you go beyond that it becomes to much for most in the industry. This will change, I think, as younger generations start entering the field. (Well the biting off more than you can chew wont but understanding site construction will).

                              1. re: thimes

                                That would suggest to me that the restaurant owner has either no business plan or a bad business plan. Putting up a functional and informative and accurate website is neither costly nor time consuming. It also isn't rocket science as every webhosting client I know has plenty of "website tonight" software packages that comes with the monthly hosting fee (along with plenty of tutorials).

                                As for more than one page, you have a point. However, you can buy a nice, effective scanner for $50.00 and then print out your menu as it changes and scan it as a PDF, upload it in seconds and there you have it: functional, informative and accurate.

                                Many restaurant owners are their own worst enemies in this endeavor because they have convinced themselves that putting up a website is akin to learning nuclear physics, so they would rather ignore a great benefit rather than challenge their own beliefs.

                          2. I don't even need to see a full website - a facebook page with contact and location information, plus a menu uploaded to the photo album makes all the necessary information available, it's easy to update daily, and free. One of my new favorite places changes the menu daily (breakfast and lunch on weekdays, dinner once a week, brunch on weekends). They write the menu on a chalk board everyday anyway, so they just take a picture of the finished board, and post it to facebook.

                            ETA: I just pulled my notes from a course I took on using the internet for social/medical research. As of 2007, ~75% of American adults have internet access at home or work, and about 60% use it on a regular basis (at least once every two weeks). So it isn't overwhelmingly dominant yet, but it's getting there. A restaurant can't survive on internet presence alone, but it is going to become more and more of a handicap to not have a presence at all. It also varies greatly by community and target population - the little restaurant down the street from my grandmother's house doesn't need a website - they are the only restaurant in town, and there aren't many out of towners except those visiting family who already know about the restaurant. On the other hand, I live in a sprawling metropolitan area, with a decidedly young and tech-savvy population. Not having some kind of web presence is almost unheard of here.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: mpjmph

                              " I just pulled my notes from a course I took on using the internet for social/medical research. As of 2007, ~75% of American adults have internet access at home or work, and about 60% use it on a regular basis (at least once every two weeks). So it isn't overwhelmingly dominant yet, but it's getting there. "

                              I don't think that this is very accurate seeing that it is from 2007. In the tech world that is decades ago. I only got my first cell phone in 2007 and any more I totally freak if my iPhone needs to be recharged and I don't have a charger or access to a plug.

                              1. re: dmjordan

                                The 2007 data are the most recent available, as of October. The course was taught by one of the most renowned survey designers in the country. The speed at which new technologies are created, and existing ones are adopted are two totally different things. By the time adoption of a new technology reaches 60-75%, growth is going to slow because only the laggards are left and many of them will never adopt. I'm sure internet coverage and use has increased since 2007, but not to the point that other means of information transfer are obsolete.

                              2. re: mpjmph

                                Sadly, there are far too many restaurant owners who haven't a clue about using social media, much less putting up a website.

                                1. re: mpjmph

                                  Except people are sharing what they know with each other all the time. So I might not know a place for great bbq but my neighbor will or my son and I'll learn from them. We are not alone on some remote island. Communication is all around us. As long as you have eyes, ears and a voice you'll be included in the restaurant news you need/want.

                                2. Hmm...given a choice between a great website and a mediocre restaurant...or a great restaurant with no web presence at all...

                                  Y'all can have the internet -- I'm headed down to the diner at the bottom of the hill.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Why does it have to be one or the other? What's stopping a great restaurant from setting up a website? This isn't the early 90s anymore, the internet isn't some new thing that people don't fully understand.

                                    There is no other medium that opens up your message to as many people for as little effort and cost as a website. The question isn't whether restaurant websites help business, at this point it's obvious that they do. The question is why some places are so slow to get on the bandwagon.

                                    1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                      >>> The question isn't whether restaurant websites help business, at this point it's obvious that they do.

                                      What facts do you have to back up that conclusion?

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Well, here's a recent Pew study showing that 55% of adults get information for restaurants online, with search engines (which would therefore lead to the restaurant website) being the largest way they find that information:


                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                          From that link of a study of 1,087 adults

                                          "People who seek out information and news about local businesses and restaurants are a diverse and somewhat upscale group. As distinct populations, they are more likely to live in relatively well-off households – those earning $75,000 or more – and have college educations.

                                          In addition, the 55% of adults who get information about restaurants, bars, and clubs are more likely to be women, young adults, urban, and technology adopters"

                                          Sure. If that is the customer the restaurant wants it would be silly not to have a web presence.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            I'm sure there are thousands of individual exceptions, restaurants that cater to an entirely different clientele. But as a whole, that sounds like the bread and butter of the American restaurant industry.

                                            Keep in mind that no small percentage of restaurants make a bulk of their profits off of a very small group of diners who spend lavishly (especially on alcohol), even though most of their customers might be more... conservative with their wallets.

                                            Of course, as I said above, that's not the business model for all American restaurants. But it does sound like it applies to a lot of the restaurants the OP has in mind. And anyway, as younger generations become the mainstream of American restaurant-goers, having a web presence will become more important. In other words, if you're an American restaurateur and you think you wouldn't benefit from a web presence, you should at least give it a thorough reconsideration. You might be right... but you might just be fooling yourself.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              Yeah, the college educated diners earning more than 75 thousand a year are the people are the majority of business being done by the average mom and pop mentioned in the OP. Contact me. I can sell you the Golden Gate Bridge if interested.

                                              Just out of curiosity, does the fact a restaurant have a website make a major impact on whether you choose it to dine?

                                              I will say that it might bring my business .. or it might turn me off totally. That is the other side of the coin toss.

                                              My own tastes are eclectic. I read menus almost like love letters, paying lots of attention. A joint that has some unusal dish that i've never seen will draw me in. A phony upclass pretentious menu will make me avoid it.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                "Yeah, the college educated diners earning more than 75 thousand a year are the people are the majority of business being done by the average mom and pop mentioned in the OP. Contact me. I can sell you the Golden Gate Bridge if interested. "
                                                I said not once but twice in my post that there were many exceptions. Very explicitly.

                                                But yes, I'm sure that there are a lot of mom and pop places that derive much of their profits from big spenders, at least if they serve alcohol.

                                                "Just out of curiosity, does the fact a restaurant have a website make a major impact on whether you choose it to dine?"
                                                For me personally it depends. Several places in and around my local area, I've found via their website. Incidentally, I live in a small, rural town where many businesses have no web presence - those that do have an easier time getting my business just because I know they exist. If I hear of a place via word of mouth, I'm certainly not going to skip it just because it lacks a web presence. I don't resent restaurants for not maintaining a web presence, but I do question it as a business decision.

                                                I don't really know what your last paragraph has to do with the discussion at hand. A restaurant with a phony pretentious off-putting menu would still have a phony pretentious menu whether or not they have a web presence. The difference is just that they're advertising themselves more.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  I cannot believe there are people in this day and age that cannot accept that having a website can actually increase your business. There are many people that do not use the web on a regular basis but you are kidding yourself if you do not think that there is a large portion of the population that looks to the web for all sorts of information. I don't understand that condescending attiude many people have on here against people whose dining choices are sometimes swayed by checking out a menu online beforehand. I am late 20's and i can tell you that almost everyone i know uses the web and their iphone when making quick decisions about where to dine...or even when looking for very specific dining requirements for future dinners. Does that mean those of us that use the web never ask for personal dining recs from people we know and trust and never venture out try restaurants that don't have websites? Of course not...word of mouth is obviously a major power for restaurants that serve good food. But i don't understand how people can't accept the fact that having a website might increase your business with a certain demographic...it's not all black and white.

                                                  1. re: iluvtennis

                                                    So make sure you only eat at restaurants that have a web presence. You can't make someone put up a website if they don't want to.

                                                    The world doesn't have to agree with you -- and your insisting that ALL restaurants MUST have a website is equally condescending.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      Even though the tone is the same, you are not resonding to the OP. i think iluvtennis has a more realistic view saying that business might increase with certain demographics. I don't think anyone denies that though as another poster mentioned up thread that websites are passe and social networking might be the better way to go for a smaller business,.

                                                      The difference is that the OP insists that ALL businesses must have a web presence and post menus. That is unrealistic and not going to happen.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        I definitely agree with you on the op's position...i don't think a restaurant absolutely has to have a website to thrive, but i also think a website can be beneficial. I guess i just don't agree with the either extreme on this topic and it seems some people are leaning really far in on direction.

                                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                                        "Does that mean those of us that use the web never ask for personal dining recs from people we know and trust and never venture out try restaurants that don't have websites? Of course not...word of mouth is obviously a major power for restaurants that serve good food."

                                                        I never insisted that every ALL restaurants MUST have a website. Reread my post.

                                          2. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                            You understand time and money, TT. How we value our time & money differs, yes. You suggest in order for a business to be successful it must spend the time and money on a website. Well, that's not going to work for some restaurants so it's now up to you to how you wish to spend your time and money eating.

                                        2. Small but good places with no personal website often end up on the web in some way anyway. I juat took a short trip to Delhi and got a lot of my chaat and bhojanalaya recommendations from online blogs, online news articles, food forums, etc. Didn't matter that 90% didn't have a website. God, some of them didn't even have a fixed location.

                                          26 Replies
                                          1. re: Muchlove

                                            Muchlove, I don't see a trip report on the India/South Asia board from you! That would be great to have for my future reference!

                                            1. re: Muchlove

                                              Exactly. I can find information online about the restaurants, and even better, it's from unbiased sources, not the restaurant. I've seen pictures of food, restaurants on their site that look nothing like the shots on their site. Sort of like match.com... If I had to count the number of places that call themselves "authentic", "gourmet, etc., I'd still be counting.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Still it is nice to have a website, no matter how biased and a facebook page is easy enough.

                                                That being said, there are still tons of places that don't know how to upload photos. There is not lots of sophitication out there, especially in a foreign country.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Nice but not mandatory, as suggested by the OP. Is someone can have a successful restaurant w/out one, why suggest they MUST change. I have some extended family members w/the restaurants and none w/the web sites. People who are computer literate often forget that computers can be very daunting to some people in foreign countries, or in the US.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    It's a free country, and if someone really doesn't want to have a website, I suppose it is their right, I just don't see the downside to doing it. If a place is booked solid open to close, has been for years, and legitimately doesn't want any more exposure or business, maybe it makes sense to keep flying under the radar - I just don't think there are very many places like that.

                                                    Having a web presence will become as much a fundamental part of operating a restaurant as accepting credit cards as we move forward. Yes, there are places right now that do neither of those things, and there is even a Mexican place I happen to like that is cash only, has no website, has no phone number, irregular business hours, and doesn't even show up on Google Maps. As much as I like the place I don't go there as often as their competition because I need to have cash in hand and I don't even know if they'll be open until I pull up to the door.

                                                    Computers may be daunting to some, but IMO ignorance is not a good excuse. Computer literacy is a basic prerequisite for running a business in today's world.

                                                    1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                      Tute, that might be the case for restaurants in YOUR area and in YOUR circle of influence. There are plenty of places in the world that see things differently.

                                                      Not wrong...differently.

                                                      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                        "ignorance is not a good excuse. "

                                                        What about no desire to do what YOU think is important? Computer literacy might be a basic prerequisite for running a larger business in today's world but plenty of successful business don't. They might not be your definition of success but not everyone wants to be the Cheesecake Factory.

                                                        A couple of the best Chinese restaurants in my area don't have web-sites or take credit cards and they're thriving. Why should they fix something that isn't broken?

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          It's more than a bit hyperbolic to go from having a website to becoming a soulless mega-chain.

                                                          Computer literacy is important for more than just large businesses. Even in a small restaurant expenses and revenue need to be accounted for, supplies ordered, taxes prepared and payroll calculated. All of those things are made much easier using a computer.

                                                          Saying that a business doesn't need a web presence today is like saying a business doesn't need to be listed in the phone book 50 years ago. This is the way things are going, and the internet is becoming the source of information for more and more people. There are always going to be some exceptions, some places that do fine without it, but I don't understand how anyone could argue that as a rule having a website listing basic information can in any way be bad for a business.

                                                          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                            You title 'should be mandatory' is extreme and I think what most of us are arguing against. "Mandatory" is non-negotiable and yet another expense.

                                                            Business owners are in it to make a profit and not having mandatory/recurring expenses is part of a good plan.

                                                            1. re: Cathy

                                                              Perhaps mandatory wasn't the right word, but I do believe that not bothering to set up a website is at best short-sighted today. The expense is minimal - easily under $250 per year for a basic site with a domain and hosting as long as the proprietor does it themselves or has a staff member handle it as opposed to farming it out to a web design firm.

                                                              1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                The yellow page analogy doesn't fly.

                                                                First of all, they are in online yellow pages

                                                                Second, as you know from fruitless searches, there are few businesses not listed on the web. Yelp covers most of them and then there are sites like allmenus, etc that list them all.

                                                                It is rare that at the very least the address and phone number isn't out there. With a phone you can call about hours.

                                                                Again, I think a website is a bit passe. The important thing is to show up in mobile restaurant apps because i would guess more people are getting there restaurant information that way than thru the internet.

                                                                And if they aren't now ... wait a year and they will.

                                                                I think your parade has passed by. A younger generation is going mobile and you are behind the times. Don't be sad. It happens to us all.

                                                                1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                  I think your selection of the word "mandatory" has less to do with your counsel to businesses about how to succeed, and more to do with you wanting information about everything in the world to pop up on your device on your demand. To you it may seem simple and efficient, but to others it resonates as autocratic, lazy, and narcissistic.

                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                    rworange -

                                                                    Being listed in mobile apps is certainly a plus, but one of the biggest draws of smartphones like the iPhone, Android phones, etc, is that they offer you the full web just like you can get on a computer. I know many people with smartphones who vehemently dislike websites that automatically detect a mobile browser and offer only a simplified mobile version of the information. The whole point of smartphones is that you don't have to settle for the mobile only information.

                                                                    Allmenus lists many restaurants, but contrary to the name they do not have all menus available, and those they do have are sometimes incorrect or out of date. Nothing replaces a site owned and operated by the business that has up to date, current, and exhaustive information.

                                                                    Information on social networks and mobile devices is becoming more and more important, and listings there shouldn't be ignored, but there is nothing out of date about having a link that takes you directly to the full page of information for that restaurant. Bite-size tidbits of information easily falling into hand are a good starting point, but having that tied to a page that gives all of the information a potential diner would need should be the goal.

                                                                    Veggo -

                                                                    Restaurants are part of the service industry, and as such their goal should be to offer the best possible experience to all of their customers. Yes, there is certainly a personal benefit for myself as a diner to having the information easily fall into my fingertips, but the benefit to the restaurant is that they earn my business, as well as the business of others who are used to having that information available with a few keystrokes or finger swipes.

                                                                    I can pay all of my bills, mortgage, car loan, etc, online. I can program my DVR online or have it stream recorded programs to any device when I'm not at home. I can search my entire county's library system for the book I want, reserve it online, and have it transferred to my preferred branch waiting for me at the reception desk when I want to pick it up, or if it's available as an e-book, just download it and transfer it to my Nook Color. I can have my entire music library and more movies and TV shows than Blockbuster ever carried available instantly on any computer, my iPhone, and many TVs whenever I want it.

                                                                    I might make more use of technology than some people, but I'm far from alone, and the kids who are now in middle school and high school have grown up with this stuff and seen it as normal more than my generation has. This is the way things are going, and it's time for all business to realize it's time to get on board or get left behind.

                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                      HillJ -

                                                                      I never said a restaurant only needed to satisfy my idea of what a business should be. Chowhound is full of opinionated people with strong beliefs about what a restaurant should or should not do, and of course we all won't agree on everything. I believe we've past the point where a web presence is curiosity and that it now fair for it to be expected. It's my opinion, and as other posters have noted, I'm not alone in holding it. I don't expect, nor would I ask for, some kind of government regulation to require it, but I think it's worth the time to bring the question up and have a discussion about why certain places are not taking part, and that's why I posted this thread. I will admit that the language in the original post may have been extreme, but hey, that's what many opinions are.

                                                                      Myself, I work in sales, with a large portion of my business coming through internet leads. My customers want information on the products, price quotes, and their questions answered within minutes sunup to sundown 7 days a week. I'm used to the attitude that all information needs to be available at any time from anywhere with minimal fuss and I am able to take business from many of my competitors because I make a point to provide it that way. It means that I work 55-60 hours per week on average and that even when I'm off I'm answering e-mails, texts, etc, but if that's what my customers expect, it's what I have to offer. It also means that I understand what's possible when it comes to how other businesses leverage technology to make the lives of their potential customers easier, and that I both appreciate those that use technology to make things easier for potential customers, and expect those that don't to see where they are being overtaken and to take measures to catch up.


                                                                      And just to clarify, I don't expect any restaurant to have someone devoted to answering e-mail or watching website traffic full time. Once a basic site is set up the only real effort needed is to update things when the menu changes and if they like make notes when special events are taking place.

                                                                      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                        TT, I thank you for sharing your professional background. It adds a valuable dimension to your OP and your point of reference. And while I don't agree with a good deal of your comments generally speaking I most certainly agree that we all come to this discussion with backgrounds that tend to color our thoughts over what works and what doesn't. Mine included. Not everyone commenting here agrees with you either. Yes, we all have differing opinions on CH-thank goodness.

                                                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                          While that business model works for whatever you are doing, it is irrelevant for restaurants. A website is a nice to have. That is it.

                                                                          You continue to refuse to acknowledge the social networking part of this which even the dumbest most backward restaurant instinctively knows.

                                                                          A restaurant which won't take the time to even put up a facebook page will pepper yelp with schill reviews If it isn't yelp it is any one of a number of other sites.

                                                                          Recommendations from friends and family ... word of mouth ... is a big part of generating restaurant business. So are reviews by the mainstream press.

                                                                          Now our friends are virutual. Everyone with a keyboard is a reviewer.

                                                                          Even in the backwoods of third world Guatemala there was shilling ... thought that might be on Lonely Planet, Tripadvior or whatever might be appropriate for the area.

                                                                        2. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                          That is a very reasonable reply. A lesser person would have verbally assaulted me, and those I dispatch with regularity here.
                                                                          Technology advances at microwave speed; comestibles advance at crockpot speed. Be patient, my friend.

                                                                          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                            That's fabulous that you have your life wired to your specifications.

                                                                            But not everyone wants that -- and those of us who DON'T want to live like that are not stupid, archaic, obsolete, or Luddites.

                                                                            We just don't want the same things you want...and that's okay, too.

                                                                            I agree that many of the raised hackles are stemming from your use of the word "mandatory". It's only mandatory in your rule book -- and most folks who own their own restaurants wrote their own rulebooks a long time ago.

                                                                            If it's truly mandatory, then they'll come around or lose their business -- survival of the fittest.

                                                                            If it's not mandatory, they'll continue to succeed, whether you're at their table or not.

                                                                            Don't tell them how to run their business, and they won't tell you how to run yours.

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              I envision that the line of argument of this debate could be applied to slightly different topics as well, e.g.:

                                                                              "It should be mandatory for restaurants to have clean bathrooms."

                                                                              "What? There are plenty of restaurants in the third world with filthy bathrooms that are doing quite well. Don't tell restaurant owners how to run their restaurants!"

                                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                                Not even remotely in the same category. Nobody gets sick if there's no online presence -- indeed there's no downside to the public whatsoever if there's no online presence.

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  Very much in the same category of what patrons might desire: Good food, good service, good ambience, ease of getting information and making reservations, nicely clean bathrooms etc. Very much in the same category.

                                                                                  If someone had opined "I think it's mandatory for a restaurant to serve good food", do you think that a bunch of people would have bothered to protest? The original statement dealt with technology and that clearly hit a nerve with some people.

                                                                                  1. re: nocharge

                                                                                    what someone might desire and what is a legal requirement for health and sanitation are two vastly different things.

                                                                                    If someone had opined that it's necessary for a restaurant to serve good food begs the question of "good by whose taste?"

                                                                                    And it's exactly the same with a web presence -- mandatory by whose rules?

                                                                                    It has not so much to do with technology as someone handing out an opinion-baased mandate. There would have been the same debate if the statement had been "It should be mandatory for all restaurants to provide black cloth napkins."

                                                                                    Okay, that's your opinion, but it doesn't make it so.

                                                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                As much as I like being able to peek at a menu online, I agree with you sunshine. It's nice to have the convenience, but "mandatory" in order to play doesn't work for me. I've actually "had" to try a little place or 20 with no web presence or even Chowhound chatter - on my own, without the "omg I'm going to x restaurant so tell me what to order!".

                                                                          2. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                            So the question isn't is should it be "mandatory" but "Is it helpful" for a restaurant to have a web site? I'd agree in that case. It's "mandatory" for a chain that doesn't serve good food to advertise but a place that does good food can survive without by word on mouth, online often.

                                                                        3. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                          Restaurants have a web presence--the question is whether it's self-run or not. As I've said, I rely on other online sources, like CH, to find restaurants. Their web-sites might help me w/ basic information but I have never sought out a restaurant only based on its web-site. If you listen to a restaurant's web-site, they all serve wonderful, authentic, gourmet foods.

                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                            "but I have never sought out a restaurant only based on its web-site"


                                                            2. Sure there are great places that don't have a website; but I'm with you - I like to check out a restaurant's decor, photos of menu items, the menu itself, how late it stays open, how extensive their wine list is; etc. Lots of ethnic places I'll just stop in and go with something safe. Go to a pho place for pho...go to a sushi place for sushi, etc. But if it's "international", "French", "fine dining", etc. where a lot of territory can be covered, then come on, put up a dang website.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: KayceeK

                                                                I love to know all of those details ahead of time. I was recently diagnosed with Celiac so it is really helpful to see the menu ahead of time.

                                                                1. re: dmjordan

                                                                  Digestive issues are another matter altogether...you get a free pass for wanting to be forewarned AND forearmed.

                                                              2. Well, Tule .. there's a business OP for you ... contacting businesses without a web presence and getting them online.

                                                                My bigger gripe is a joint that has a website and doesn't list basic info like hours.

                                                                it is difficult to convince a little mom and pop of the importance when a website like Chow blows off the whole concept of a restaurant database ... ignoring reports of bugs in it and putting it on the back burner and failing to recognie the value of this info. Even pulling it out of web searches because ... I forget. They just don't give a damn. Instead of thanking posters who have tried to contribute content, they ignore them sometimes saying you are bothering them and to ask once, but never again ... even the question is years old. Ask for an update ... ignored ...or told you won't like the answer and then not answering.

                                                                So you tell me ... in this case ... why CBS doesn't care.

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  I was going to suggest the same thing, rworange -- if it's such a great missed opportunity, surely you can make yourself a fat living getting restaurants onto the web.

                                                                  There's another point...sometimes the owner doesn't WANT enormous crowds - they have a packed dining room every night, they are making a living for themselves and their family, and they have no designs on being the Next Great Chain. There are plenty of restaurants in my area that are packed to rafters every night, do a bustling business with great food, but don't have a web presence at all...and the owners are perfectly happy to have a packed house every night, as they don't have the space or resources to handle any more.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    It might be an American idea that more is better. Someone who is happy w/the how their restaurant might not want to do extra to bring in more traffic.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      I can't imagine a proprietor who wouldn't want to increase his traffic. I think it more common that perhaps one day he was quoted a price for a website that he thought was unreasonable, and that he would never see a return to make it worthwhile. There were (and probably still are) people who make a living by cold-calling and offering a website for a couple hundred dollars. The guy who needs a website most, probably doesn't have a spare $200 in his register.

                                                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                        Website designers charge a minimum of $1800 for the initIal design then $100-$250 per month to maintain and update the site. Answering email queries for the site is not something they do; that's another job/expense.

                                                                        1. re: Cathy

                                                                          Any restaurant owner who would spend that amount of money on a website should not be in business and clearly has done little research.

                                                                          It is exceptionally easy to set up your own website (or get your geeky nephew to do it for $50.00). Buying a domain is less than $20, and often much cheaper. You can have a decent webhost for as low as $8.00 a month which usually comes with "website tonight" software and plenty of tutorials.

                                                                          Most people don't want some large, extravagant, bells-and-whistles, site with forced music. They want an information page stating name, cuisine style, address, hours, a link to the menu (which you can print out and scan as a PDF and upload with the expense being the scanner which will only set you back about $50 for a decent one). Throw in some photos of the interior of the restaurant and picture of the owner and his staff and - TA DA! - an informative website.

                                                                          All for under $150 a year and a minimal amount of time investment.

                                                                          1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                                            I recall referring someone on CH to one of those 'unprofessional' websites. The 'geeky nephew' put up a link to Google maps, some photos of the restaurant and food and a photo of the menu. There were three misspellings and a grammar error on the photographed menu. The owners were not born in this country and were just starting out (San Diego County gets about 2000 refugees each month and many of our ethnic restaurants are started up by non-natives. They are assisted by others who have been living here a bit longer, but are not native English speakers).

                                                                            The person I referred to the website replied that she could never go to a restaurant that was so 'sloppy, unprofessional and inattentive to details'.

                                                                            Point is, people will find a reason to go to or not go to a restaurant, apparently based on a website.

                                                                            [By the way, that 'unprofessional' place is thriving right now and still has the misspellings on the menu. I now laugh when I see misspellings on menus and signs in ethnic and refugee areas and think of how much people are missing out when they pre-judge.]

                                                                        2. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                          Reminds me of that story that's going around about how a man goes fishing every day, gets enough to sell to support his family, enjoys his life. So, someone tells him, if he fished more and made more money, he could catch more fish and then he could hire people to do it and then sell more. Eventually, he could open and run a big company that sells fish. At this point the man asks, so then what would I do? The person says, "Go fishing in your spare time."

                                                                          If someone is doing well enough and happy about it, why not just stay there?

                                                                  2. I'd be happy if the regional Bel Telco just got the white pages listing correct. So often, especially with ethnic places, the order-taker spells the name wrong or gets the address wrong. These details get picked up by so many websites that the error just gets propogated forever. Something so easy to get right the first time and yet it happens so much more than it ought.
                                                                    For example, Hurry Chutney Restaurant in Somerville is listed as Harry Chutney.

                                                                    1. i think that even more importantly than having a website is having a website that is not ridiculous. why so many restaurants think it is a good idea to have a ten minute flash intro to their website is absolutely beyond me.

                                                                      give me an easy to find menu, a little info about your chef if necessary, an address, a phone number, and possibly a Open Table link so i can make a reservation (if they are needed).

                                                                      the menu doesnt even necc. need to be up to date, just give me an idea on the kind of food you serve (especially if your menu changes daily/weekly. i realize this is hard to keep up with).

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: mattstolz

                                                                        I agree about no need for 10 minute flash intros, or any flash at all really. The website should be informative and easy to use, it doesn't need to be (pardon the pun) flashy.

                                                                        I disagree about your opinion of a current menu. While the few places that change the menu daily based on what's available at the market and do 99.9% of their business in house, I could perhaps agree that a general idea is good enough. For any other place, especially those that do any take-out business, an up to date menu is essential so that orders can be called in beforehand.

                                                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                          a take out business is definitely a different animal as far as online menus go. you have to be able to see what youre going to order! but in my opinion part of the sit-down resto experience is sitting down, looking through the menu, interacting with your waiter, etc..

                                                                          when i go to a resto, i try to take my time and relax a little. rushing in knowing exactly what you want already ruins some of the experience!

                                                                        2. re: mattstolz

                                                                          Yeah, it is amazing how many lousy restaurant websites there are. It is almost the more upscale the joint, the worse the site.

                                                                          What gets me insane is when they don't list hours or put it in a place one would never guess. It is insane to have those flash intros.

                                                                          And don't let me wait a zillion hours while your site loads no matter how cute the 'loading' icon is.

                                                                          And please ... stop putting the damn menu in pdf format.

                                                                          Just give me info ... nothing cute or clever ... no menu with pages that slowly turn ... no special little windows for your menu that always seem to cut off and don't work. If you blast music, your website should be revoked.

                                                                          Some restaurants seem to think all you want to do is to linger at their site for hours.

                                                                          1. re: mattstolz

                                                                            This topic was illuminated in this article.

                                                                            These ridiculous web sites are created by Cathy's $1800 website designer who is forced to add all those bells and whistles by the proprietor who wants to "get his money's worth" and make his site look flashy like his competitor's site.

                                                                          2. I work on the interwebs now, but spent well over a decade in the restaurant business and have maintained many friendships with restaurant owners. Getting a friend or customer to put up a website cheaply is not difficult. But for many restaurants, maintaining it is.

                                                                            For many owners, plugging in the newest menu into their template (designed by someone else)
                                                                            seems complicated. Trying to get them to buy and use a scanner or otherwise turn it into a PDF is tantamount to impossible. One example is a friend of mine who is not 40 yet. He has been in the biz his whole life. He doesn't use email. He has an antiquated flip phone. I set up his Facebook page and showed him how to post to it. He gave up and had one of his bartenders do it. It is rarely up to date.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                              Besides spending money to hire a web editor/maintenance person the restaurant has to supply updates. Those hired don't have a clue about the restaurants operation or know what needs to be updated or changed on the site. They count on their clients to supply this information. They supply technical expertise only. So, if the restaurants web site, blog, app or social networking outlet isn't handled in-house this is an additional, let's say monthly task, the owner must make time to do and communicate to their editor. Most national chains have whole depts for this purpose and often those sites are out of date on locations and menu pricing.

                                                                              So while some patrons or potentially new customers might enjoy reading through a website or visit a restaurants FB for fun, photos, coupons, event listings, menus, holiday specials, chef stories, awards, hours, directions, etc., many of these items can be read/viewed online through other sources without the expense.

                                                                              Honestly, not all restaurants NEED to be online or have a FB page or Twitter to do great business. Like many aspects of techno convenience, we convince ourselves we need these things...what we should be doing is our own research.

                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                And now that I've slept on this topic a bit...I remember very clearly when having a myspace page was the only way to get your music heard..........hahahah

                                                                            2. Mandatory? Are you serious? That's ridiculous.

                                                                              1. I've been thinking about this post quite a bit - mostly because I deal with internet stuff all the time in my job. And after reading everyone's posts and re-evaluating the original post I am having a slightly different opinion.

                                                                                I still stand by the fact that no, not all restaurants need to have a website and that making a website is actually far more difficult that the OP (and others) think - both from a technical standpoint and from an owner standpoint.

                                                                                Technically - I think those who are internet savvy forget that most of the rest of the world isn't. I couldn't point someone who was computer quasi-literate to a site that could create a site and get it up and running and make it editable in a day (and that is about as much time as someone would spend before completely giving up, if not less).

                                                                                Owner wise - I also wouldn't expect someone who put their life savings, time and energy into creating a restaurant - decor - menu - food - plating - staff - etc - to just throw their hands up and put anything up on the web just to have it . . . .

                                                                                That said, us "older" folks really do underestimate how much the "kids" rely on the internet for everything. They do EVERYTHING on the internet and rely on that information HEAVILY. It is scary sometimes but it is what it is. I often travel with younger co-workers and the first thing they do in a new city is pull up yelp on their smartphone and look for food trucks (we have a bigger travel budget than that but sometimes you have to give in).

                                                                                So I think a lot of this is generational. I wouldn't go to the internet first for restaurant recommendations (okay I do come here but I don't "search" or use yelp, etc - but this thread was talking more about general web presence stuff) but I do tend to agree that if you have a restaurant and you haven't considered an internet marketing plan - including a website - you really are shooting yourself in the foot. The web is what it is at this point and it is a major influence. So yes, while "having" a website might not be mandatory, "considering" how to get a web presence really should be.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: thimes

                                                                                  So yes, while "having" a website might not be mandatory, "considering" how to get a web presence really should be.


                                                                                  That was an enjoyable comment, thimes.

                                                                                  More than 40 restaurants I work closely with come to mind immediately. Only a third of those have formal websites and only one owner runs their own site solely. However, having a presence on the www is unavoidable. An owner doesn't need to do much on their own these days. The public adds the information in any number of ways (FB, personal food blogs, comment pages within magazines/newspaper articles, many food sites, dozens of newspapers allow online readers to create their own blogs today AND all the person to person sharing cell to cell, twitter to twitter, Open Table, Groupon, Restaurant.com ...any moment of the day without permission by the owner or in some cases without even eating a meal at the restaurant. An owner can spend a good deal of time correcting information, following what's out there and even fixing some of it....with or without the time spent launching their own site. And, launching their own site will not stop the public from doing their own thing. The old, "wrong publicity is better than no publicity" is a real life pita.

                                                                                  Web presence is easy and you know what not always a godsend.

                                                                                2. Mandatory? IMO, yes indeed - except for one thing.

                                                                                  Most of the sites I've seen are miserably designed. All I want are directions and a menu, and I guess other diners wouldn't mind some photos.

                                                                                  If the owners hire a web designer, he/she thinks that to earn his pay, he has to design the h*ll out of it: awful flash landing pages, and other atrocious pages, and often the essential information is missing. If the owner ever looks at it, he'll see outdated information and non-functional links, but he's shackled to the paid designer and updates cost money.

                                                                                  If the owners design it themselves, there's still a tendency to make stupid mistakes (despite many web host's do-it-yourself design tools) and after a 12-hour-plus day, who has the energy?

                                                                                  1. I think there should be the following 3 items SOMEWHERE easily accessible on the web....whether that is a Facebook page, Yelp, or whatever. All these items should be together, preferably, since it's a pain to dig around on multiple pages for small pieces of information.
                                                                                    -Menu with prices (without prices is just frustrating)

                                                                                    If I'm going to go out of my way to try a new place, I want to know that the place will have a decent vegetarian option or two, and I've been burned one too many times to have faith that these options will be available. If the menu changes seasonally, it doesn't have to be perfectly up to date, but a general idea would be lovely.

                                                                                    My thoughts? It is unlikely, unless your website is truly awful, that anyone is going to be turned off from going to your establishment. On the other hand, as time passes, more and more people are going to be relying on web-based information to make their dining choices. It would be a better bet for a restauranteur to have something available for those who do care, rather than have nothing and lose the business of those people who do rely on the web.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: tazia

                                                                                      Agreed. If I can access those three items I'm a happy camper. I also like a phone number if possible.

                                                                                    2. I work in the IT field, so I am not a philistine.

                                                                                      Your stance here is ridciulous. There are LOTS of great places to eat without websites.

                                                                                      Really, I don't understand your reasoning here. There is a terrific barbecue place local to me, for example, that does not have a website. I can find its hours, number, etc., on Urbanspoon or Yelp if need be.

                                                                                      More than half the places I eat when on vacation don't have websites (I just checked a fair sampling).

                                                                                      You're going to be missing a lot of great eating if your restaurant criteria starts with "does it have a website?"

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                                        To be fair, I never said that there aren't great places that don't have websites, and I never said that I only eat at places that do. I'm more likely to eat at places that have one, but if I hear great word of mouth about a place, or I happen to pass it and it looks good, I'll give it a try.

                                                                                        That terrific barbecue place for example could put something up and make its presence known to more than those in the immediate area who happen to see it off the side of the road, or who hear about it from someone who has eaten there.

                                                                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                                          They don't find it necessary and neither do their customers.

                                                                                          I am reminded of something said by Kenny Shopsin of Shopsin's in New York. He said he runs 15 meals a week (before they began offering Sunday Brunch). If he does five big, he'll break even. If he does ten big, he'll make money. But if he does all 15 big, he'll have to close because it'll be too much work.

                                                                                          A joint may only want to concentrate on established clientele and word of mouth rather than inviting so much business they'd have to change, for example (in the case of the BBQ place), from slow hardwood fires to gas and hardwood chips.

                                                                                      2. It is a generational thang... Folks that have grown up with readily available digital toys, are more dependent on them. Folks that remember actual phone books, know how to go about life without Google. To limit your choices to businesses which are digital savvy is doing yourself a disservice - you're going to miss out on great restaurants and deny yourself the adventure of discovering hidden gems. Don't get me wrong, I regularly use mobile apps and websites (www.localeats.com, www.yelp.com, and CHOW! of course) to lookup or research restaurants. But, I don't think twice about stopping at a place if it looks interesting. I don't need a "yelper" to confirm my curiosity, or Google to tell me if I can afford it. 9 times out of 10, I can look at a place and by the exterior and name - I can ballpark what I'm going to spend, and what type of cuisine. I can't tell if it's going to be great, but I like the element of surprise. Even disappointments lead to interesting stories.

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: brelleva

                                                                                          "To limit your choices to businesses which are digital savvy is doing yourself a disservice - you're going to miss out on great restaurants and deny yourself the adventure of discovering hidden gems."
                                                                                          Strange how often this line has been repeated in this thread. Best I can tell, no one ever actually said that they'd avoid going to a restaurant because it lacks a web presence. Instead, people merely said that they regularly use the web to guide their choices, and restaurants that shun the web are thus less 'on the map.'

                                                                                          You could make the converse statement easily: people who limit their dining choices to word-of-mouth recs and restaurants they found by driving by are missing out on great restaurants and missing out on the ability to 'discover' a 'hidden gem' their friends haven't been to.

                                                                                          Both statements are true. Now, who ever said anything about avoiding restaurants on the basis of a web presence or lack thereof?

                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                            it was the affirmations that a website is mandatory, along with these nuggets:

                                                                                            "I always Google a place before visiting for the first time, or if I'm not sure where to go I just do a search for the type of cuisine I'm looking for and wait to see what pops up in my area."

                                                                                            "It's 2012, websites are available for next to nothing, there is no excuse not to have one. Even one of those insipid Facebook fan pages is better than nothing"


                                                                                            "there is no excuse not to have your phone number, hours, and current menu with prices available on the web."

                                                                                            There's also a number of posts from a few other posters that say roughly the same thing...they don't say verbatim "if you don't have a site I ain't coming" -- but they make the statement pretty clearly, nonetheless.

                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              There are two ways of reading those statements:

                                                                                              1 is that many places that don't manage their web presence are making a poor business decision, and one that is avoidable. I tend to agree. Even though there are plenty of places that don't need to do this to profit in their business model, more often than not North American restaurants who don't manage their web presence would be better off doing so.

                                                                                              2 is that the OP feels entitled to have the restaurant make things convenient for her. This is a little harder to defend. However, if we take it for granted that we're talking specifically about restaurants who wants to court and please the OP and customers like her, the statement becomes a lot more defensible and even quite reasonable.

                                                                                              I mean, I feel entitled to a napkin when I'm at a restaurant. A restaurant is at no moral obligation to provide one, but if they don't I'm holding it against them and I feel justified in doing so. We're talking about the hospitality business after all, and maintaining an up-to-date web presence is a way to be hospitable to a certain growing demographic of diners.

                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                >>> Now, who ever said anything about avoiding restaurants on the basis of a web presence or lack thereof?

                                                                                                I think it has been said.

                                                                                                One person mentioned that if the vegetarian options on an online menu were bad, they would avoid the restaurant.

                                                                                                i personally have made a decision not to go to a restaurant because when I read their online menu, it didn't appeal to me.

                                                                                                On the other hand, I've gone to restaurants I might not have because something on the menu appealed to me.

                                                                                                So it is a two way street.

                                                                                                More often than not, those restaurants that lured me in based on their menu, often don't have that particular menu item anymore. That makes me an unhappy customer.

                                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                                  "One person mentioned that if the vegetarian options on an online menu were bad, they would avoid the restaurant.

                                                                                                  i personally have made a decision not to go to a restaurant because when I read their online menu, it didn't appeal to me."
                                                                                                  I don't think that's quite the kind of avoidance I was talking about, and hopefully it wasn't what brelleva et al were referring to either. Avoiding a restaurant based on a lack of appealing options on their posted menu is easily defensible whether the menu was posted online or on the storefront.

                                                                                        2. I have a problem, especially lately, where restaurants have shut their doors. They have a yellow pages listing still online, and still perhaps (!) their website survives. The only way to know if they are still open is to drive by. That is, unless there are current reviews on yelp. Many places don't get reviewed on yelp.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                            The best it to call. Don't rely on yelp. People post reviews years after they try the place. So someone might post today about a joint they ate at years ago and has long since closed.

                                                                                          2. I think the word "mandatory" may have made this debate a little more inflammatory than it deserved to be, but let's stick with that word and look at things from a historical perspective. Let me ask the following question:

                                                                                            Is having a telephone "mandatory" for a restaurant (or, for that matter, any kind of business)?

                                                                                            I think most people would agree that, with some exceptions, having a telephone is more or less mandatory for a business.

                                                                                            If we look at the era of websites, you could argue that the founding of Netscape in 1994 might be a good starting point. If so, we are 18 years into the era of websites.

                                                                                            Likewise, if we look at the creation of the predecessor of AT&T in 1875 as the starting point for the use of telephones, 1894 would be 19 years into the era of telephones. In 1894, there were 285,000 phones in the US, which at the time had a population of around 70 million people. Given that relatively low teledensity, there is no doubt that Luddites at the time could convincingly have argued that phones were by no means a necessity to run a successful business and would have been able to point to plenty of examples of very successful businesses lacking a phone.

                                                                                            Fast forward to 2012. My gut feeling is that the percentage of businesses that have some form of web presence (website, Facebook, etc) is way higher than the percentage of businesses that had phones in 1894. I would predict that within not too many years, it will be as natural for any business to have a web presence as it is to have a phone. Whether you consider that web presence to be "mandatory" today is just a matter of whether you are slightly ahead of your time or behind.

                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                              I'm sure 100 years from now ... if people survive ... whatever type of communications available will be something we can't imagine. if there are still websites, i'd be shocked. Facebook will be gone much like the 80's cb craze ... breaker, breaker. Doubt that? Think Myspace.

                                                                                              I'm just chuckling at this comparison, but probably not for the reasons you might think. Comparing the phone to the topic of the post is just not valid. IMO, it is rare the business that doesn't have the necessary web presensce ... address and phone ... and the owner doesn't need to do a thing but open the door. Someone, somewhere is going to put that data on the web.

                                                                                              The OP feels that menus are mandatory on the web. that is different.

                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                Thanks, Krys, now Zager and Evans are singing in my head before bedtime..

                                                                                                In the year...2525...if man is still alive....if woman can survive...

                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                  i was wondering if anyone would pick up on that. We might be at 3535 sooner than we think ... to paraphrase

                                                                                                  in the year 3535, everything you know, chew or say
                                                                                                  is in the pill you took today

                                                                                                  So, of course, someone then will insist restaurants have menu info included in that pill.

                                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                                    I'm pretty sure that having a daily menu posted to a website, today, is much less of a big deal than it was for a restaurant to have a telephone in 1894. Have you used any menu generating software? Generating or editing a menu is pretty trivial and uploading an HTML or pdf version very much so. No excuse for not doing so, and it will probably be increasingly easy to do so in the next few years, silly remarks about 2525 aside. People have been interested in menus since forever, and that interest is not likely to be as short-lived as specific websites like Myspace. Trust me, it won't be long before generating and posting the daily menu on the web will be close to as mandatory for restaurants as having a phone, and most mid-level to high-end restaurants are already there.

                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                      I know so many tiny little hole in the wall type restaurants, run by people who barely speak English and work 20 hours a day, every day. I don't know if those people will ever have online sites but as long as they make good food, people will go. And, I hope people who own restaurants like that never disappear.

                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                        I consider it a bonus when I walk into a place and the ONLY menu is what's on the chalkboard -- they don't even print a menu, because it swings entirely on what's fresh and good TODAY (sometimes even the last few hours, if they sold out of something at lunch). I've never had a meal in a place like this that didn't blow my mind.

                                                                                                        And no, those places are NOT expensive -- in fact, they're usually criminally cheap.

                                                                                                2. I think people are way too dependent on the web. Not to mention they put too much faith in the reviews and comments from other people on the web. If I hear about a place that sounds good I find out where it is and I check it out for myself. There are things that I will look up online but menus are not one of those things. The less time I spend online the happier I am.

                                                                                                  1. I have found mom and pop restaurants that have better websites than big chains. Yeah, their sites are barebones simple, possible done up by their twelve-year-old nephew, but you can browse their menu on one page, easily access their address, phone number and hours of operation. Whereas corporate restos make you crazy with stupid graphics, annoying music, and forced ClickClick to each page of the menu.