What Is It About Restaurant Websites?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this weekend going through old reviews and double-checking things like restaurant hours and phone numbers. I am, to say the least, quite annoyed.

Scenario #1 – at home:

Why do I have to wait for some long flash file to load when I just want the address?

Why, once the file does load, do I have to dig through the entire site to find the address or hours? Why is this most basic information not on the front page? Why, if you even have a menu, is it listing the “late summer specials”, when I’m looking out the window at rainy winter day. Why am I being shown “Holiday Events”, when it is March? Is this rocket science? If you aren’t going to keep your events page updated, why have one? How about just putting “Sample Menu” instead of “November 2009″? I know blogs are all the rage right now, but why is your most recent entry eight months ago?

Scenario #2 – on my cell phone:

Why do 85% of restaurant websites only have flash? Let’s think about this. I’m downtown, wondering where I should go to eat. There is that little Italian place in northwest… is it open on Monday? Let me check… Oops! Their site only uses flash, which means it is inaccessible to most mobile phones.

Where are most people when they want to find restaurant information? When I’m out with friends looking for somewhere to eat. What do I use? A Cell phone!

Restaurants need to get a clue. Flash websites are pretty and cool (and I’m guessing expensive?), but, um, if Apple, html5 and Microsoft have anything to do with it, flash is dying, and isn’t likely to be supported on most mobile platforms (or anything else) in the future. At least pay your developer a little extra and give me a link to a “plain text” version.

Instead of trying to dazzle and lure us in with fancy websites, how about you just give us your address, phone number, maybe even a CURRENT’ish menu? Dazzle me with your food, not some damn music that comes blasting out of my speakers at 1am! I’m looking at you, Bluehour! Scared the hell out of the dogs.

Earlier tonight I had multiple windows open, with different music coming out of each one. Laughter and dishes clinking from , and a porn thump thump from the “sophisticated” Bluehour - it sounded like a freakin’ Roman orgy. The focus of the Saucebox website? The artwork. Seriously – pop-ups of all the artwork in the restaurant. If you looked really close at the bottom of the window, you could see tiny labels with “menu” and “kitchen”, neither of which show you anything about either one. Hovering over the menu section sends arty pictures zooming out at you while the bass track beats in the background. But then I forget – Saucebox isn’t really about the food, is it. I will give Bruce Carey Enterprises credit: once I gave up and closed the window, I realized all the information I wanted in the first place, was hiding on the front page, but, silly me, I clicked on “enter site” by mistake.

I like Kinara Thai Bistro, but the website is insane. Yes, there is a “skip intro” button, but it’s kind of like a car accident you have to look at. There are these weird orange snowflakes falling from the top, the logo fades in, the sign comes up from the bottom, a swing that says “now open” drops from the top and flashes… over and over… I can click  a button to skip the intro, but then it opens a new window with the hours and a bunch of different buttons, including one that doesn’t do anything. I click on “menu”, and get a page that says “click to see our menu”. Hello?! I just did that! I do it again, and I get a whole new browser window opening – except in Firefox, where nothing works right. Finally I’ve got the oh so cleverly hidden menu (if I have Acrobat installed), but have to dig back through three identically labeled tabs to try to figure out which one has the bloody phone number so I can call in my order. At that point I just need a drink!

At the Paley’s Place website, I get an invisible hand drawing a picture of the veranda, which is cool, but I really just want the hours. A soundtrack of conversation and, inexplicably, what sounds like cars and bicycles driving by entertains me for the time it takes to load. I’ve had lots of nice evenings on that veranda, but from this soundtrack I’m thinking dust and exhaust. There is a bit of text that says “click to skip intro”, which I do, frantically, until I realize they really mean I should click on the Paley’s sign above. By then it’s too late, so I wait… and wait… for the artwork to load, the sound of traffic lulling me to sleep, until, I finally get “click paley’s sign to enter” (not click here), but it’s on the other side of the page. Feeling like I’m playing a video game, I mouse back over there, click the sign, the front door opens with a loud, annoying squeak  (is this place haunted), the audio get’s much louder, and FINALLY I get an awesomely cool but impossible to see menu window (about 10 lines high), that  has a tiny scrolling thingy that is a pain to use. I can click on a different button, which loads a .pdf in another window, but with all this low conversation and the gentle roar of the traffic, all I really want to do at this point is to forget about dinner and take a little nap.

If I browse to the site on my iPhone I just get a message that my device needs to be upgraded. I cheated and put the direct url to the .pdf file, but it loaded halfway and crashed my phone. Froze it so badly I had to do a hard-reset before I could use it again.

Really Paley’s, I love you dearly, but your website pushes my last button.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. BurgerDogBoy says

    Small business people can’t be experts at everything, no more than anyone can be. They excel at getting us to their restaurants and serving us fine food, probably relying on outside ‘experts’ for their marketing, like websites. So while your point is extremely valid, I’d be more apt to blame the people they hired to do the sites, who recommended the bells and whistles to inflate the prices. Especially in these times, many marketing people/companies are looking to up their blllings, and the fancier the site, the more they bill.

    The savvy marketing company these days should know well enough that XX % of people are going to access the site on the phone, and build accordingly.

    I get annoyed about this for the same reasons you do. Even more so at PDF menu files, and those restaurants who chose not to include a menu at all, or post one with a date that is a year or more old!

    • Ron says

      Here’s the thing – I’ve been building websites for a long time. I won’t work with restaurants anymore. Why? Because half the time they’re the ones who insist on these awful Flash websites. There are some small business clients who want these websites and no amount of persuasion can talk them out of it.

      Here’s what I think is the reason this happens:
      -Many small business websites are really old, from back when Flash-only websites were still popular. When a restaurant wants a new website often they look at their competitors who have Flash websites, and insist that it has to be “flashier” than the competitor. They don’t understand that the animations don’t help they just want it to be “better” than the competitor. (This is also why movie promotional websites are always in Flash, just magnified on a much bigger budget scale.)
      -Most small business websites are done on very low budgets, sometimes a web designer will flip out a website in a standard flash template just to get it out the door. Or sometimes its an art student who is learning flash and wants to show off their ‘skills’.
      -Small local businesses often go to have their site done by the same agency that did their marketing brochures or TV commercials. These agencies are used to print & video. They don’t care much about user experience and have probably been working in this fashion since 1998. It happens.

      But you’re right I’m sure a lot of these Flash sites could have been prevented had the design agency not preyed on the customer’s naivety about having a site in Flash. Chances are they know better. Sometimes its a juicy prospect to charge a lot for a clunky flash site – especially when the client insists on it…

  2. says

    Oh, lordy FD, you hit a nerve with me on this post. I agree w/ BurgerDogBoy, but only to a point. Restaurants do indeed work to get customers in their door, but a bad website doesn’t help this cause. Plus, restaurants get savvy about all kinds of things not directly related to food – hiring the best plumbers or electricians for example, and for negotiating good lease terms with their landlords. They educate themselves on everything from accounting to labor laws (or they should). Restaurants spend hours agonizing over interior design, branding (logos, font, color). Why then do so many leave such a basic and important thing – good web communications – as an afterthought? A business website at this day and age is more important than an ad in the Yellow pages.

    When I see a Flash, music on default site that wastes my time loading just to show a bunch of dumb food or interior photos of beautiful laughing people clinking glasses you bet I’m annoyed. Who cares about that crap? Seriously we just want – address, hours, phone, email, menu – in that order. Everything else is just icing. When I see a super slick site with little or no info, I feel like that restaurant is more about style than substance, and is putting their own vanity first above the needs of their customers. Seriously, that’s the message websites like those send to customers.

    While the one side is the bamboozle of expensive web companies selling bells and whistles over a clean basic and practical site, there’s the flip side: “Yeah, well I have a web guy. It’s my niece’s high-school boyfriend, he’s taking a web design class and he is super cheap.” You know the sites I’m talking about. (http://www.pieceofcakebakery.net/home/index.php for example). Oy. Really, sometimes, you do get what you pay for.

    Here are the main issues I run into over and over again:
    1. Yes, the unbearable annoyance of Flash
    2. Lack of basic info that’s easy to find
    3. Bad functionality
    4. Websites that look like they were created in MySpace thus giving the strong impression to the public that the restaurant either doesn’t give a rip or is clueless. Either way, not a good impression if you want to have a cohesive and well put together image.

    Having a bad website in the restaurant business, is the equivalent of buying a full color billboard and putting it in the forest where no one will be able to see it. When you have little crucial info on your landing page (address, hours, phone number) it’s the equivalent of buying a full page ad in the Yellow Pages and then leaving it blank. What’s the point of having a website if it can’t be used easily and quickly?

    Websites aren’t brain surgery; a restaurant can get a simple, clean, well designed site to meet their needs and the needs of consumers

    I just wish more restaurateurs would think things through. As restaurateurs do some basic research. Look at websites you like out there in all ranges from simple to fancy. Talk with your staff about it. Talk with customers you trust on what they’d like to see. For the love of god, go get bids from several designers to see the range of prices and services offered. Have an idea of what you want, and don’t want before you talk to web designers. Check their references. Navigate sites they have created. If the sites they’ve built blow, chances are yours will too.

    And for the love of god, do stay away from Flash. Although, I will say, I’m totally in love with this site: http://www.krakenrum.com/ But then again it isn’t a restaurant, being looked up by some person on their Iphone in the rain who basically just wants to call before their bus comes to see if you are open on Tuesdays for a 7 pm reservation.

    Thanks for the Sunday morning rant! Whew! I’d really love to see Portland Food and Drink do the Portland Food Webby Awards. There could be a couple of different categories. Best site and Worst Site being two of them. I’m in. Anyone else?

    • Eli says

      I agree with you except for 1 point – email address is more important than menu?

      Excellent points otherwise, but we have to part company on that one.

  3. John E says

    So right. I often only want to find hours or reservation #, why do I have to wait for the site to load, then search all over to find the freaking hours? Some sites don’t even list them. As Shakespeare would have said, “First we kill all the programmers.”

  4. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope the restaurants read this. You are absolutely spot-on. If they want a fancy flash site, they could at least make an alternate that loads when the viewer is on a phone. It’s easy to do. There should be an address (with link to google maps), a phone number (that is text–not an image–so that I can click on it and dial), the hours and maybe a sample menu in plain ‘ol text so that we can get an idea of what they serve and what the prices are like.

  5. FeNE says

    Thank you for bringing this point up, fd! I work in the food industry & eat out quite often as well, so I look up restaurant websites on a regular basis- both on my computer & on my phone. I find myself frustrated on a regular basis.

    Just a couple of days ago I went to the Broder website. While I will give it props for having its hours and phone number on the initial page, it looks as though it has no other information whatsoever other than an option to add a gift certificate to a cart. I tried clicking in various places on the yellow and blue “Broder” tree icon, as well as on the “Broder” name believing that, surely, they must have more information. Indeed, they do. 6 thin blue lines of varying shades on the left- hand side of the page hold the key to all the information, but they look solely like a throwaway design feature & not a way to access more information. I only figured out what their purpose was when my cursor, happening to fall upon them, prompted an almost unnoticeable word to appear above one of the lines. Is this some sort of effort to remain exclusive? Why would a business want to make it difficult for potential customers to to learn more about them? That’s what they’re paying the web designers to give them, isn’t it?

    BurgerDogBoy has a point that small business people aren’t experts at everything, but if one is going to invest their time, efforts and money into a place, you’d think they would do a little research, n’est pas? Or even use common sense?

    Having an effective website is critical to the success of a restaurant. It’s one of the primary forms of marketing that lets its customers know it exists. Nobody’s going to show up on your doorstep if they can’t find you or want to go if they are significantly annoyed before they even step foot in the door. There are too many other good places to go eat.

    Whether a small business person or not, restaurant owners should, for their own sake, take some time to understand website design and construction a bit, as well as basic marketing strategies, if they want to keep up in Portland’s very competitive food market. I mean, if nothing else, they could try the website on some friends and family first & ask them their ease of experience, no? A business can’t depend on its web designer caring as much about its success as they do or even being able to consider all the forms of information the public may desire associated with that business. Nobody should have a more critical eye than the business owner him/herself.

  6. elwood says

    I completely, totally, 100% agree with everything you wrote, Food Dude. I think sites should be well designed to reflect the aesthetic of the restaurant, but it should be first and foremost functional. Too much flash and too little content equal an unusable interface.

    And also seconding the your comments about the phone. While the internet has changed many things about restaurant marketing, it’s going to be the phone that upends the applecart. People need to make their websites iphone etc compliant yesterday. If they don’t, we’ll all be at the mercy of companies like Yelp and their somewhat dubious marketing schemes.

    To that point a website I like is Le Pigeon. One page, some pdfs and we’re done.

  7. homer's son says

    What a great post! Restaurants, rock bands and porn sites use Flash … er, uh … or so I’ve been told.

  8. denise ds says

    Amen!!! Add slow-loading PDFs to the list of crazy annoyances, and email addresses…without anyone on the other end to respond. You don’t need to be a marketer to figure this out, you simply need to check your vanity at the door and channel some common sense.

    One recent good experience was http://olympicprovisions.com/. Useless map aside, it’s clean, fast, short and sweet, and I got a response within 12 hours. We can only hope it signifies a trend….

  9. Bertha says

    So, so, so right on, Food Dude. If I need to know when something is open, or the address, I tend to try citysearch, or yelp…if I want to know about the food, I check here or PF.org…..so for me the website is mostly superfluous. Sometimes I use the website if I want someone to see what the place looks like.
    I hope those restaurants are paying attention.

  10. nepdxer says

    Amen Food Dude!
    I can’t count the number of restaurant websites that fail the single number one purpose of having a website: give the customer the information they want in the fewest clicks possible.

    Artsy websites can be beautiful and simultaneously worthless to customers.

    It’s even worse when you try them on the iPhone.

    And please please please restaurant owners, stop making your menus PDF files that must be downloaded and open up separately.
    Put your address and hours on the OPENING PAGE. Don’t make us hunt.

  11. Mike Thelin says

    Flash: The only people who like it are architects and graphic designers. If you think restaurant websites are bad, try those of architecture or design firms.

  12. says

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I can’t stand restaurant websites that don’t provide the information I really want right on the homepage: hours, street address, and contact information. Why wouldn’t anyone realize that information is important?

    I also have to say that I have made decisions not to try certain restaurants because their websites are so childish, hard to navigate, or just downright unappetizing.

    Thanks for taking up this cause!

  13. Cat says

    I have inflicted this very rant on so many friends and family — I just want some HTML text with location and hours. Please! And intro movies are the most annoying thing ever. Perhaps cool, but not going to turn me into a customer.

    I work in the web design industry, and I hang my head in shame for my fellow designers/developers for convincing so many restaurants that a Flash website with intro movie and sound is an effective use of dollars. If it was just few sites, I could convince myself that this was a freak graphic designer or rogue basement developer, but instead I am very sorry for the huge waste of money by restaurants on their websites. Hopefully they got a great deal from a friend’s kid…

    While I’m at it, I would LOVE menus to be in HTML as well. PDFs are very annoying in general (I’m not going to print and frame the sucker, I just want to look at your entrees), and PDFs definitely crash my phone.

    • says

      As a graphic designer, I urge clients to steer clear of the “too many notes” syndrome. Just like a great restaurant meal, great design comes from that sometimes elusive combo of the just the right ingredients, deft/skillful hands in preparation and simple/artful presentation.-It is also true that many times, it comes down to a matter of taste-and Lord knows, there is no accounting for that!! Flashy ≠ functional.
      BTW: this syndrome occurs ALL over the web and I too make decisions about business etc by their internet presence (or sometimes, lack-thereof).

  14. Janine says

    Amen to all of that!

    I build websites also and have found that some people are just *very* enamored with Flash. I think they are the same people who put those shiny spinning hubcaps on their SUVs. :) I can overlook the fact that the restaurant dumped a huge wad ‘o cash on a Flash site as long as their home page offers a link to their HTML version *and* it contains all the same information. They are basically paying to have two distinct sites built, but that is the penance they have to pay for using Flash.

    I also firmly believe that no website should ever, ever, *ever* make sound by default. To me this is even more stupid than using Flash. All it takes is one time of someone sneaking a peek at said website at work to ensure that they never want to think about your website or restaurant again, let alone go there.

    I leave you with this – I don’t know the person who posted it but I thought it was hilarious and very germane to this discussion:

    http://venomousporridge.com/post/389785000/a-conversation-i-have-every-month-or-so

  15. crankymuffin says

    Also, in a related restaurant website gripe: why do restaurants insist on making me download their PDF menus? I don’t want to download a PDF every time I go to check something on your menu. Stop being cheap and put a sample menu page up, or something!

  16. neophiliac says

    Amen!

    And not just restaurants, ALL online sellers of anything should have the most critical information IN TEXT on the front page. I like Flash for YouTube, but NOT for any site where I might want any information while I’m away from the LCD widescreen.

  17. HerschelK says

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for ages. Thank you, dude, for speaking up!
    While out-and-about one Friday afternoon, I was unable to get the most basic information about Rocket on my cell phone. As a result I went elsewhere. In a rare moment of “follow through” on my part, I took the time later to email them about what happened. I received a very courteous and professional reply, which made me want to give them a second chance. Unfortunately they closed 2 weeks later.

  18. says

    Amen brother!
    In response to BurgerDogBoy’s comment — I am a web developer, and in my experience what happens more often than not is clients overrule the good judgement of the designer and insist on having flash intro pages. Pretty much every designer and programmer I’ve ever worked with has been well aware of flash’s detriments on an informational business site, but for some reason business owners *love* them.
    Of course an argument could be made that designers/programmers aren’t presenting their case properly — i.e. just saying “flash sucks” isn’t going to change anyone’s mind — but when you start talking about poor search engine performance and lack of compatibility on iphones and blackberries, they usually reconsider it (usually — not always).

    • meimoya says

      OMG, awesome website. The bio’s are a great, unnecessary but simple, touch. I particularly enjoyed Mr. Resendiz’ quote.
      I want one of their sandwiches now, and I could get one, once I got off the airplane…which is exactly the point of the website.

    • doughnut says

      That’s just a repurposed blog. If that’s such a good website, why can’t I find the two most important pieces of info: address and hours? I’d also like to see one or two pictures that show me the atmosphere I should expect there.

      • nadia says

        The address and hours are posted right on top. I agree, a little atmosphere pic or two would be nice. But… this site is easy to navigate and info is quick to be found.

  19. says

    I recently saw another post on this same subject. I completely agree, to the point that I actually started a service that provided restaurant operators who had an existing site a platform that would provide their patrons a mobile friendly version of their website.

    There have been some interesting and valid points discussed thus far, and what I found while discussing the idea with a variety of operators, marketers, and even food service companies was that the current crop of operator simply wouldn’t get it. In many cases the average mom/pop operator doesn’t even have an email address, most don’t have a website, and then to discuss the fact that they need a mobile site…well that’s just silly talk. I was fortunate enough to find a local operator who has a handful of very successful restaurants who could see the value in providing mobile friendly versions and they are using my service. If anyone is interested one of the sites is at edinagrill.com.

    Anyway, love the post. Carry on!

  20. says

    Having worked in the restaurant software industry for a number of years, I can definitely say that restaurant tech (in general) is about 5 years behind everything else. Most restauranteurs are too busy running their restaurants to spend much time worrying about their websites or general online/mobile marketing presence.

    You’re definitely right, restaurant websites are one of the most inappropriate places for Flash content. When a customer goes to your site, they’re either looking for 1) location information, 2) store hours, or 3) menu information. In order to be effective, this data needs to be easily accessible.

  21. Joisey says

    I was having some problems accessing content on my college’s student portal, of course it was a flash issue. I did some research and I came across a few tech forums that said that Flash is very close to being reality for the Iphone and Blackberry platforms. I don’t know the veracity of those statements, but it gave me a small amount of hope for my Blackberry.

    I heartily agree with ditching the menu PDFs and putting them up in html. Also, update your f**king info. I used to butt heads with my boss constantly because he didn’t update our menus and customers were complaining about items they wanted and couldn’t get.

  22. says

    I think things are generally improving in this field as more and more people are realising Flash for information based websites isn’t practical. However if a web designer is worth their weight, they should be recommending to the restaurant owner that this isn’t the correct path to go down.
    Anyway, good article for highlighting an important marketing mishap.

  23. says

    Many restaurants, especially smaller, local concepts do not put enough into a budget to have someone with some expertise design their site for the consumer. Often times the site looks like it’s designed by an employee who has a “really cool” MySpace page.

  24. mzwong says

    Agreed! Please, no music that starts up automatically. If I want to hear music I’ll choose it on my own. I”m not going to come to your restaurant because you have sound on your website.
    http://www.lovelysfiftyfifty.com/ is a great, basic site that shows everything you need to know right away.
    Bunk’s site is also great, as are the others listed above.
    Other restaurants – take note!
    As someone who often dines with vegetarians, I almost always look for an updated or sample menu to see if there will be something for the veggies to eat. This, along with letting me know if you’re the rare restaurant open on a Monday, is very important.

  25. Christine says

    I, like everyone here, am thrilled you brought this up. I second what everyone has said about PDFs and front page info. I also really love to see a few photos of the restaurant itself if I’ve never been there and have no idea what it looks like. Seeing lots of photos of the staff, or a flower in a vase gives me no sense of what the place or the food looks like, and it wastes my time. Worse is when a restaurants hours are incorrect. Three times this happened this year – Yakuza – went near the opening time of the restaurant and they were still setting up and were all flustered at us being there as they didn’t open for another hour. We went away and came back, but I was annoyed that they didn’t apologize for the website having bad info, or thank us for bothering to come all the way back an hour later. Second, Siam Society (which I like) burned us by sending Food Dude incorrect information about which days they were open in a press release about their hours changing(!) and we excitedly ran over on a day that we traditionally haven’t been able to eat there (I think we were trying to find somewhere open on a Mon and we were happy to see it as an option). Drove over to find closed doors. E-mailed them about the mistake and never got a response. Anju had on their website that they were open for lunch, with the hours posted, etc. We went over to lunch and found closed doors. No response to my e-mail to them, which altogether made me not sad at all when they closed. I’m not looking for a gift certificate or anything, just any sort of acknowledgment from them that they were going to fix the mistake. We don’t get the chance due to our work schedule to eat out very often, and it’s our favorite activity. To get the chance to go and get burned by an inaccurate website is a real disappointment. To contact a restaurant via their website describing our disappointment and hearing nothing back makes it feel a little bit worse.

  26. devlyn says

    I wholeheartedly concur. Any restaurant that has a horrible website and also might have “comment cards” with the check ALWAYS get an earful from me. Ft. George brewing in Astoria was the most recent; Rogue brewing fixed their Newport pubs’ hours after a frustrated tweet. Even the site that goes hand-in-hand with the Alinea cook book drives me nuts. Please, I urge everyone who has issues with these sites to send feedback via email or phone or tweet to these restaurants. It’s not going to change unless they know there’s something wrong.

  27. Dave J. says

    Yes, ditto on putting the menus in html and not making me download a PDF. Seriously, I just want to know what is on your menu. What food do you literally have, today. I really cannot stress to you how little I care that the font on your html menu does not match the font on the actual paper menu you will hand me when I eat at your restaurant.

  28. oregoncoastgirl says

    Just throwing my 2 cents in agreement in the hat. As someone who tends to ‘drop in’ rather than make reservations, I’m checking out websites on my phone when deciding where to go. I can guarantee more that one restaurant has gotten my business because I could view the menu easily and quickly.

    Also: HAD to hear what Bluehour’s Roman Orgy sounded like, so clicked over. Husband 2 rooms away comes running, stops. “Oh, I uh, thought maybe you were watching something… interesting.”

  29. JDG says

    Re Olympic Provisions: If you click on that old-timey map, you get a Google map with the location, which defaults to terrain-view mode, creating a somewhat clever analogy with the old-timey map you clicked through, but is certainly unnecessarily obscure.

    I don’t mind PDF menus, because they tend (for places with menus that change frequently) to be more up-to-date than HTML menus, but then again I don’t use a mobile device. I also kinda like Park Kitchen’s email-based menu bot.

    • Food Dude says

      I like the Park Kitchen emailed menus too. You always know what they are serving THAT night. I wouldn’t think it would be too hard to set up.

      • Janine says

        I haven’t used their service but if you’re just sending an email and getting one in return, it could be as simple as using the “out of office” feature of the email account, updated daily.

        What I see with my clients is that they have great ideas like this but lack the staff (or organizational skills) to follow through, so after a while things start not being updated properly. I try to convince them that it’s better to do this sort of thing not at all than to do it badly, but many of them don’t seem to understand that. It does give me some insight into how businesses that provide poor service stay in business; clearly not everyone has the same high standards I do!

    • Joisey says

      I am on Keller’s Ad Hoc menu bot list…don’t know why, just interested to see what they’re serving that night. I agree, it’s a nice little tool.

  30. Food Dude says

    Another annoying thing I just noticed today: 3 year old websites with pages that say “Coming Soon!”
    Grrr…

  31. MrDonutsu says

    “Restaurants need to get a clue. Flash websites are pretty and cool (and I’m guessing expensive?), but, um, if Apple, html5 and Microsoft have anything to do with it, flash is dying, and isn’t likely to be supported on most mobile platforms (or anything else) in the future.”

    Sounds like somebody’s a bit drunk on Apple kool aid.

    e.g. hhttp://www.openscreenproject.org/

    • Food Dude says

      In Adobe’s dreams. I think html 5 and Silverlight will crush them. Apple and the iphone/ipad/ipod isn’t going to help

  32. Irene says

    Ordinarily I would not comment just to say “same here” but in the interest of creating momentum for change, I will say AMEN, DITTO, WORD, and HERE HERE! I will also add, though, that the PDF thing doesn’t bother me *as long as* they don’t take to long to load. PDFs work on mobile devices; it’s just flash that doesn’t. I like Lincoln’s website, and they use PDFs, but they load quickly and are updated at least weekly.

  33. Hcoremom says

    I really appreciated this post & its comments. My husband & I have just opened a new restaurant in Sherwood, and are in the midst of looking for website proposals. I come from a marketing background, so I know better than to have flash in my site, but this just goes to show that, as with food, simple is sometimes best.

  34. HansBrinker64 says

    this site is really starting to resemble a forum for endless carping about this and that. i’ve lost interest.

    • says

      I love comments like this. WTH does “endless carping about this and that” mean anyway? Also, one person might have lost interest, but this post has struck a nerve obviously – look at the number of comments that keep growing. Nationally, it’s now being picked up all over the place and has gone viral. I’d say it’s an extremely relevant topic for many people. Although I do feel a twee sorry for some of the restaurants mentioned…looks like their work is now being seen and assessed by people all over the world. Bummer. Business Lesson Here? Build a better site in the first place.

      Kudos to you Food Dude for articulating something that is so important to diners and to the business of restaurants in Portland, and beyond.

      Personally, I’ve started to use this post in my professional work and it’s really helping my clients get it when working on website development issues. THANK YOU!!!

      As for the Flash issue. Well great, I love hearing about when an unimplemented technology is “coming soon”. Yippee. Except that doesn’t help me navigate a flash website on my phone today, tomorrow or next week, does it? I say restaurants should build a Flash site when the technology has been proven and tested and works for user needs. Until then, bad idea.

      • HansBrinker64 says

        You are SO right. This is a HUGE and extremely relevant issue (at least in parochial Portland). Shit man–it’s gone VIRAL–who can argue with that?! It must be important! BTW I have nothing to do with website development, the restaurant industry, or now this site…

        • pdxyogi says

          Promises promises. Thought you had lost interest. How can we miss you if you won’t go away? You are so self-important, you believe you merit two farewells instead of a mere single one?

          For what it’s worth, I’ve seen long threads on this subject on Chowhound.com, which is an international site. People weighed in from such “parochial” places as NYC, SF, and Chicago.

  35. Mathew says

    This dude sums up the frustration really well: http://venomousporridge.com/post/389785000/a-conversation-i-have-every-month-or-so

    So glad this is becoming a topic of conversation, as restaurateurs need to pay more attention to this. Having designed and built olympicprovisions.com, it should be known that all the points brought up here were talked about last summer with the owners before we proceeded – we’ve also implemented a mobile/iphone-specific style to the site.

  36. Erika says

    You mean… when I go to Arleta Cafe’s website because they were featured in the March issue of CHEAP EATS (Willamette Week) & in big, bold letters: THANKSGIVING MENU NOW UP! ???

    Really appreciated your post & share the roll of eyes :)
    http://www.arletalibrary.com/

    • Urbane Naif says

      Too bad about Erika busting on Arleta Library Cafe for their website being outdated–that’s a super cute Mom & Pop place in my neighborhood (outer Southeast) that serves really great food at really fair prices. I’m not sure how people use websites for breakfast joints, but it seems to me like everything you need is on theirs. Besides, I’d rather patronize a local place like ALBC who’s marketing is a little stale and but who’s food and service is always fresh, than the the other way around–like alotta corporate joints in this town.

  37. RealityChannel says

    I’m usually most interested in simply looking up location, hours, and phone number on my phone when out and about and I want it fast and succinct. I was reading a similar piece recently on a tech blog about poor restaurant websites that pointed out these folks, who seem to make a relatively inexpensive canned solution which, though generic, provides exactly the experience I’m looking for on my phone…

    http://www.mobistro.com

    (This is just meant to be a helpful FYI, and I have no affiliation with them.)

  38. Grilled Peppers says

    This has long been a gripe of mine too. This is one of the worst I’ve come across http://www.noahs.com/#/home/ granted, it works much faster on my new computer and it’s kind of clever, it’s also annoying and completely unnecessary. Blame corporate America.

    It is really obvious that many restaurateurs are not particularly web-savvy, they may initially pay to get some flashy site created, then they don’t bother (if they even know how) to keep the site updated.

    Some annoying things I’ve noticed:

    -confusing, difficult to navigate website. Either too cluttered or too minimal. Reminds me of unreadable headache-inducing the crap my college Graphic design prof. used to force his students to make.

    -hard to find contact info -are they hiding? are they just a front for a drug operation? Are they too exclusive for YOU to find?

    -hours listed as something like “10 to close” wtf? “close” is not a time it could mean anything from 6pm to 2:30am. Is this just some pretentious way of saying “we’ll close whenever we want -screw you!”

    -Restaurants without websites -They’re not doing themselves any favors unless they’re just catering to the over 65 set but even Shari’s has a website.

    -Practically no Asian restaurant has a website. Not too surprising I suppose.

    -Restaurants or cafes with no No menu, no sample menu nor even a decent description of the food. Really? What? is it just too embarrassing?

    -and yes, those damnable pdf menus!

    • says

      CPJC you bring up a terrific point on yet another reason restaurants should have good websites. Because really, just what a restaurant might want…send potential customers to a review site like Yelp rather than their own website where outside of address and phone number, the first thing potential customers might see are negative reviews. Sounds like a terrific marketing strategy to me (snort).

    • Grilled Peppers says

      Yelp is alright I suppose but I don’t trust their user-generated “information” so much and very few of the listings seem to include hours. City Search took a major nosedive into obscurity. There are a few others out there but they’re pretty worthless. The best I’ve found is the Mercury’s restaurant guide Most of the listings are pretty comprehensive at least as far as basic info goes.

  39. Andy says

    I was just going on a rant about the website of Sweet Iron Waffles in Seattle, when a friend pointed me to this. In addition to most of the complaints in the post, the Sweet Iron site also has a totally inappropriate style — it looks like it’s got graphics from a video game or Mountain Dew commercial or something.

    And of course, all I really wanted to see was: a) what was in the (inappropriately-named) Contact Us tab, and b) a photo of the interior (a Yelp review mentions it’s small, so I wanted to get an idea of just how small it was). No luck on b).

      • Andy says

        For a retail business, “Location” seems more appropriate to me. I’m not clicking on the tab to get in contact with them, I’m just curious where they are and when they’re open.

        It seems like half the websites that have a “Contact Us” page just slap a web form there that sends them email, and there are other sites just have email and phone contact info there, and have their hours, etc on a different page.

  40. says

    Hi, I’m a little late responding here, but I thought I would mention that for the past few years, I’ve been running a Portland-based web startup called LetsEat (http://www.letseat.at) that tackles this problem directly. What I offer is free nicely designed ad-supported websites (or paid ad-free sites) that don’t suffer from any of these problems and give smaller restaurants the opportunity to have a nice website without resorting to Flash or enormous budgets. I’ve personally worked in a half dozen or so local restaurants and know that most of these places can’t afford to shell out thousands of dollars for a pro web designer. Most of these Flash sites are probably the work of friends and family, so I wouldn’t be too harsh on them. Just my two cents.

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