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Friday, August 12, 2011

Dear Restaurants: What We Need from Your Website

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 10:05 AM


Earlier this week our restaurant critic Jonathan Kauffman criticized the website of one of his favorite restaurants, the Alembic.

I thought I'd have a look at the site. Unfortunately, I don't have the patience; the site took so long to load that I gave up.

Whoever owns the restaurant should take a lesson from that: It doesn't matter how beautiful your website is if it's so poorly designed that it doesn't load immediately. Since we ranked the Alembic highly on our list of the Top Ten S.F. Restaurants Not on OpenTable, we assume your site is costing you money, and not just whatever you paid to the designer.

So we thought we'd help out by running a quick list of what a good restaurant website really needs.

1. The hours of operation

People can find your address and phone number elsewhere, but restaurant hours listings on Yelp and OpenTable are unreliable. Put this prominently on your home page.

2. The menu

Nothing says more about you. Upload each whole menu: dinner, lunch, brunch if you have it.

If this part of your website is too difficult to update every day, you need a simpler page. Don't tell us it can't be done: We update our website at least a dozen times a day. Tell your designer to make the menu page black type on a white background where new items can be swapped in without changing anything else.

3. The drinks list

It's much harder to post a complete wine, cocktail, and beer list daily. But at least keep your wines by the glass up-to-date, and update your other lists every month or so.

4. Photos of your food

Take some of that money you've been paying the web designer and hire a good food photographer.

5. A reservations link

Do you think OpenTable charges too much? Take your own reservations on your site. Otherwise, link to a site that will do it for you.

6. Your manifesto

This doesn't have to be long; it could be a phrase (good Southern-style cooking; modern German cuisine). In a city like San Francisco, where we have hundreds of choices, tell us what you're doing.

7. Who are you?

We'll relate to your restaurant more if you give us chef bios, sommelier and bar manager bios, etc. Journalists care about your ownership group, but most diners don't.

8. Your address and phone number on the home page

That's it! We're not going to bend your ear about Twitter and Facebook; how you use social media is up to you. But your website should be bringing in business, not frustrating visitors enough to chase them to a restaurant that has a better one.

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W. Blake Gray


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