Friday, 17 August 2012

What I want from a restaurant website

It consistently baffles me as to why restaurants just don't help themselves. Why do people go onto restaurant websites? To get an idea of what a place is like? To garner important information?

Well, it seems like a lot of restaurant websites have a very different idea of what people really want from them: Endless slideshows, clicking through pointless pages and those 'minimal' ones that just don't have anything much on them, at all.

That aside,  here is a list of exactly what I do want to see on a restaurant website. Not what they think we want, or what they want to push at us, but what we want.

1. First and foremost, contact details. A lot of people will go to the website purely for a phone number or email and they aren't interested in anything else. The phone number, email address and street address should be at the bottom of every page and on the contact page. If it's a one-pager, it should be in a prominent place. Oh, and something from Donald Edwards (commenter): a cut-and-pasteable phone number. Because everyone has a smartphone, duh.

2. The most important thing of all: Do they take reservations? If they do, do they take a small number of walk-ins? Do they have a bar that you can eat/drink in? Do you have to reserve that? All questions that you really have to search for, sometimes.

3. If you're going to a website with no prior knowledge of the restaurant, you instantly want an impression of what kind of a joint it is so you can decide if it's right for you without looking at the menu and the about page and the staff page. People make snap decisions! But an 'about' page is really important, if they want to know more about what your raison d'etre or whatever.

4. Menus (and prices). I know it takes the element of surprise away, but it plays a large part in determining whether I want to eat somewhere. And if I can afford it. There are a few restaurants which helpfully don't include prices, which is really arrogant and even more irritating. It's like saying, you can't afford us so we won't even bother to put on prices.

5. A link to a mailing list form. In an easy place. In its own tab. Some of the places that restaurants will hide the subscription form... It's almost like they don't want us to find it.

6. Social networking links. Another thing that some places seem to hide, or not include, despite on a google search, having both Facebook and Twitter. It seems to make it an option would be more savvy. After all, some places 'exist' way more to a lot of foodies because they have a very prominent Twitter presence.

7. A bit of a staff page. It's quite nice to get a bit of background, especially if you're writing about it. And to see if they have any hot wait staff, obviously.

8. If they have a dress code, it'd be really nice to know. Or anything else that's pretty important, like if you need to bring your own oxygen, that kind of thing. In a prominent place, please.

9. Some pictures of the food. Not in a fancy slideshow that goes on for ten minutes before you can get into the website, but a clearly marked gallery, with a few pictures of the food and decor. So you know what you're up against. 

10. Opening hours. 'No queues!' you think. 'Aren't we clever?' Upon trying the door, you realise why there are no queues: Because it's shut on a Monday.

11. That extra something. Function is the most important thing, but if there's extra information, or something clever, or beautiful, people will remember, share and go back to it.

Whatever you say about MEATLiquor, they've got all the information there, that you might need. No scrolling or clicking through, and it's very clear. A little too clear, some may say, but it's got all of the information there (well, except for stuff like a menu. But it's y'know, meat).

Spuntino is infuriating, because it flashes up with this information for about 3 seconds and then disappears. It has the bare bones of information, but that's the kinda vibe they're going for.

Le Gavroche used to have a tedious slideshow before you could enter the website, but obviously they've taken heed of this, because it's no longer there. It still has a hell of a lot of stuff you don't really need, though. Including videos which no-one ever watches, probably. Tom Aikens' website is classic fine dining. Simple, picture-dominated and a really straightforward menu.

Honest Burgers' website is also a great example of what a simple restaurant website should be - though it is a different kettle of fish when the menu contains less than 5 items and you're promoting the whole 'simple' thing. Looks bloody cool though.

Towards the other end of the spectrum, Arbutus and that group has all the vital information - now if they'd just get rid of that terrible auto-play video (don't even get me started on auto-play music that you can't find to turn off!) it'd be perfect.

Private dining site from Gauthier Soho. Good aesthetic as well as being well laid out and useful - all the navigation is at the top, no fuss.

And this, well, this, is just terrible. Sirena's. But an excellent restaurant, according to @HRWright.

(the word 'enter' actually flashes).

And the mother of all restaurant websites: The Fat Duck. Thanks to @VONMarketing for that one. It's functional (well, it's one of four three-star restaurants in the UK, I don't expect anything else). But it's also beautiful, and it's got interesting bits of information about the senses, and videos that you ACTUALLY WANT TO WATCH. It's got nearby accommodation, it's got detailed instructions of how to get there. It's what you want and more... And then what you didn't know you wanted.


  1. you forgot to mention that the phone number should be in a format that I can cut and paste on my phone.
    i.e not +44 (0) 2017 12341234
    really fucking annoying as the 0 is completely unnecessary...

    1. Thanks, I've added that now - that is really annoying - or if all the writing is in image format!

    2. These days websites need to work on smartphones. This becomes even more important when phones won't support flash anymore.
      By all means, have a graphics intensive website for computer users but it isn't to put in a text only section for phones and there are easy ways of determining which device a visitor is using and present the relevant version.

  2. Good post - seems obvious but very few restaurants get it.

    To add to Donald's comment, cut and paste is just as helpful if you're on a computer, not just a smartphone.

    And a lot of restaurants have their actual address (including the postcode) as a *graphic* which is no bloody use to me when I'm wanting to cut and paste it into Googlemaps.

    1. Thanks for commenting, glad you enjoyed. It does seem to be one of those mysterious things that it's rare to find.

      Also very annoying. It's like they don't want us to contact them.

    2. Yep, same. I nearly always access on my PC first, and try and copy paste postcode into Google Maps to see location.

      When I do access via phone, agree 100% that I need the number in a format I can easily auto dial.

      And agree too on the rest of the key info, such as opening days/ hours, reservation policy, menu (with prices) and any other key info.

      Hate auto play videos and music with a passion and hate stupid splash screen animations that I need to skip. Worse still if I don't even have a way to skip them. (Site closed immediately, restaurant crossed off visit list).

  3. Very good points, something I've ranted about in the past. I even made a tumblr.
    The worst example is still Nutters. Not only is the homepage Flash only, you have to chase the wandering options with your mouse. Nomen est Omen, I guess but still. And when you've finally managed to click the bit you want, the formatting of the landing page is rubbish.

    Another thing to avoid is PDF menus. Also, if you absoutely have to use them, please include the reestaurant's name in the file name. I have various instances of "dinner_menu.pdf" on my computers.
    Just put the menu on one page, formatted in HTML.

    1. Grr, it didn't paste the tumblr:

  4. It would also help to provide key restaurant details upfront. The more steps it takes for consumers to search information, the more likely they are to give up and leave the site.

  5. I love the Trinity site - easy and informative.

    And I was goingt to cite Sketch as having the most useless site ever, but I see that they've now updated it to make it a bit less useless, so perhaps I won't.

  6. Ahh yes...automusic...which always blasts through your speakers when you're in a busy office and supposed to be hard at work, not day dreaming about dinner...HowCanIShutTheWindowQuicklyARghhhhh?!

  7. See photo 10 of 14 on Sirena's website. It's like the breadsticks are guarding the cured meats.

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