It's well past time we broke this news to the food industry: restaurant websites have a reputation for being really, really terrible (there we said it). It doesn't seem to matter if you're searching the internet for the best restaurant in the world or the sketchiest dive imaginable; most food service websites are consistently bad for the exact same reasons.
Let's get these reasons out into the open so we can all agree to try and avoid them in the future, okay?
Here, Download Our Menu!
Today's it's unacceptable to expect your customers to download your menu in PDF format from your website. It's likely this practice is common because restaurant owners aren't able to easily update their own websites (which we'll get to below) but going through whatever trouble you have to in order to get your menu viewable on your website is doing your customers a big favor.
Hide And Seek!
The two most important pieces of information a restaurant needs to have on their website are the hours of operation and location/contact information. The next is your prices. You can even switch the order of those details; for some reason they are always nearly impossible to find on a restaurant's site.
Instead you're treated to narratives, pictures, and testimonials.
This information should be easy to find, and preferably right on the homepage. It's surprising how often it takes a Google or Yelp search to find this basic, necessary information when looking for a place to eat.
The 30-Second Intro Animation
Your animated introduction to your restaurant concept is annoying to everyone except your mother. Your mood-lit tour through your restaurant is not helping me figure out if you're open. The first question we have when I visit your website is definitely not "what does the Chef look like?".
People are looking for a good place to eat food. They've arrived at your website to either call you, order delivery, or see your menu. They aren't looking for an advertisement that takes thirty seconds and which they have to sit through every time they visit your website.
Adobe Flash Again?
For some reason, there was a boom in restaurant sites that are built in Flash. It seems that Flash wowed restaurant owners, but it's time we all moved on.
As a general rule it's a bad idea to build any website in flash, not just restaurant websites. Content in a flash website cannot be indexed by search engines. The structure of a flash website also prevents people from linking directly to any of your content other than the homepage. Search engine optimization and direct linking to content are basic items you want your website to have. Without them it becomes more difficult for customers to find you online, or share information about your restaurant with others.
Also, if you know anyone who has an iPhone or iPad (which most of us do) then you know someone who can't see your website at all, because Flash doesn't work on those devices.
Auto-Play Your Favorite Techno Jams!
This practice is uniquely prevalent in the world of restaurant websites, to the extent that it's become a cliché.
It has to end immediately. Auto-playing music is an intrusive assault on web users and if your site is guilty, you can be assured that someone has left your site angry.
It's understandable to want to include your ambiance or personality into your website, but it's dangerous to think that the ambient techno clip your site is blasting through our speakers is okay with us (or our co-workers when we don't have headphones in).
Let us know in the comments!
Image by Bismanis_carlson on Foodtree.