Restaurant Websites: The Great and the Terrible.

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I admit to being a bit of a design snob. I initially judge blogs on the way that they look or their terrible photos rather than the quality of their writing. And I often want to avoid restaurants whose websites have irritated me in one way or another. Of course, once I look further into some of those blogs I find writing I love, and once I actually go to some of those restaurants I find I enjoy them. But first impressions mean a lot.

A couple of days ago, a friend was asking me for a restaurant recommendation. Easy task, I thought. I had some restaurants in mind and just needed to check and see if they were open and send her the websites. What should have been a 5-minute email turned into a half-hour nightmare as I slogged through websites that are more intent on impressing me with movies, music, and other annoyances than on giving me direct information.

Hear this, restaurants: We are not looking to your sites for entertainment. We want to get our information, get out, and get back to watching Eli Stone. Noise of clinking glasses or a dull roar or fancy music does not make us want to go to your restaurant more, it just tips off our employers that we are making dinner plans instead of filing our TPS reports. We don't want to sit through 30 second flash movies of how happy we'll be if we go to your restaurant. We just want the facts: When are you open, what's for dinner, and how much does it cost. And I want to do that in as few clicks as possible.

Oh, and also? We are in the Bay Area -- arguably the technology capital of the world. How difficult is it to learn to code up a simple HTML page? Why are you still making us click through to PDF's of your menus or (horrors) Word documents? It's all about time for me, and opening up the pdf takes up my precious seconds.



Some of my favorite restaurant websites are super basic, nice to look at, and tell me all I need to know.

Spork. Looking at this website makes me want to spend my hard-earned money to hire this designer to redo all other restaurant websites. It's gorgeous.

Bar Jules. The lovely Bar Jules site changes daily and tells us what's for lunch and dinner.

Slanted Door. Chock full of information, and has a handy plug-in to make an Open Table reservation.

Arizmendi Bakery. Arizmendi's pizza changes daily, and Arizmendi has a calendar for the whole month of delicious flavors.

(warning, many of these have music)

Bix. I want to send a friend directly to Bix's list of cocktails, as I had an excellent one there the other night. Oh wait ... the whole site is in FLASH so I can't send a direct link!

Market Bar. Don't. Resize. My. Browser. Ever. (And while you're at it, you might want to get spellcheck. Mediterranean is spelled with one "t".)

Spruce. Let's review how many steps I have to go through to find the Spruce dinner menu:

1) wait for flash site to load
2) click "menus"
3) click "food"
4) click "dinner"
5) change my browser to allow pop-ups for this site
6) PDF!

House. Give us prices. Seriously. Not having prices reeks of pretentiousness and is absolutely useless.

And then we have a "bandwidth exceeded" message over at 1300 Fillmore.

Fortunately for us consumers, there are ways around these horrid websites. Menu Pages, while not the prettiest site out there, lists over 4000 menus in San Francisco. And Yelp is the easiest place I've found to figure out restaurant hours.

Let's call out all the bad restaurant websites -- which would you nominate? What are your pet peeves?