Restaurants Need a Better Recipe for their Websites


While doing research for an upcoming tradeshow event, I noticed a consistent trend—restaurants tend to have awful websites. For whatever reason, many restaurants use a website model that was popular in the last millennium:

Why are restaurant websites so often counter-productive to marketing?

Elaborate intro screens, flashy animations and cheesy auto-playing music, all of which can take a full minute or more to load before the site itself is available.

And Flash. So much Flash. Everywhere.

Finding practical information—hours, location, prices—becomes a frustrating scavenger hunt. Even viewing menus is frequently a hassle, because visitors are often forced to download them as separate PDFs.

I’ve been working as an intern at Altitude Marketing for several months now, and that’s been long enough to learn this isn’t the way to do business online. People visiting restaurant websites want to use them as tools, not sources of entertainment. While glamorous images of empty restaurant interiors may whet the appetite, in most cases people want to find the restaurant’s address, telephone number and hours. Big difference.

Before coming to Altitude, I never really thought much about using Flash animation on a website. From a marketing standpoint, I realize I was wrong. Flash keeps visitors from copying and pasting important information from a site—kind of a big deal when it comes to transferring a restaurant’s address to a map site.

And Flash makes it impossible for smartphone users, who can’t quickly call for reservations or information—if they can even view the site. Unlike formats like HTML 5, Flash isn’t universally supported on mobile devices. Just try to look at a Flash restaurant site on an iPhone. You’re out of luck.

Finding practical information on a restaurant website—hours, location, prices—becomes a frustrating scavenger hunt.

Even Adobe, Flash’s creator, acknowledges the format’s inefficiencies. Earlier this month, they announced they are stopping development on the platform in favor of HTML 5. So why are restaurant websites still falling victim to bad marketing techniques like this?

Part of the issue may be that many restaurant owners are entrepreneurs with limited knowledge of marketing. These individuals can easily fall victim to web designers whose grand ideas and fancy design schemes often outweigh marketing properties of their site designs.

Our website design philosophy at Altitude is that form follows function. Great web designers (like the team under that “About” link up top) excel at creating sites that are both incredibly efficient for marketing and visually appealing.

I can only hope restaurants get the hint. I have to make reservations for Saturday, and I’m not really looking forward to it.