Dear Restaurants: What We Need from Your Website

Categories: Tech

​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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Location Info



The Alembic

1725 Haight, San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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I want to see prices. It lets people know what they are in for. Whenever I see menus and no prices, I think that the restaurant doesn't want people to see high prices that they might not want to pay.


I would add: the website should be a website, by which I mean written in HTML. 

Not only does Flash add to the tedious load times already mentioned, it also makes the sites inaccessible to people using mobile devices, slow connections, or screen readers such as those used by the blind. 

Jeff McC
Jeff McC

I would say that use of Twitter is a VERY good way to address point #2.  I agree that website aren't exactly hard to update, but something saying "keep up with our specials & beer list on Twitter" possibly with a last-five-tweets widget can be very helpful.  Hell, unless the menu page is dated, I'd honestly trust an active Twitter account (where every post is dated) over a static menu page.


Not to mention that annoying soundtrack of what appears to be people in a bar. Sometimes people are at work and that pretty much gives it away that you are not working!

Peg Wolfe
Peg Wolfe

Couldn't agree more.  Hard for we out-of-towners to do trip planning if we 1) can't figure out where you are, 2), when you're open, and 3) what you serve!  

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