Many mom-n-pop restaurants don’t have websites, and historically, often, this has been a good sign: they are focused on the food and have no time for the internets. As the series of tubes increasingly takes over our lives, though, I wonder if at least a basic website is becoming more important, even for little local dives?
Of course, a bad website may be worse than no website, and many restaurant websites are simply bad: annoying, poorly designed, browser-crashing wastes of bandwidth. TBD wrote about the issue recently; here is an amusing Tumblr (funny because it’s true), and here are some theories about why such badness exists.
For me, the most basic information should always be on the home page: address, phone number, and hours of operation. Menus should be HTML (PDF is nice as a second option but not essential), and should include prices. Pages should load quickly — Flash is almost always bad, and music and/or videos should never play automatically when the page loads. Online ordering is a nice option and I think is becoming increasingly common, though still offered by a minority of restaurants.
How do Wheaton’s restaurants stack up? A large majority of Wheaton spots, including some excellent ones, do not have websites (notably, of our many Chinese places, only Hollywood East and Wong Gee have a web presence); the ones that do are all over the map, though Flash abuse is rare and nobody seems to play music, so they’ve got that going for them. For purposes of this survey, I am ignoring restaurants that have no website, and I am ignoring national chains. The following list includes all local Wheaton restaurants that have websites, as far as I know; feel free to post in the comments if I have missed anyone (remember, chains are excluded on purpose). In alphabetical order, after the jump:
Cristina Italian Ristorante: contact info on home page; separate directions page; hours on “about” page; HMTL menus include prices but involves way too many separate pages; site design is basic and that’s fine but could stand to condense many pages into just a few; that aside, a perfectly good small local bistro website.
Dessie Ethiopian Restaurant: contact info on home page, but hours of operation listed nowhere; menu HTML with prices but many menu items not included online; bare-bones, odd web design but works well enough; would be fine except for too much missing data.
Global Cafe African Grill: horribly designed, slowish-loading site with pop-ups that load despite my pop-up blocker’s best efforts; HTML menu with prices and photos; contact info on home page but hours only on “location” page; interesting “about us” page; all the basics are here but needs total redesign.
Hollywood East: recently updated when HE moved to the mall; attractive design with lots of photos (making me hungry, so I guess that’s effective); some Flash, within acceptable limits but does slow things down; online ordering!!; HTML menu with prices for regular items but not for dim sum; online chat and lots of social media links, many of which don’t seem to work; hours/map/contact info on “contact us” page but not home page; overall very modern and professional by restaurant standards.
Island Hut: location/contact/hours on home page (including charming typos); HMTL menu but no prices; you can leave a comment at the bottom of the menu; very basic but fun design; overall no-frills, a good match for the no-frills physical space, this place is all about the food, but at least the website has the basics covered.
Jose’s Grill: contact info on home page; separate map/directions page; hours not listed; HTML menu pages with prices and great photos; lots of additional info; overall this is an above-average site for a local restaurant, just need to add when they’re open and they’ll be all set.
Kenny’s Sub Shop: design looks circa 1995; contact info on home page but links to map and directions have no content; “contact us” link includes hours; full HTML menu with prices; no Flash; no mention of delivery, which is the best thing about Kenny’s; bare bones but gets the basic job done.
Ledo Pizza: good site as you would expect from a regional chain; fancy graphics yet easy navigation; HTML menu pages including prices; limited Flash; coupons, FAQ, franchise info; store locator — Wheaton page includes hours, directions, map, and contact info; links to FB and Twitter.
Limerick Pub: attractive design; easy navigation; location/contact info/hours on home page along with calendar and map link; also link to (very good) FB page; full HTML menu with prices, even some beers/scotch listed (sans prices); may be best overall local restaurant site.
Los Chorros: fairly recent redesign; contact info and hours on home page; directions/map on separate page; no Flash; full HTML menu including prices plus optional PDF lunch menu; includes “about” info, contact form, dessert coupon; link to Facebook page; overall a strong site.
Marchone’s Italian Deli: another 1995 design quality; clear contact info but no hours of operation; no Flash but poor navigation despite minimalism; menu posted as large JPG files, hard to read and slow to load; some interesting historical info plus a video (which does not play automatically, happily).
Max’s Kosher Deli: hours/contact info on home page; HTML menu with prices and again hours of operation; email form and directions on “contact us” pop-up page; some Flash; nice graphics but kind of odd design; okay overall.
Nava Thai: hours/contact info/map at bottom of too-long home page; other useful info (reservation info, parking policy) on home page; no Flash; primary fail = menu available only as Word .doc file; site is circa 2000 quality and pales in comparison with the food.
Pashion Restaurant & Lounge: cool design, easy navigation; clear hours/contact info, but minimal directions and no map; menu is PDF only; surprising lack of social media, I thought these guys would be into that; overall a nice site except for total menu fail.
Ren’s Ramen: not much data there now but I expect them to open any week now and I bet their website will be high-quality, if the background graphic is any indication.
Royal Mile Pub: hours/location/contact info on home page plus weekly event info; menu in HTML but mostly sans prices; no Flash; good calendar/directions pages; blog is neat in theory but is rarely updated (and not since January); overall pretty much an ideal local restaurant website except for lack of prices.
Ruan Thai: contact info/hours on home page; no Flash; map on “location” page; also a redundant “contact” page; full HTML menu with prices; overall fast, easy navigation with all the key info; doesn’t look fabulous but a good efficient site, totally appropriate for a little divey Thai spot where food is the focus.
Sergio’s Place: similar design as Royal Mile, with different color scheme, more photos, and all prices included in the HTML menu; allegedly online ordering but “currently unavailable”; nice English/Spanish option; hours of operation not listed anywhere, otherwise a decent site.
Wong Gee: contact info and hours on home page, which loads quickly despite some Flash; all good, right? But no: menu is .doc, dim sum menu is .xls, and “news” is .pdf — one two three strikes you’re out!
Woomi Garden: address/phone number on home page; map on contact page; hours listed nowhere; irritating-to-use HTML/Flash dinner menu, and with only about half of the actual (very large) menu listed; carryout menu PDF only; design is attractive but function/content needs work.