Dear Restaurants

Let me just say it bluntly – you are better off with no web site at all than with a bad web site.

I’ll be spending some time in Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, soon and the folks I’ll be with will be looking for a place to eat.  We’re going to go to the same place we went last year, but it will be a harder sell this year than last to friends who have not been there.  Why?  Because their website is in disrepair.

I won’t provide the link here but I’ll tell them Saturday they need to get this fixed.  The website is damaging their image.  The design itself looks like it is from the 1990s, but the site is broken – broken links, broken images, hidden navigation.  The domain name IS their business name.  They should be protecting it.

There are a dozen other sites with information about the restaurant that I could trust more because they look better and actually function.  But these are not sites owned or controlled by the restaurant, these are places like Yelp, TripAdvisor,, Urbanspoon, etc.  There’s no menu, and no “official listing” of information.  One of the sites said this restaurant may be closed.  Ouch, bad for business – it isn’t closed.  But even that may be because of the official web site – it lists two phone numbers, and one is out of service.  When I first called the restaurant I thought it might be out of business also.

There are only a few things that restaurants absolutely should do if they have their own web site:

Provide contact information
Provide location and directions or link to appropriate map
Provide hours
Provide a menu

Restaurants can do more but at a minimum this is what people are looking for.  If a restaurant site fails to do this in an easy to use way for the consumer, it’s a waste of money for the restaurant and a waste of time for the dining public.  If a restaurant site then allows the site to fall into disrepair so that it doesn’t function – it’s going to cost the restaurant customers.  It’s better to not have a site at all than let that happen.

So, restaurants need to pay a little attention to their web site.  They don’t have to spend tons of money on it and it can remain fairly static, but it becomes a big negative if they let it provide incorrect information and fail to work properly.  If a restaurant isn’t going to do the minimum diligence about their own web site – then take it down.