It’s hard to believe but there are still businesses out there that don’t have websites. Yes, it’s true. These are mostly old school, family run businesses that have been around for generations. Typically the patriarch still goes to work every day and does things the way he always has. He keeps lists on pieces of paper that he misplaces and can’t find when he needs them. He has a rolodex full of numbers he never calls. He may have a copy machine. His kids, who run the business with him, have smart phones, use email, and shop online. When they urge him to have a website designed he says, “What for? I’ve been successful for over forty years without one.” His kids know it’s futile telling him he can be more successful, reach more people and sell more stuff if he had a website. They’re waiting for him to retire. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “We know we need a website but you’re going to have to convince dad.” I try and fail. This “logic” is almost understandable for an old, established family-run business. But it’s inexcusable for a new one and a crime of epic proportions if the new business is a restaurant.
Go Ahead. Shoot Yourself in the Foot
Boston’s north shore has become a mecca for foodie’s. There are loads of fine restaurants, many with great ocean views, and more opening all the time. That’s why I eagerly watched the Opening Soon signs that promised a new restaurant in Peabody Square steps from my office. A few days after it opened, I did what the research says everyone does before trying a new restaurant. I checked their website. Only there was no website. “Impossible,” I thought. I checked again…and again. Nothing! I walked over for lunch hoping the food would be good and determined to find out why a brand new restaurant in a highly competitive industry in a region known for good food would open its doors without a website. I enjoyed my lunch, a fried fish sandwich 0n a toasted roll with a side of sweet potato fries. But the owner was understandably busy so I took her card and walked back to my office. Besides, I didn’t have the courage to tell her she had shot herself in the foot.
Sometimes Nothing is Better Thant Something
Back in my office I looked at the owner’s business card and discovered a web address in large print under her name. “Odd,” I thought. “I guess they have a website after all.” I typed the address into my browser and what came up confirmed an old belief I have that sometimes nothing is better than something – especially when the something is awful. What I saw wasn’t really a website. It was one of those generic holding pages supplied by your hosting company when you’ve registered your domain name but haven’t yet built a website. No homepage, no about page, no menu, no contact information, no hours of operation. Baffling. I went scurrying to find an old article I had read in Slate Online a few years ago entitled “Overdone: Why are restaurant websites so horrifically bad?” by Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough. The following is excerpted from the article:
Scott Jampol, the head of consumer marketing at the reservations site OpenTable, points out that the Web is one of the primary ways that people determine where to get dinner. One-third of restaurant’s reservations occur online during hours in which the restaurant is closed, Jampol says, and more than 10 percent of diners are coming from mobile devices. But many in the restaurant industry don’t understand how important the Web is to their businesses. “The fact that it’s a front door for many customers is still a new idea,” he says.
The Slate article is almost three years old. What was true then is truer now. I don’t have the numbers in front of me but I’ll wager that close to 40 percent of diners are now coming from mobile devices. The point is this. The owners of this new restaurant in Peabody Square made a huge mistake opening their doors without a well designed website in place. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be fatal.
And Now Back to You
Do you rely on the internet to get information about restaurants you’ve never tried? Do you make reservations online? Do you access the internet on a mobile device? If you were curious about a new restaurant and discovered they had no website would that effect your decision to eat there?
Talk to me.