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Foodie Rant - Caught in the Web

By Anthony Todd in Food on Mar 5, 2010 6:40PM

Web.jpg Picture if you will two well-informed dining adventurers. Clad in their safari hats and clutching their Zagat guide - or, dressed in work clothes and clutching a Google map printout - they close in on their prey, their restaurant of choice for the evening. They venture into a strange neighborhood, eyes wide and scanning for an unfamiliar sign. There it is! They crow with victory. Approaching the door, their stomachs growl with anticipation. Inside, the restaurant is awash in inviting yellow light. They pull the handle. Nothing happens. They pull harder. Nothing happens.

Have these diners (ok, myself and a companion last night) entered the twilight zone? Nope, we’ve just fallen victim to a bad restaurant website. If this had been an isolated incident, I would have chalked it up to a mistake and moved on with my life. But 3 times in the last month I've tried to visit a new restaurant, only to find the door locked and the place empty. Their website says they should be open, and there is no notice indicating a private party. And yet there I stand, feeling useless and stupid.

Even worse is when different databases (Metromix, Citysearch) have different sets of operating hours. Who is to be believed? Well, generally, the restaurant itself. “Wait,” you might say, “Why not simply call the restaurant and ask?” Well, that would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do - but in our internet-driven age, I tend to assume that if the restaurant’s own website says something, it’s probably true. Plus, they often don't answer the phone during the day, and by nightfall, I've usually forgotten.

False operating hours are not the only restaurant website trap I've fallen into. Picture this scene in your mind - you’re happily listening to music on your headphones, browsing the internet, and you decide to check out some restaurants for dinner. The page loads and BLAM, your ears are filled with flamenco/electronica/French pop or whatever else the restaurant feels will set the mood for their website, playing at top volume. Sound familiar? Aside from deafening me (and giving me practice in finding the ‘off’ button), the only mood I experience is anger.

Please, just give me an accurate set of operating hours, a menu, and some directions to your restaurant. If a restaurant can manage to do this, its well on its way to a long and happy life. If not… well, if I end up sad and forlorn outside another restaurant, I just might start crying.

Photo by D. Majette.