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The NY Ultra-Luxe Websites


oakapple
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A brief survey of websites at the "ultra-luxe" level suggests that Jean-Georges Vongerichten needs a new head of technology. (JG, if you're reading, I know some people who'll work for food.)

Alain Ducasse has a slick modern website. The splash page allows you to choose French or English. You then get to links for each of Ducasse's three 3-star restaurants. The page for ADNY has current menus as of Autumn 2005, including the wine list.

Daniel Boulud has two NYC web addresses: http://danielboulud.com/ and http://www.danielnyc.com/. Either one takes you to the same hi-tech page, with a photo of the great man himself and links to all of his restaurants. This is the most attractive of the high-end restaurant websites. Behind all of its glitz, the most important information is all there, including gorgeous photos and current menus.

Le Bernardin's website is a bit dowdy by modern standards, but it loads quickly, and current menus are posted. There is a convenient link to Le Bernardin's OpenTable page.

Like that of Le Bernardin, Bouley's website is a bit low-tech by modern standards, but it tells everything you need to know, including current menus. There is a link to Bouley's other high-end restaurant, Danube, whose website is similarly structured.

Thomas Keller probably didn't think he needed a web presence till he came to New York. His website (http://www.perseny.com/) is named for his New York restaurant, but it's actually the "splash page" for all four of his restaurants in California, Las Vegas, and New York. No actual menu is shown for Per Se, but the site says: "There are three menus offered that change on a daily basis: A five course menu with selections, a nine course tasting of Vegetables and the nine course Chef's Tasting Menu. All menus are $210. Each is written daily and showcases the finest available products of the season." The site is evidently a work in progress, as when you click on "Wine Program" you get a page that says "Text to come." It has been this way for a while. You get the impression that Per Se's website is seldom touched.

Lastly, we get to Jean-Georges Vongerichten's empire, which is based at http://www.jean-georges.com/. The site has a glitzy Flash intro and is long on pictures of the eponymous chef. It is short on information about the restaurants themselves. There are links for each of JGV's fifteen restaurant properties. Click on any one of them, and what's there is a brief one-paragraph description of the property—mostly about its décor. The heading is "Location/Hours," but strangely, neither the location nor the hours is disclosed. The link for "Perry Street" still says "Coming Soon." There are no menus or prices. JGV is also the only one of those surveyed who doesn't have his restaurants on OpenTable (aside from Vong).

One can understand Thomas Keller's lagging web development: Per Se keeps raising its prices, and even then he is sold out every night. But JGV isn't selling every seat at every restaurant. Perhaps it would help if his website disclosed what his restaurants are serving, what it costs to dine there, or even where these places are located.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Does a restaurant website improve business?

Has anyone gone or not gone to a restaurant because of its site?

Do restaurants have websites because it's the expected thing or do they serve a real purpose?

I've always wondered why a restaurant would bother with a website - I don't think you can taste or smell the food, even with a state of the art desktop.

I guess it's just good PR and another place to list menus (which are never the same when you arrive), phone numbers and addresses.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I believe they are good for business because a good website is good for the consumer, who is less likely to be disappointed by the real thing. It also helps increase anticipation and buzz. It certainly is a legitimate question, though.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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Does anyone check the website after they've made a decision to dine at a particular restaurant from recommendations, reviews, etc. just for anticipation, check out the menu, etc. or is visiting the website crucial to whether or not to dine at said restaurant. I know you can view the menus elsewhere (e.g. menupages), but the restaurant may be located in another city, where the menus may not be available. I've considered dining at particular restaurants that I've heard of. After viewing the website, it has often reinforced my decision to dine there (comparing the reality of the experience afterwards is an entirely different question) , but there have been times I've decided against considering going to a restaurant after viewing the site, based sometimes just on menu alone, but other factors which may or may not be attractive and relevant to the decision.

Mark A. Bauman

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I'm a great fan of web sites as a source of information and much less so as entertainment. If I can't navigate quickly to the information I need, I find the site fails to meet my needs no matter how pretty it is or how expert the designers are in using the latest multimedia technology. Occasionally a web site charms me with it's graphics, music or story line, but all too often the designer loses sight of his job as a communicator. I think the tide is turning back to communication however, and the excesses of creative graphic designers are fading as the medium matures.

What I want as a consumer may not be what a culinary journalist wants when he's researching for an article. I remember when Ferran Adrià introduced the ability to download images of his food at various resolutions suitable for print and electronic media. I thought that was a creative innovation in service that would pay off in even better publicity for him. For a brief period of time, I designed and maintained a couple of restaurant sites. The nicest thing anyone ever said about them was that the first, and more complex of the sites, "navigated like a kayak." I still think that's one of the most important aspects of any site meant to be informative, although my sites might not pass the minimum level of eye appeal expected today. In my defense, I was only hired (ate up most of the profits in the restaurant anyway) to develop a structure and form to enable the chef to visualize his own needs, one of which turned out to be the need for a little glitz. None of those sites are online today.

To return to my point, one of things I stressed when "selling" a chef on the need for a web site in the first place, was that somewhere in the world, there is a journalist who's writing on deadline and needs a bit of information at a time the restaurant is closed and the PR staff are all asleep. The answer to whatever question that journalist might legitimately ask, should be easy to find on the site. This was a world class restaurant likely to find itself mentioned, if not featured several times a month in food, travel and general interest publications all over the world. This was also a time when URLs weren't appearing in every print ad and on every business card and piece of literature. The changes in the past decade have been amazing.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I wish more people would read a restaurant's website before visiting. I.E. WD-50: if some of the people over on citysearch and other sites, looked at WD-50.com and the food pictures they could have made the decision that maybe the cuisine was not suited to them. Instead there are some pretty confused people. IMHO

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When trying to decide where to eat for my upcoming trip to NYC in December, I used the restaurants' websites as one source of information for my decision making. One of them was Annisa. I'd been intrigued by Anita Lo's cooking on Iron Chef America, and there was a limited, but positive, amount of discussion here on eGullet. But if I hadn't been able to go to the website and look at a sample menu, I probably wouldn't have chosen it. (In a little over a month, I'll be able to report how satisfied I was by my decision...)

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Does a restaurant website improve business?

Does an entry in the telephone directory improve business? I would say yes. On the whole, you're better off if people can find you. These days, customers are more likely to be googling you than opening a telephone book. It's probably better if the first thing they see on google is your site (something you control), rather than an entry on someone else's site (which you cannot control, and which might be inaccurate, out-of-date, or unfavorable).

I think it's a no-brainer for any fine-dining establishment to have some sort of web presence. A more useful question is whether Daniel's glitzy site is worth the money he spent on it, or if a plain-jane site like Le Bernardin's or Bouley's is just as good. Indeed, the plain-jane site might be better, since it loads faster.

Has anyone gone or not gone to a restaurant because of its site?

I have sometimes gone to a restaurant because I could easily find the information I was looking for. I have sometimes not gone because information wasn't readily available.

I've always wondered why a restaurant would bother with a website - I don't think you can taste or smell the food, even with a state of the art desktop.

You can't taste or smell an eGullet post either, but it's one of the sources many of us depend upon to identify restaurants to try. But the restaurant can't control what appears on eGullet. They can control their own website.

I guess it's just good PR and another place to list menus (which are never the same when you arrive)....

At most restaurants, if the menu is not the same as on the website, it is certainly very close.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I wish more people would read a restaurant's website before visiting. I.E. WD-50: if some of the people over on citysearch and other sites, looked at WD-50.com and the food pictures they could have made the decision that maybe the cuisine was not suited to them. Instead there are some pretty confused people. IMHO

That's interesting, Matt. In the scenario you describe a website actually loses business for a restaurant.

From a consumer (and maybe a journalistic) standpoint, a website is certainly a good thing. From the restaurant's perspective that might not always be the case.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I wish more people would read a restaurant's website before visiting. I.E. WD-50: if some of the people over on citysearch and other sites, looked at WD-50.com and the food pictures they could have made the decision that maybe the cuisine was not suited to them. Instead there are some pretty confused people. IMHO

That's interesting, Matt. In the scenario you describe a website actually loses business for a restaurant.

From a consumer (and maybe a journalistic) standpoint, a website is certainly a good thing. From the restaurant's perspective that might not always be the case.

Unless you considered that it may be losing more business from the negative reviews found on many websites (small portion size, weird food, no shrimp in the shrimp noodles, the olive oil was dried up, etc...)

Edit: I like WD and I find they have a superb site.

Edited by M.X.Hassett (log)
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I've always wondered why a restaurant would bother with a website - I don't think you can taste or smell the food, even with a state of the art desktop.

You can't taste or smell an eGullet post either, but it's one of the sources many of us depend upon to identify restaurants to try. But the restaurant can't control what appears on eGullet. They can control their own website.

Very true OA, but ultimately it is the taste and smells that are important. It's not just a website that describes with words and pictures, but reviews, articles, brochures etc. And some can be controlled others not.

But I agree with you that a complicated website would not be as good as a simple one. Still, I can say that a restaurnt's website has never changed my mind about going or not. I use it for background info, just as I would a guide.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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That's interesting, Matt. In the scenario you describe a website actually loses business for a restaurant.

I don't consider it a failure if a restaurant accurately describes itself, and by so doing, dissuades customers who wouldn't have been happy dining there. Actually, a website that filters out unproductive customers might be viewed as a success. What self-respecting chef wants to attract customers who will be unhappy?

OTOH, if a website isn't user-friendly, or the visitor can't easily find the information s/he's looking for, than that's a failure.

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. . . . I think it's a no-brainer for any fine-dining establishment to have some sort of web presence. A more useful question is whether Daniel's glitzy site is worth the money he spent on it, or if a plain-jane site like Le Bernardin's or Bouley's is just as good. Indeed, the plain-jane site might be better, since it loads faster.

. . . .

At most restaurants, if the menu is not the same as on the website, it is certainly very close.

Verizon tells me they no longer deliver yellow pages for Manhattan. I just got a small book covering a district in which I live on the edge. I would have thought my daughter was on the other edge, but she got a book for a different district on the other side of her residence. For the most part, our "local" directories don't cover at least half our respective local neighborhoods, or the ones in which we'd look for a restaurant phone number. It doesn't matter, I'm far more likely to google a restaurant first, rather than look in the yellow pages or a guide.

I'm on the side of less glitz and greater speed. Greater speed obviously means faster loading, but it also means ease of navigation. If complex menus load quickly in various points on the screen in no hierarchy, it may take me longer to find what I want to know.

Restaurants are getting more computer literate, but I recall traveling and choosing a restaurant in FT. Lauuderdale whose menu was not all that different in terms of the food, but the prices were perhaps 20-25% higher than shown on the site. That's unacceptable.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I don't consider it a failure if a restaurant accurately describes itself, and by so doing, dissuades customers who wouldn't have been happy dining there. Actually, a website that filters out unproductive customers might be viewed as a success. What self-respecting chef wants to attract customers who will be unhappy?

Agreed. However, descriptions are not the same as tasting. I'm sure we all have heard things described to us that we thought " not going to eat that." Yet, when tasted, it turned out to be very good. So a website needs to be careful in that respect, especially a place like WD-50 that is trying to move people to think differently about food.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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That's interesting, Matt. In the scenario you describe a website actually loses business for a restaurant.

I don't consider it a failure if a restaurant accurately describes itself, and by so doing, dissuades customers who wouldn't have been happy dining there. Actually, a website that filters out unproductive customers might be viewed as a success. What self-respecting chef wants to attract customers who will be unhappy?

OTOH, if a website isn't user-friendly, or the visitor can't easily find the information s/he's looking for, than that's a failure.

Exellent point Oakapple I think that many chefs including Wylie would like to weed out "unproductive customers". On the "Ultra-luxe" end I beleive many chefs are catering to a different clientele and are looking for open-minded customers. I know many people who would never be happy with a tasting menu(anywhere) due to the fact that they just do not care for that many foods.

I find websites to be very useful for gaging the atmosphere, menu selection, wines, upoming events, etc...

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There is nothing more frustrating that a restaurant website without the address and times that it is open. A menu and wine list is nice, but not required. the ability to make reservations is unnessary, as are picture of the food (though I like them) I am much more likely to go to a restaurant with a tasteful, informative website than a nasty loud site that's links don't follow through. Rather no site than a bad one.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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When I travel (which is sadly much too rare) my process for selecting restaurants goes like this:

1) Subscribe to Zagats.com, and make a list of the top 30 or so restaurants in the area, making sure to include representatives from lots of different cuisines.

2) Check out other websites that post in-depth reviews in order to weed out some of the restaurants that are inconsistent or just less exciting.

3) Go to the websites of the restaurants that are still in the running, and check out the menu--this ends up being the deciding factor.

I've found this three-prong strategy to be wildly succesful so far--on my honeymoon/food tour of the Bay Area, we only ate at one place that we wouldn't want to go back to (Gary Danko--oddly enough). I found that looking at the menus on-line really helped me to get a sense of the chef's style, and allowed me to pick out the kinds of places that appeal to us the most.

That said, I never paid much attention to the other trappings of the websites.

Owner of Salt in Montpelier, VT

www.saltcafevt.com

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Does a restaurant website improve business?

Has anyone gone or not gone to a restaurant because of its site?

Do restaurants have websites because it's the expected thing or do they serve a real purpose?

I've always wondered why a restaurant would bother with a website - I don't think you can taste or smell the food, even with a state of the art desktop.

I guess it's just good PR and another place to list menus (which are never the same when you arrive), phone numbers and addresses.

I always check out a restaurant's site before reserving (or if a guest of someone else, to prepare myself for what is to come). Easy to navigate can be the deciding factor on making a reservation, accurate data is very important (I hate out of date menus/wine lists or incorrect information), but the biggest peeve is not being able to get through on the phone after all the time I've taken.

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I think restaurant websites can be useful. I like to use them, especially when I travel, mainly for the photos and the menu. It is annoying to find that often the menu on the site has not been updated, and differs greatly from the current menu at the restaurant.

Also, many American restaurateurs have a fear of putting prices on their website. This is a cultural peculiarity-- it extends out to actually being in the restaurant and, after being given the list of specials, you have to ask the prices of the specials. VERY ANNOYING!! In Europe, most countries have laws requiring the menu to be prominently posted in the window or outside-- and specials are on a blackboard with prices.

) Subscribe to Zagats.com, and make a list of the top 30 or so restaurants in the area, making sure to include representatives from lots of different cuisines.

This is a huge mistake, IMHO. Not only is the credibility of Zagat in great question, but many many good restaurants are not listed at all, probably a quid pro quo for some editorial grudge, or the like...

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There is nothing more frustrating that a restaurant website without the address and times that it is open.  . . .

This is so basic that I didn't even think to mention it, but I have been on sites that are frustrating if not absolutely useless and frustrating.

Peggy's point is absolutely on target. I don't want a song and dance when I want a phone number. I particularly don't want loud music when I'm surfing late at night and Mrs. B is sleeping, but I have turned to using earphones just to avoid random noise in the house at night.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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) Subscribe to Zagats.com, and make a list of the top 30 or so restaurants in the area, making sure to include representatives from lots of different cuisines.

This is a huge mistake, IMHO. Not only is the credibility of Zagat in great question, but many many good restaurants are not listed at all, probably a quid pro quo for some editorial grudge, or the like...

I'd be curious if you could back this comment up. For instance, name a restaurant in New York that has a credible claim to be in the top 30, that's not in Zagat at all.

In my mind, a credible claim would be a restaurant that has earned comparable recognition in other media sources that review restaurants—NYT, New York, Michelin, Gayot, or even eGullet—that Zagat missed. If they all missed it, then you've probably got heavy lifting to persuade me that it has any case to be in the top 30.

Frankly, I've almost never searched for a restaurant in Zagat and not found it. Where that happened, it was an obscure restaurant that the entire "food community" had overlooked, not just Zagat. If anything, the rap on Zagat is their method sometimes assigns lofty ratings to very ordinary places. I've not seen the situation where a truly excellent restaurant was completely left out of the guide.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Verizon tells me they no longer deliver yellow pages for Manhattan. I just got a small book covering a district in which I live on the edge. I would have thought my daughter was on the other edge, but she got a book for a different district on the other side of her residence. For the most part, our "local" directories don't cover at least half our respective local neighborhoods, or the ones in which we'd look for a restaurant phone number. It doesn't matter, I'm far more likely to google a restaurant first, rather than look in the yellow pages or a guide.[...]

The Yellow Pages are online: www.superpages.com. I use that site often and stopped getting the paper Yellow Pages a few years ago. For what it's worth, full Manhattan Yellow Pages are still delivered free to my building. I thought Verizon put out one of them, but I didn't pay close attention. So I could have a copy of the paper Yellow Pages but see little need for it.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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One very helpful feature of a web site is the availability of the wine list on line.

As an enophile and married person, it irritates my wife when I spend ten minutes perusing a wine list (any good list with a large selection requires some time to "peruse"). It is also bad manners for one to ignore one's guests or fellow diners while "perusing."

Therefore--it is wonderful when I can "peruse" on line and have a good idea of what the restaurant has to offer thus cutting down on the at table "perusing."

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