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Appealing websites make a difference with younger, tech-savvy dining crowd

Appealing websites make a difference with younger, tech-savvy dining crowd

As one of the so-called “Millennials,” or people born between 1977 and 1998, I spend a lot of time using the Internet, and it’s the first place I go when I want information. I don’t remember the last time I used the Yellow Pages or dialed information to find a restaurant. It’s faster and easier to look one up on Google or some other Internet search engine, and when I want to recommend a restaurant to my friends, I can just email them the link to its website.

Recently, some friends and I intended to try a new spot for dinner. I looked the restaurant up online to get directions, but it didn’t have a website. Instead, I found several links to lurid local news reports about an alleged crime committed in the parking lot of that very restaurant. That was enough to make us reconsider our dining options.

While admittedly extreme, this case drives home the importance of maintaining a Web presence. A restaurant without a website isn’t just missing out on a chance to reach new customers. It’s also giving up control over what Internet-savvy potential guests might see first when they go looking for it. When I search online for a restaurant with no website, I may wind up clicking on blog reviews by amateur food critics, or maybe even the website of a different restaurant with a similar name.

My favorite restaurant websites are the ones that are easy to find because every minute I spend looking for a restaurant is another minute a different restaurant might catch my eye. Ideally, the restaurant’s website will be among the first results when its name is entered into a search engine. It also helps if the domain name is easy to remember. A website does not need to be fancy, though. A bare-bones site with the restaurant’s name, address and phone number gives all the information a diner needs.

Of course, a show-stopping website can make a big impression and convey information at the same time. And bells and whistles are always a nice touch.

The website for the Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurant Organization’s Buddakan, for example, is easy to find and navigate, and totally awesome to look at. Buddakan’s hours, location and phone number are right on the front page, and diners can even make reservations online. Menus, event information and a virtual tour of the restaurant are options on a pull-down menu, which is a fun interactive touch.

Artistic photos of the restaurant’s edgy, exotic interior give a good impression of its atmosphere. Loungey music adds to the cool, laid-back feeling, and there is a convenient button that turns it off, which is always appreciated by people browsing the Internet in areas that should be quiet.

Copious, artful photographs, music, animation and lots of buttons to click keep magpies like me browsing around a website a bit longer. And the more time I spend looking at a website, the more likely I am to remember it when making dining plans.

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