Where Are the Truly Great Restaurant Websites?

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There is some breaking restaurant-website news today out of New York: Menupages.com is being purchased by a company called Seamless for $15 million. Allow me to suggest that Menupages.com only exists because restaurant websites are so ridiculously, uselessly ornate, as Farhad Manjoo hilariously described this summer. They are triumphs of style over substance, all Flash, no data. But menus -- probably the number-one thing a potential customer wants to see -- are nowhere to be found.
 
In addition, little information appears about the sorts of things that dedicated food-lovers want to know these days. Where is all the stuff about meat suppliers or cooking methods or kitchen staff?

It's not as if these things are impossible to create. Take the website for my olive oil, Terra Creta. Yes, there is a website for my olive oil -- and it's great! TerraCreta.gr allows you to enter the lot number from your bottle and see all kinds of data about where it came from. I can get a satellite photo of the olive orchard or its organoleptic evaluation. I even know that my last bottle was in Storage Tank 4 at the olive oil mill where it was produced.

Now, most people won't want that much detail, but how about telling us where your beef comes from? Or the cooking lineage of your chefs? How about big, beautiful photos of the food on your menu? Can we see your kitchen? Do have a helpful reservations system in place (your own or someone else's)? Do you incorporate reviews from other sites? Help us come to the conclusion that your restaurant is awesome, if it is.

So, with all that carping, I want to know what restaurant website innovation looks like. Which restaurants are doing a great job? Who has the best restaurant website in the world?

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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