The iPhone was born in 2007. Paul Bocuse was born in 1926. And because Bocuse is an adaptable guy, not to mention a reasonably famous chef with a global culinary competition named after him (The Bocuse D’Or), one can view the website for his three-Michelin starred Lyons restaurant on the iPhone or iPad without too much hassle. It’s all quite convenient.
Thomas Keller, the great American chef who literally wrote the go-to book on modern sous-vide techniques, and who’s the president of The Bocuse D’Or USA foundation (see above), does not have iPhone compatible websites at his two high-end restaurants, Per Se and The French Laundry, a five years after the debut of the iPhone. It’s all quite inconvenient.
Yes, yes, Chef Keller does have a pretty cool iPad wine app, which we’ll discuss in a little bit. And Keller, of course, isn’t alone in all this.
Here’s a list of some of the world’s great chefs and restaurants, some of the world’s most famous restaurants, one very good neighborhood restaurant, and STK, none of which appear to have iOS-friendly sites. Try out the links below on your iPhone or iPad and see what happens. It ain’t pretty.
We at The Price Hike and The Bad Deal have always championed menu transparency, and having your restaurant’s website accessible via one of the most popular mobile devices is a big part of that transparency.
No, most of these venues aren’t impulse buys; good luck trying to get into Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck on a few hours’ notice. And whether you dine at an expensive restaurant like Jean Georges probably hinges more on the size of your wallet, less on the speed of your iPad 4G connection. But still, that budgetary decision would be infinitely easier to make if you could actually access the Jean Georges menu prices on your iPad ($108 for four courses, $168 for a tasting menu, incidentally). As for the Jean Georges wine list, that’s not even on the regular website (baby steps, people).
Perhaps it’s better to think of things this way: In a world where an increasing amount of diners are getting their culinary information largely, if not solely, through mobile, would you as a chef prefer that diners ignore your own website, which you control, and instead get their information about your restaurant from MenuPages.com, which makes every menu look the same?
If you as a chef put so much time and effort into tailoring your venue’s $400-per person dining experience, why would you outsource the first point of contact with your restaurant to Google Places or Zagat, simply because your site insists on greeting viewers using with a stylized food porn slideshow that no one wants to watch and a musical intro that no one wants to hear? This is why I love logging onto Daniel Boulud’s websites on my iPhone. The menus are simple and elegant and there’s no Gallic chanteur like Jacques Dutronc blasting into my headphones.
And remember, diners like things to be easy, especially when a lot of money is changing hands. So if I’m walking around Paris on vacation and am considering an impromptu blowout dinner, I could try logging onto Pierre Gagnaire’s website on my iPhone, and I’d get nothing. Or I could bring up the site for Guy Savoy’s eponymous restaurant and within seconds I’d be looking at the entire dinner menu with prices. I think I’ll go with Savoy.
And it would be cool if an awesome neighborhood spot like The Brooklyn Star could update its affordable menu on a day to day basis in an iPhone-friendly format. Let’s get rid of that animated crackling fireplace.
This is about the user experience, folks, and the restaurant experience begins the second a user logs onto your restaurant’s website. If that entryway experience is lackluster or non-existent via mobile, how can a diner trust you with the more complicated (and more expensive stuff), which is to say, the cooking and the coddling? The 86-year-old Paul Bocuse and his team already knows all this. And so should you. So lose the Flash and lose the music. We’ll be watching.
We like to think Chef Thomas Keller will be one of the first to fix all these issues. His Bouchon & Ad Hoc sites already work fine on mobile devices, while iTunes has clever little iPad apps that lets you download the full Per Se and French Laundry wine lists (no app just yet for the iPhone).
And until there’s a non-Flash site for Per Se or the French Laundry, iPhone users can bookmark the daily menu (or sometimes “yesterday’s menu”), which usually goes up on weekday afternoon. It’s not the most convenient solution, but it’s a start. Keller is cool like that (Source: The Price Hike/The Bad Deal).