I’ve come across two similar sites in the past few weeks that attempt to provide visitors with restaurant menu information for many urban areas.
allmenus debuted in late July. They’ve only really been live for a week, so here are the quick pros & cons:
- The website has a modern look & feel
- Someone spent a lot of time typing in the menus! Menu line items are typed out (with explanations, sometimes). This helps keep the overall interface clean.
- The search engine functionality is unintuitive. There are 2 search fields next to each other and one is for the restaurant name, and the other is for the city. After several attempts, I realized that the 2nd field couldn’t comprehend “San Francisco”, and only recognized “San Francisco, CA”. Yes, Yelp does this, too, but their site is sticky enough to remember your last saved region. Hmph.
- It needs more grubworthy content. So far there are 1935 menus online. Many are for the nicer places that usually have their own websites with prices.
- The cleanliness of the site leads me to think of it as sterile and without character as it continues to build its community. Thousands of menus with a variety of price ranges all start looking the same here. I’m not sure what sort of personality it is looking for in its community, but it’ll have a hard time competing against Yelp and chowhound if it wants to push community aspects.
Restaurant search test:
- Typing in Yamo (with or without the city) rendered no results. Well, one time I typed it in and it returned all the San Francisco listings but with no message as to what I was doing. (Yes, a picky interaction design observation).
- Once I figured out the double search bar method, I typed in “spices” “san francisco, ca” and was able to get matching results for both Spice and Spices II on Clement St. So, a tie here.
MenuPix is another similar site with a slightly different approach. (Thanks, Fran, for the pointer!) These guys actually take physical menus and scan them into their site, so you can view the real menus, prices, and commentary.
- It remembers where I’m from (San Francisco, not Boston)
- I’m able to look for restaurants when I’m not exactly sure of what I’m looking for. This is great for those “I dunno, where do you want to eat?” nights. Their website allows me to look for restaurants by neighborhood or type of cuisine. I think they also do user reviews but it’s always got the fast visitor’s intent in mind. “Top reviews by region” helps me get to what I want quickly.
- The search bar works easily, and as expected. There’s only one. Why? It remembered that I was in San Francisco and made a correct assumption that I wanted to look for food to eat in San Francisco.
- Character: The website has a slightly outdated or cheap look, but for grubbers, that’s ok. Their scanned menus help communicate each restaurant’s unique tone.
- Menus are printable. If you like collecting paper take-out menus, you can build quite a collection this way.
- Old school Contact Us form. I wanted to let them know that Chez Nous had closed. I went to their Contact Us form and *gasp* it just provided an email address! These folks need to learn about using a webform.
- As mentioned above, the look of the site is a bit dated and simple. Maybe a friend of theirs helped find a free web site design template and built the colors up from there. However, this is bearable as the core need for a visitor like me is still addressed.
Restaurant search test:
- Typing in Yamo returned the correct result.
- I typed in “spices” and got a hit for Spices II. Not sure how to rate that one. I was surprised Spices (I) didn’t show up.
I guess it just boils down personal opinion. If you’ll be eating more grub food off the beaten path, I would probably lean a little more towards MenuPix. However, allmenus is only in its infancy and could cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. What do you think of either site?