More than any other industry, bars and restaurants are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the boom in smartphone use.

Decisions on dining are often made on the spur of the moment so by having a simple mobile site with a booking tool and click-to-call button restaurants will put themselves in the best position to attract some extra customers.

A new report form JiWire has found that consumers are twice as likely to use mobile than desktop as a source of information about where to eat.

To find out whether restaurants are making the most of this opportunity I searched for places to eat around the Econsultancy office in London’s Soho.

It’s a prime tourist spot that’s also home to thousands of office workers, so there’s plenty of money to be made keeping all those people fed.

Unfortunately I could find very few good examples, despite searching nearly the whole of Soho using Google Maps.

As such, I’ve pointed out one or two of the most common UX issues before highlighting the few good mobile sites that I uncovered.

Starting with the common flaws…

Very few are mobile optimised

I had to visit five restaurant websites in the vicinity of the Econsultancy office before I found one that is mobile optimised.

People on-the-go have neither the time or the patience to be pinching and zooming a desktop site, so it will inevitably lead to people abandoning the site and looking elsewhere.

Downloadable menus

Working out the best way to present the menu is a big challenge as restaurants often have a large range of options that might change on a regular basis.

However making it a downloadable PDF is definitely the worst way to try and solve this problem.

                      

Most sites give you no warning that clicking the menu link will automatically begin a download, which wastes your time and your data allowance.

Furthermore, pinching and zooming round a PDF menu is not a great user experience.

Lack of click-to-call buttons

New research from Google shows that 42% of mobile searchers have used click-to-call, with the main motivations being to find more information or make a reservation.

Click-to-call is quite a simple feature to add to a mobile site and vastly improves the UX, yet very few restaurants use this feature and those that do generally don’t make it very obvious.

It’s an area we’ve discussed at length on the blog before, highlighting good and bad examples, as well as looking at best practice tips for designing a mobile call-to-action.

Examples of decent mobile sites

Carnaby Burger Company

Not a perfect example by any means, but it is a decent mobile site that allows you to access most of the information you need.

It’s built using responsive design, so the menu issue is solved by housing all the myriad options within dropdown menus, so potential customers can easily decide whether they want the chicken or a hotdog. However opening and closing these dropdown is a bit clunky.

                      

Other neat features include the handy arrow button that appears as you scroll down the screen which shoots you back up to the top of the page, the simple colour scheme, and the use of click-to-call buttons.

Cây Tre

Cây Tre also succeeds where most other fail – you can read its menu on a mobile site.

While the font may be a bit small for some people, I think that a majority of potential customers will be able to skim down the range of options (which includes the prices) and make a decision on whether they want to make a visit to this Vietnamese restaurant.

                      

The homepage is also well designed, with a picture of some delicious food above a user-friendly booking tool. Simplicity is often the best solution in mobile design, and Cây Tre has nailed it.

My one criticism is that the phone number at the bottom of the homepage is too small and doesn’t allow click-to-call.

Brindisa

Brindisa’s mobile site has a number of major flaws, not least the fact that you have to download the menu, but it’s a symptom of just how bad restaurant mobile sites are that I’ve had to include it as an example for others to aspire towards.

The first problem was that when I clicked on Brindisa’s Soho restaurant in Google Maps it opened up the site for its London Bridge outlet, so I had to navigate round to find the Soho details. Luckily the navigation is very easy as it uses a familiar hamburger menu.

                      

Other UX issues include the aforementioned downloadable menus and tiny phone numbers, which are in fact click-to-call buttons though you wouldn’t guess it from looking.

The main reason I’ve included Brindisa on this list is because I think it looks great – the colour scheme is simple, it has gorgeous imagery and most of the CTAs are large and easy to click.

Use of Duda Mobile

Duda Mobile seems to be a popular solution among Soho’s bars and restaurants, as its an affordable self-serve platform that takes an existing site and rejigs it for a mobile screen.

Several of the restaurant sites I looked at had a Duda Mobile URL and followed a similar template, which isn’t without its glitches but does offer some useful functionality.

                      

Restaurants using this platform generally have a click-to-call CTA, a ‘Find us’ button that opens Google Maps and a ‘Find a Table’ tool that integrates with Top Table.

Where the sites fall down is that they generally require users to download the menu and as it works from a self-serve template the aesthetics aren’t always that great. Shouty capital letters are a common design feature.

Even so, it’s certainly better than having no mobile presence at all.