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Show HN: Cilantro ("About.me for restaurants"). Feedback wanted.
39 points by callmeed on Aug 26, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments
This is my MVP. It's not quite really ready to unleash, but what the heck.


SHORT PITCH: About.me for restaurants

LONGER PITCH: Single-page websites for restaurants that don't suck. Instant setup. Hours, map, menu, contact/social, email list, mobile version. No Flash. No PDFs.

KNOWN ISSUES: (a) can add menu items but not edit/del. (b) additional settings (mainly domain mapping) are turned off (c) if you're editing colors, make sure to scroll to the top of the page, (d) many others

FEEDBACK WELCOME: I have tough skin. Also, I know much of the design is average. I have a better designer already working on updates.

GOOD NEWS: I started a small AdWords campaign Tuesday ($15/day). 3 restaurants have signed up so far. Also have a handful of local establishments working on sites.

ROADMAP: (1) bug fixes/known issues, (2) embedded twitter feed for food trucks, (3) sell your own Groupons with PayPal (and keep the money yourself!)


WANT A T-SHIRT? Give me some really awesome, non-obvious feedback OR make a site for your favorite local restaurant. I'm doing a run of shirts soon. I will send you one.

Disclaimer: I hate you. Restaurant sites are my cash cow, so anything that gets in the way of that receives my rage.

Feedback: Your site looks unpolished. You disclaimed as much; I'm just confirming.

Concept is solid. And it sets you up for a premium model with additional features. Your menu handling looks interesting; it is a challenge I face with clients that we usually solve by embracing the devil and publishing a PDF. Grr. However I am going to be doing something very similar to what you have going on.

Your feature set and layouts/design/default copy are pretty solid. Covers the basics. Events is the piece I end up doing on all my clients' sites. Typically a simple event feature (like your menu editor) suffices. Event name, description, date, time.

For a restaurant site, I don't see a link to #top or home on your nav bar which would be handy.

The editor is nice. I like how it moves to the section you're editing and the ajax update is uber handy.

No clean way to exit the editor and go back to the admin dashboard. And now that I'm logged out I can't seem to log back in. No confirmation email either.

Would be handy to let the visitor print out the menu I think . Analytics needs to be there. If you could rig up page views and some simple actions (e.g. your menu was printed x number of times). throw in some widget like AddThis and you're good to go without tons of dev.

Crap. Nice work. Good thing your domain name stinks and is easily forgotten or else I'd be in trouble.

* I personally think your domain is somewhat subpar. If you owned cilantro.com, it would be incredibly brandable. CilantroSites.com is a bit awkward and long.

* I was actually pleasantly surprised by your design. Sold me, and I am usually pretty critical of many start-up designs.

* I tried to click on the picture above "take a tour". It didn't do anything. I assumed it would start a lightbox gallery or something.

* "Take a tour" didn't look like a button, and that entire line should be centered under the photo.

* I was scanning the page for the word "Demo" to see some sort of demo, but there wasn't one.

* Nice job emphasizing that the sites "Work on iPhones and smart phones." That is a big deal, and many restaurant sites are not compliant, or load very awkwardly on mobile.

* The resultant url is pretty ugly. Why doesn't it have the name of the restaurant in the url? http://cilantro-92.clnt.me/

Overall, pretty impressive! 8/10.

I think the urls need to look nicer if you want this go more widescale. clnt.me? Not sure about that.

Out of curiosity, how are you planning on monetizing?

Thanks for all the feedback. Email me your address.

>> I personally think your domain is somewhat subpar. If you owned cilantro.com, it would be incredibly brandable. CilantroSites.com is a bit awkward and long.

Yeah, I don't love it but I'm not trying to get too hung up on it for the time being. I own CILANTRO.ME as well and CLNT.ME is just intended for short URLs.

>> Out of curiosity, how are you planning on monetizing?

a. monthly fee for premium sites (multiple menus/locations) b. other plans in the works

Just FYI, and maybe it's just me, but CLNT.ME looks way too close to an inappropriate word.

Agree. Even lower case. If it is suppose to look like an abbreviation of cilantro I'd be wary of using it.

Even lower case?

I'm also currently working on a similar idea in a completely different space, and I don't really think the URL matters so much. The idea is that the site is going to be under the URL of the restaurant itself (AFAICT, and I'm also assuming), so the service domain is really just a footer link and an item line on a subscription transaction.

At least that's my take on the strong way about this idea: cilantrosites.com might have a directory of their customers or something, but by far the main entry point will be through a link to the restaurant itself on Yelp or wherever. Worrying about the look of cilantrosites.com/bobs_pizza is probably a premature optimization.

This is really great. I've seen a lot of discussion around this problem but no one doing anything about it.

Minor feedback below.

1. Make the "Take the tour" button bigger. Rather than "get started" I wanted to poke around a little more and find out what you were doing.

2. Interrogate all of your copy. "Easy HTML Menus" means nothing to an LCD restauranteur. "PDF menus annoy your visitors. Cilantro lets you build and edit menus really fast" doesn't sell the reason this is great much better. PDF's take time to download, show your menu to your customers instantly.

3. Change your pricing Create three prices. Free, medium and expensive. Use one of these http://codecanyon.net/category/css/pricing-tables to make it easy to read and compare plans. I think you could have a $10/m plan that allowed you to put your menu on FB that no one would bat an eyelid at. A $30/m plan for multi-location which also gave you a FB like-gate.

If your designer doesn't work out drop me a line, I'd love to help out.

I like the approach of your project. I love cooking as a hobby and had been researching tons of websites from restaurants, food and wine products. That market has a huge opportunity but we need to focus in the details, in inspiring those restaurants about the web and good practices.

Much has been written about flash websites and how chefs want to do a show in their website. And now with social media they're happier having likes and tweets than something handsome.

About the website, my main critic is about the landing page. It's missing more magic. And I know that this could be very generic, but Cilantro is something amazing, something magic that you add to your recipes when they need that extra ingredient to be perfect. You need to get that love for Cilantro and show it in the website.

In fact, all the contents above the fold don't captivate. But when you go down to the gray area, I like the design better. Even when that's something that compliments the website. You need amazing examples, you need metrics. Teach restaurants about web metrics, about a A/B. Unbounced is trying for the rest of us, somebody could start doing niche markets.

Great project!

Great job - feels really good.

One thing... *.clnt.me doesn't really say anything to me.

Part of the reason that many jumped to adopt about.me was the domain name, it made sense.

I note your company "2 Tablespoons" - that sounds better to me than "clnt.me" which, at first glance looks a bit weird.

I'm sure with a bit of thought and a site like domai.nr you can come up with a better domain hack for your user pages.

Best of luck with it!

The gadget I would love to see on restaurant webpages: An red/green-indicator whether the restaurant is open _right now_ (And for how long, or how long until it opens.)

On the one hand that's a simple javascript when the opening times are machine readable, on the other hand handling holiday days would require manual intervention.

Reliable opening times are the holy grail of any business or directory listing. But in practice it's really hard to do reliably. The best you can do really is just list normal opening times + include the "closed on xmas day, bnk holidays" caveat, and let people figure out for themselves whether the store is open or not.

Else you risk telling people you're closed when you're not, or vice versa.

If you need to support your case (and convince restaurant owners that their current websites suck), you might wanna link to this: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/restaurant_website

clickable link: http://cilantrosites.com

sample site in case you don't want to make one: http://cilantro-92.clnt.me

If you make a site and need me to delete it, email me.

It would be nice to see a link to a sample site in the homepage (the screenshot works... but I want to see it in action). I got the idea, but I want to see how the site could look like without having to create one.

I would reiterate what some of the others have said, esp about the name. There has got to be something else out there. As for the plans one of the premium benefits could be that you input the menu items at least initially up to X amt or something like that because the people who will be willing to pay may not have the patience to input the items.

The simplicity is really good. Intuitive nav bar names would be helpful. And I don't think the 5 locations is really a selling point for most small businesses. Defnitely a great idea and if you need any help with marketing/social media I'd help.

I can see why you'd put the page for the same restaurant all across the tour—but if you're really going for the "about.me for restaurants" pitch, then you should be selling (and hence showing) a wide variety of designs, to show off your the flexibility of your service. A huge part of why about.me is what it is, is its simple, elegant way of making each page unique.

But really. Nice job! :-)

Hey, that's a really great point. Thanks. Email me your address and I'll send you a shirt.

Love the idea, few things that stuck out to me:

1) Logo text is a link to hompeage, but the image is not - I kept trying to click the image

2) Login link doesn't quite fit the design, needs a bit more pop

3) Plan comparison page doesn't do a good job of selling me on the paid version - something like a comparison table that makes the benefits of the paid version more obvious, or highlight of the additional features would be better. The simple lists of features you have for each plan type now doesn't cut it.

4)The tour is good, but a link to the live site in the tour (or another live site, maybe your first few customers?) wold be nice so I can actually see a live one in action.

5)An offer to sweeten your paid plans (or an additional package) would be to submit the restaurants to places like yelp, urbanspoon, yahoo directory, etc so they can get inbound links across the web and their page can be more discoverable.

LOVE the idea though, and the design rocks. Simple is better in this case. Good luck with Cilantro!

Did you see "Why are restaurant websites so horrifically bad?" http://www.slate.com/id/2301228/. I wonder if this is a market that actually wants nice single-page websites.

I did see it. My hunch is that they are coming around already (or will soon). I think mobile is driving that somewhat.

You might actually have more success with restaurants without the budget for crappy Flash-heavy sites, who just want to get on the Internet in the first place. Yes, there are still a lot of those. Make it easy for them and carve out a niche you can use to get started.

Looks great!

Here's some of my thoughts:

- Sign-ups might feel a bit lengthy for non-technically savvy people, maybe just allow them to put in their Restaurant Name, their name, and an email, and give them a pre-made page where they could add/edit all their information

- There's a mailing list option? How does that work? Will I be able to push updates to anyone who signs up?

- You might be able to make a more restrictive way to input restaurant hours; being able to put in hours freely is great but doesn't give me a format to use

- It's been mentioned already, but the URL IS really ugly

Overall, plenty of work to do, but you've made a fantastic start. Happy to give you more feedback if you like, let me know. :)

It seems like the dishes are just Name/Desc/Price, so I'd encourage you to have different structures. Pizza, for instance, is more like a table of sizes and ingredients, a diner might have a bunch of dishes that each have a choice of the same side dishes. Stuff like that. Make it easy for a restaurant owner to figure out.

Start collecting takeout menus and writing the site so that you can reproduce all of them. Optionally, approach these restaurants and see if any of them are interested in learning how to use it in exchange for it being free for awhile/forever. I hope it takes off!

I agree the menu management needs to support lists/tables, but I'm also wary of too many controls/options.

I've been pretty successful doing other niche websites and one thing I've notice is that, if you're not careful: CONTROL ∝ 1/EASE. I will try to work out a good balance but I'm being very mindful of not confusing people and/or causing a lot of support tickets.

Absolutely! However, having different menu-type modules will drastically increase the number of restaurants that can make use of your site. :)

You can make a narrative of the types, too. "A bunch of separate dishes," "a bunch of combinations of ingredients," "a bunch of dishes with the same optional choices," etc. There's probably some restaurant-specific jargon you can employ here to make it easier for your forthcoming customers if you talk to some managers or servers.

Lovely, I really hope this takes off for you. Small nit to pick - if you're going to use hash fragments for separate parts of the page, then they should also be bookmarkable AND back-button friendly.


Congratulations! I also was frustrated enough with restaurant websites , but specifically on phones, but knowing that a lot of restaurants can't afford to rebuild or even update of mobile, I built http://menuito.com to help fix it.

We have really different approaches (hosted vs self hosted, control over looks vs needs a designed theme) but we're both trying to make something bad better. Best of luck!

Hey that looks really nice. I've actually done your exact business model for photography sites and made a pretty good chunk of change.

Nice! Photography sites came up during the product visioning as ones that suffer many of the same problems as restaurant sites, it's good to know something has happened in that area. Can I ask how you approached selling it? I'm still going one by one but also seeing interest from web developers looking to re-sell as part of their ongoing relationship with restaurant clients, which I want to support better.

Well, we do all sorts of websites for different types of photographers (see my profile for links) so we had an existing client base and a pretty good audience in the industry in general.

When the iPhone first came out, I jumped on it and created some simple pages/scripts that could be uploaded (along with some directions for detection/redirection). We sold a good amount of those for $79.

Now we just offer them as part of our overall website offering (and it's a full web app similar to cilantro here).

I like that you moved early on it. I was pretty hesitant before jumping in to build Menuito and wish I did it a year earlier, but isn't that often the way :)

I like the idea, but I'd love to see links to more sample sites. Some minor feedback:

Only 12 menu items with the free plan? That makes the feature totally useless no?

I'd think that if you allow one menu, it should be one complete menu.

Also think about allowing other ways to get the menu, such as via a menu site (menu-pages link), or by uploading a pdf (I know it's horrid)

I really like the idea but I think the premium plan is too expensive. Those who would want these are restaurants that cannot afford its website because of money, time or both.

This maybe a temporary solution for restaurants while they wait to build their own.

There are services like Letseat.at & GrabMyTable that has more features and cheaper price.

I disagree; I think the free plan is too cheap. The free plan seems to offer almost everything most restaurants would need. Why would they move to the premium plan? It offers more locations and menus which is probably only relevant if you're a chain.

It's a good service, so why would you not charge money for it? My guess is most restaurant owners would be happy to pay for a good website without the hassle.

My point is relative to what the competitors are offering. It's not cheap.

Funny, I actually had the premium plan at $9/mo. I've been trying to recruit some advisors and network on AngelList, and a couple people told me to raise the price.

It's easier to lower prices than raise them.

You have to remember what they pay for other technological services like Point of Sale and such -- Hint: it's a lot more than $19/month. ;)

Are you really set on keeping it a single page site? I can understand the simplicity of it but if you know small business men, they want ease of use and a lot of control too.

I can see some scenarios like showing decor, pictures for each menu item, banquet hall facilities etc where they would want more than a single page.

I think this is great. I was able to, half drunk. Setup a website for a fictional burger shop in a Podunk town in Wisconsin. With no forced registration.

I think you have a promising product here and the experience is tight enough that with solid marketing, smaller restaurants will flock to this.

"There's absolutely no risk and it's completely free to get started."

IMO, That sentence is too verbose, especially with the title above it. Since 'Risk' is in the title, I would change it to: "(It's free!)"

I love it! But your roadmap doesn't include a reservation system? Isn't that like priority #2 after the address/opening hours info?

Reservations are tricky with restaurants. Many of them have bought into Open Table or Urban Spoon, and with Open Table many of them feel trapped in something unaffordable. The market for reservations is currently owned by strong incumbents, and the customer is wary of giving away control of a key aspect of their business.

Why don't you integrate an order system and for those not checking for orders add SMS notifications from Twilio

once you click on one of the navigation links, theres no way to get to the top quickly other than scrolling. Should have a top link

Why free?

This is awesome. Link this to an easy way for restaurant goers to sign up for a mailing list, and I think restaurant owners will sign up for this kinda service. Great great idea that actually solves a problem. Let me know if you need any help marketing this.

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