Cooking up business Featured

10:06am EDT July 22, 2002

When a customer calls Bexley's Monk to request a menu, staff members ask whether the caller has Internet access.

That's because owner Steve Gifford is one of a growing number of restaurateurs reaching customers through cyberspace.

For less than $100 a month, Gifford links his Web site to MenuColumbus, where visitors can access menus, hours and maps of nearly 60 area restaurants, and to Savvy Diner, where customers can make a reservation. Hits to Gifford's site-www.bexleymonk.com-have grown from 500 a month nearly two years ago to about 2,500.

"We don't really do any advertising, so it was a really economical avenue for us to become involved in something that everybody's talking about right now," Gifford says.

Eric Shinn, co-owner of MenuColumbus, says his site - www.menucolumbus.com - gets more than 10,000 hits per month, many targeted for The FiftyFive Restaurant Group Ltd. He requires restaurants to post menus and prices either through a hot link or directly on the MenuColumbus site.

"For out-of-town people, it's really a nice service I would think," says Sandra Losco, assistant manager of The Refectory, whose site is maintained by MenuColumbus. "I would love to have it linked with travel agents and things like that. That's all in good time, I imagine."