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"Restaurant Wars" comes to Manchester

Last night Manchester was buzzing with the news that two of city’s restaurants were on the BBC2 programme “Restaurant Wars”. The programme showed the competition between these two world class restaurants as Simon Rogan’s “The French” restaurant based in the Midland Hotel near our Manchester Office “squared up” with Aiden Byrne’s “Manchester House” in Spinningfields.

Both restaurants have received great accolades from local and national restaurant critics and surely it’s only a matter of time before one or both of them win a coveted Michelin star for Manchester.

Since the competition between these restaurants seems fierce, I decided to see how their websites compared to each other.

I used our WebPageTest tool to request the home page of each restaurant’s website three times and calculated the median response times.

  The French Manchester House
Platform IIS 7 Apache / Wordpress 3.5
IP Address 92.48.119.157 94.136.40.103
Hosting provider (info from MaxMind) WebFusion Simply Transit
TTFB (Time to First Byte) 0.031 s 1.248 s
Start Render 1.053 s 4.315 s
Fully Loaded 1.681 s 5.41 s
Page size  759 KB 1890 KB
Requests 28 58
3rd party links 4 10

It is immediately apparent that “The French” has a much faster site that “Manchester House”. Their IIS hosted web page is almost fully downloaded before the “Manchester House” Apache/WordPress server starts to send traffic to the browser. (Time to First Byte). This is often the case with sites hosting dynamic content, because when your browser makes a request, the webserver has to open local include files, make a connection to the back-end database, parse the results, and only then, send back the final HTML document, all of this takes time and contention with other sites on the same shared host can add to the delay.

As well as this, it is worth noting that "The French" has a number of other advantages that all contribute to a faster experience for visitors. Fewer third party links for example as well as fewer HTTP requests to construct the page and a smaller overall page size.

To help diagnose performance of a server suffering from poor time to first byte it makes sense to look at these performance metrics.

  • Disk I/O
  • Paging / swap file usage
  • RAM usage
  • Network Bottlenecks

Assuming that these counters don’t demonstrate a problem with the availability of hardware resources, the next step for Manchester House would be to check the following settings and look for areas where performance can be improved.

It's fair to say that these restaurants aren't online businesses and don't trade online so these metrics are unlikely to affect their profitability or number of customers as they do on retail sites. Having said that, as my Dad always says, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" and speed matters.

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