Looking not so far back to the lockdown times, many restaurants wouldn’t have survived if they didn’t extend their services via digital platforms and apps. Nowadays, when the business is back to “normal,” many restaurants have realized that dedicated restaurant apps can help them remain operational during challenging times and build a more effective business and deliver a superior guest experience.
The app development for a restaurant is not only for big chain players—entirely on the contrary. Every restaurant, be it big or small, can create an app that will serve as the backbone of its successful business. Here’s how.
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Why do restaurants need mobile apps?
As statistics show, 67% of consumers prefer to use a restaurant’s own app or website for food delivery in the United States. The remaining 33% preferred using another method, such as third-party apps or websites.
Why is that? The main reason is that dedicated restaurant mobile apps allow customers to engage with their favorite restaurants from anywhere.
Additionally, they increase customer satisfaction by offering easy-to-use mobile ordering and a fully-optimized digital restaurant experience. All of these, in turn, improve customer lifetime value and a restaurant’s profitability.
The bottom line is that app development for a restaurant benefits both the restaurant and the customers. Below, you will find the main benefits a restaurant can get from developing an app for their businesses.
Increased customer experience and loyalty
A dedicated restaurant app builds a better and more coherent customer experience. Think of it as an extension of your business where the customers get a similar look and feel as they would in your physical restaurant. They also get quick access to menus, and vital information like opening hours, delivery and payment options, etc.
If you add features like personalized discounts, promotions, and rewards, you can increase customer loyalty and their lifetime value.
Shorter wait time and convenient payments
Cashless payments are growing in popularity. This form of payment is widespread in many countries, and the volume of transactions has increased significantly over time. Apps developed for restaurants with cashless payment options and pre-ordering features can dramatically increase orders.
That is because you minimize the time your customers would need to spend in your restaurant while waiting for their food to be prepared. And if you offer multiple payment methods, you speed up the process and increase customer satisfaction.
Collecting reviews and building social proof
App development for restaurants enables businesses to ask for feedback from their customers or even field experts. Reviews help to reach a wider online audience and build reputation and trust in potential customers. These reviews can, later on, be shared on social media platforms by restaurants or customers themselves.
Furthermore, you might go one step further, and instead of rating the restaurant, you could also ask them to review the dishes they ordered and share photos.
Key features to consider during custom app development for restaurants
Undoubtedly, restaurant apps offer many benefits. But to reap them, you will need to consider what kind of features you want to provide to your customers in the first place. Consequently, the process of restaurant mobile app development can be approached in many different ways depending on the purpose you want to serve. So let’s take a look at the essential elements you may wish to include in your restaurant app.
As we mentioned, by letting your customers pre-order their food, you can slash the queues and wait time. Not to mention that you are giving a chance to grab food to hungry customers short on time. Therefore, the the-preorder feature is a must for restaurant owners who want their businesses to generate more income and meet their customers’ needs.
2. Advanced payment
If you want customers to buy, you also need to let them pay. Your app does not need to support every possible payment option, but a few most popular ones in your country will do. And if your place is popular with groups, you may also want to add the possibility of splitting the check. This way, you take away the hassle of breaking down the costs by a group of friends or co-workers. The more convenience for customers, the better!
3. Interactive food menu
Restaurants are about delighting the customers with the food they love. And if they cannot pick the dish in person, the app should allow them to do it quickly. This feature will require you to think about the filtering options, food categories, ingredients, and of course—taking stunning photos.
As for the regulars, they will appreciate the possibility of saving their favorite meals, which they can later order again with a single click.
4. Table reservations
Table reservations are yet another critical feature for a restaurant app. It makes the reservation process so simple and quick that even users who are in a hurry can do it on the go. The table reservation feature typically allows customers to select a table, pick a date and time, check availability, and cancel/edit the reservation details.
5. Food delivery
If your restaurant offers food delivery, then your app could help you streamline this process. Features like order tracking and push notifications can support your coordination efforts between customers and the delivery team, and ultimately improve your delivery services.
6. Referral and loyalty programs
Referral and loyalty programs are effective methods to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Customers who enjoy your food and services will feel appreciated for receiving personalized discounts (or other incentives) and more eager to invite others to try your food. The app developer can add different incentives, such as discounts, seasonal offers, bonus money, extra dishes, etc.
7. Ratings and reviews
Reviews are very sought-after by customers nowadays. After all, nobody wants to end up dissatisfied or food-poisoned after one eat-out trip. On the other hand, reviews are essential for restaurants, as well. They can encourage or discourage new customers from choosing your restaurant out of several others in the vicinity. They also point out flaws in your services that you could not have been aware of.
Also, by letting your users rate the food they ordered, you get valuable insights into what food your customers prefer and fine-tune your menu (and promos).
8. Push notifications
This feature is critical for services like food delivery or promotional campaigns. Push notifications are also effective for reminding customers about upcoming table reservations. Moreover, they are a great way to inform users about any significant events impacting your services, like holidays or changes in opening hours.
A step-by-step process to build a robust restaurant app
In general, a mobile app development process is a fairly complex process that involves more activities than just writing code. For that reason, a software development lifecycle is broken down into several stages, and mobile app development for restaurants is no exception. So let’s go ahead and outline the major steps your future restaurant application will go through until it successfully reaches your users’ devices.
Step 1: Conduct market research
This is arguably one of the most crucial steps in the whole app development for restaurants process. First of all, you need to carry out in-depth research to find out your primary target audience. The research could also reveal that a mobile app has the potential to attract customers from social groups or locations that otherwise would remain out of your reach.
Furthermore, apart from the audience, you should also analyze the demand and supply for your services and find out your target users’ pain points and how your app can help solve them.
Step 2: Build a business strategy and define its goals
This step boils down to one question: What do you want to achieve with your restaurant app? These would be your business goals. And when you answer that question, you need to think about how your want to achieve and where your restaurant fits in.
What kind of goals should you define? Aim to define them as SMART. In general, SMART goals mean you can clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving what you want for your business.
In detail, SMART goals are
- Specific (or Simple).
- Measurable (or Meaningful).
- Achievable (or Attainable).
- Relevant (or Realistic).
- Time-bound (or Time-based).
Step 3: Choose an app development company
By now, you know who you want to target (audience) and why (pain points, business goals). It is time to turn an idea into a digital product by finding a dedicated software development team.
Finding a credible and experienced software development company is the key to success. Therefore, check the company’s portfolio and website when conducting your research. And in line with what we discussed about the reviews earlier, you may also want to check your potential partner’s rating and reviews.
Are you looking to hire a reliable development team but unsure about offshore software development companies?
Take a look at the Offshore Software Development: Everything You Need To Know article to understand this business practice better.
Related: Benefits and Risks of Outsourcing Software Development
Step 4: Identify main app functionalities
At this stage, you need to think carefully about what features you want it to include. The goal of these features is to support the goals you have defined in the previous step. For example, if you want to reach customers located several miles away from you, the app should be able to process food selection, orders, payments, and delivery.
A professional software development agency will help you to decide on the functionalities once it learns your business goals and expectations.
Step 5: Support the design stage
The main task of a good restaurant app is to solve particular problems with features supporting your business goals. But it does not mean it cannot look great. Furthermore, keeping a good customer experience in mind, your restaurant app should offer a seamless user experience and uncluttered design.
Does it mean you are going to design the app by yourself? Absolutely not! A software development team also consists of UI and UX designers who will turn your vision into a perfect visual app experience. They will also ensure that your app is usable, user-friendly, and above all—truly embodies the spirit of your restaurant and the food you offer.
Step 6: Choose a mobile platform
Currently, there are two leading mobile platforms: Android and iOS. What it means for your restaurant app development process is that you face three options. First, you can opt for native app development and pick only one of these two. The consequence would be losing customers who use devices running on a system that would not be compatible with your app. Second, you could develop two separate native apps for each platform. The downside of this option is a much higher total development cost (since it involves hiring two teams using different tech stacks). And third, you can develop a hybrid mobile app that runs on Android and iOS systems.
Neither option is right or wrong—it all comes down to your business needs and goals. If you are in doubt, you can ask our consultant to help you figure out the best option for you.
Step 7: Build and evaluate (a few chunks at a time)
Now is the time to start the very app development process that involves programming the visual and logic layers of your app. Software development is an iterative Agile development process, which means you will get small chunks of your app for evaluation. This way, you will always be up-to-date with the development status of your app without having to worry about receiving a final product that does not meet your expectations.
Step 8: Test and deploy
Before your restaurant hits the app stores to win the hearts of your users, your software development partner will run several different tests to ensure it is free of bugs and works as intended.
At this stage, Quality Assurance (QA) engineers thoroughly check the software in different use-case scenarios aiming to examine, among many others, app performance and security.
When the testing phase is complete, and the app gets a green light, it can be deployed to the respective app stores so that your future users can download and install it.
Step 9: Promote and collect feedback
Your app is ready, and it cannot wait to support your restaurant.
If you have not initiated your marketing strategy by now, it is time to do it. Spread the word about your new app through all relevant marketing channels, including social media, your website (content), and influencers (YouTube, Instagram).
But that is not everything. The best mobile apps are not built in one go. Just like the food or menu you offer in your restaurant is the outcome of years of refinements, the same goes for software—they become the best versions of themselves over time.
Therefore, keep an eye on your customer feedback and apply improvements to ensure your app is the product your customers want to use. Perhaps they have great ideas on new functionalities or suggestions regarding some of your app elements? You never know until you read about what users write about your application.
Step 10: Post-deployment maintenance and support
The role of your software development partner has not ended yet.
Software development is an ongoing process that can go on for a longer time. First of all, you surely would like to implement the changes and improvements based on customer feedback. Then, release the new version of your restaurant app and analyze the customer feedback again. And second, your app will also need to have the latest security protocols and stay compatible with mobile platform updates.
How much does it cost to make an app for a restaurant?
The cost of restaurant app development will vary due to several factors, such as the number and complexity of features you want to include.
Typically small restaurant app development costs $1,000 to $10,000. Medium restaurants that need app features such as online food delivery could expect the price to be between $2,000 and $20,000. And finally, app development for a big multinational restaurant chain costs around $10,000 to $50,000.
The bottom line is that there is no universal price for software development. But you can reduce it by outsourcing the development services to one of the top countries for IT outsourcing, such as Ukraine.
How long does it take to develop an app for a restaurant?
The average time to develop an app is around 3 – 6 months.
There are many essential parts in the development process, starting with the business analysis and ending with app deployment. Each of these parts is essential to ensure the high quality of the end product.
Furthermore, the size and complexity of the project also play a key role in time estimation. Therefore, app development for a restaurant that needs a variety of advanced features will take longer than a development of an app meant to serve only a basic purpose.
And finally, the responsiveness from your side as the customer can also impact the final development time. Although you will not be designing or coding your app, your feedback and input are crucial throughout the development process.
Restaurant app development can be a long and complicated journey, especially if you are not sure about your app’s role in your overall business strategy, who your target users are, and what features would be the best to pick. But the good news is that it takes a team of dedicated professionals to build a robust and reliable restaurant app. You can always reach out to a professional software development company to help hit the ground running.
At IDAP, we support our clients at every step of their journey, starting with product ideation and ending with post-deployment maintenance. If you want to build an app for your restaurant, contact us to fulfill your vision.