There really isn't a "right or wrong" answer to whether you should build an app for your restaurant. It's very situational and depends on a variety of factors. Here are a few that will help determine if an app is necessary for your restaurant.
Number of Locations
The number of locations will play a large part in whether you should build an app for your restaurant. Try to think of any major restaurant chain that doesn't have an app. It's pretty hard to do that, right?
However, if you only have a few locations, or even just one, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't make one. You want to make sure that the app makes sense to have with such a small location.
Your budget will also determine whether you should build an app. Think of it this way, you want every aspect of your restaurant to be high quality, including any apps or loyalty programs you have. This usually means having to spend a decent amount of money to hire the right people and get it going. An app for your restaurant can benefit you if done right, but if you build a low-quality app then it won't benefit you at all.
It's also not recommended that you build the app yourself. If you have the education and background to do so, then that's great. But the majority of people don't have all the resources themselves to build an app from scratch.
If you have the budget to build an app for your restaurant, there are many routes you can take to get the project done. You can start by looking for Freelancers who have experience in this field. Or, you can hire an agency that specializes in creating and launching apps for companies.
Be sure if you're hiring someone to help that you look at their work experience and try to see samples of ones they've previously built.
If you build an app for your restaurant you need it to be functional. Consider ing that we're already so close to 2020, apps these days are quite advanced and serve a variety of purposes. So, start by thinking about what features it's going to have.
You'll also want to ensure that the features you do have aren't outdated. Try doing some research on what restaurant apps have these days. To get you started, we're gonna look at a few examples:
Our first example is Chili’s. Their biggest feature is being able to place online orders for pickup. Most restaurants typically build apps for this purpose, and will also add their loyalty program if it's an all-in-one platform.
You can also check your reward point levels and reorder previous orders.
Our next example is Texas Roadhouse. Some of their biggest features are being able to request a wait time or "check-in" to ensure you get a table before you're even at the restaurant. This is a pretty neat feature that extends well beyond being able to just place online orders.
Our last example is Starbucks. I can say personally from experience that Starbucks has always had a very functional app. You can use it to pay for orders at the store, hold virtual gift cards, place orders, and track rewards. Loyal Starbucks customers use this app like nobody's business.
You want to determine the actual purpose of your app. This might seem fairly obvious but it goes hand-in-hand with the functionality part of it. Think about what you want your customers to gain from using your app. Can they place orders, read a menu, reserve a table, and more? If you say yes to any of those, then an app would be worth it.
If you plan on using an app strictly for a loyalty program, you're going to waste your money. There are many free loyalty programs that come with beautiful, and professionally designed app layouts. Not only that, but they come with customer support and don't cost thousands of dollars to create.
If you're going to build an app, it's in your best interest to "go big" with it. I mean this in the features you provide and what your customers can gain from it. You want them to think that by having your app, they're in some secret club that normal customers aren't in.
Like I said previously, you do have another option aside from building an app from scratch. This is mainly for restaurant owners who don't have a large budget or multiple locations. You can use a loyalty program that comes with the features you need. The good news is there are a lot of free programs that come with more than paid ones do.
They're great for tracking rewards and staying up to date with your customers. A lot of them also come with great customer insight that will be helpful for growing your business. Before picking a loyalty program, do your research and find one that fits your needs and budget.
Why You Should Have an App
If you're still on the fence as to whether it makes sense to have an app, here are two main reasons why restaurants should have an app.
One of the biggest KPI's for restaurants is the amount of customers served each day. Not only is it a good indicator for popularity, but it also helps you track growth. Now let's think about how easy it is for people to make reservations or online orders at your restaurant. Do they have to call a specific phone number and hope that someone answers? Or do they not even have the option to do this?
Giving customers the option to make reservations or place orders online will help with your restaurant growth. Between 2013 and 2106, the number of people not making any voice calls in a given week increased from 4% to more than 30%. By providing a way for customers to avoid having to make a call, you'll see more people coming to your restaurant.
Think of the amount of calls you might get on a holiday weekend or approaching a holiday weekend. You're probably getting calls from people asking if you're open or what the hours are. Imagine if you could eliminate most of those by having an app that answers all your customer's questions.
Convenience is one of the best qualities to have as a restaurant, and I don't mean you have to serve fast food. Having an app with location information, hours, phone numbers, menus, online ordering, and table reservations is going to set you a part from your competition.
Overall, an app for your restaurant can serve many purposes depending on each individual situation. If you have a busy or multiple locations, consider building an app. If you have only one location and a small budget, a loyalty program is a great start.