So you’re a restauranteur, eh? Well if you are, then you know of the joy that food brings to people. That wide smile he gives when the heaven-sent waiter brings his order to his table. That gleam in their eyes when they finally make it to the front of the take-out line to put in their order and that burst of glee on their faces when the cashier announces their names on the speaker. You just can’t beat it, can you? It is needless to say that food brings people happiness. Period. And that is the reason why restaurants with excellent service, a mouth-watering menu and skilled cooks are always in demand.
But, it doesn’t matter how great of a business you and your restaurant are doing, you might have noticed a sudden decline in the number of customers recently. The reason is clear, there is nothing wrong with your food or services don’t worry, but you do have one shortcoming which is costing you heavily, that is, not having a smartphone app.
In the smartphone generation when everything is required to be mobile and users are now more concerned about their comfort than ever before, there is an app for pretty much everything. From ordering a cab to booking a haircut, there is no end to the list. And nowadays not having a smartphone app for your restaurant portrays you as an out-dated business in the eyes of your customers, which is just a marketing disaster.
Now at first, you might be reluctant with the concept; you might be thinking of ROI, and the profit might not seem big enough to justify the hassle. But believe us, having a mobile app will only escalate your yearly turnover. Dominoes, after releasing its app in 2015, saw a sales hike of 19%! And Tacobell reported that when a customer placed an order using their app, it was 20% bigger than face-to-face order. These numbers don’t lie; smartphone app development might just be what your business needs to retain its dominance over its competitors. So today, we will see how you can develop a great mobile app for your restaurant.
Before you go jumping into the mobile app development game, you first need to have a good idea about the whole landscape. You need to update your knowledge base regarding the market scenario; you need to find out customer sentiments towards these apps, you need to prepare yourself for the arduous and perpetual battle of mobile app development. And sound research will work as your armor and your weapon.
The first thing you should do is research your competitors; find out what they are doing with their apps. This will have two key benefits- one will be that you’ll get to know what are the things about their app that the customers are liking. And the other one will be that you’ll find out the problems with their apps and you will be able to avoid them with yours. Studying your competitors’ apps and their business modules will give you a basic idea about the kind of app you need to make.
Then you need to research your customers and get their inputs on the matter. This phase will require you to conduct face-to-face interviews and carry out polls as well. They will be able to tell you first hand about the things which lure them towards an app and things that turn them away. This valuable knowledge will help you out in further developing your app’s sketch.
Then comes the matter of Trend Research. This is a particularly crucial phase in the app development process. The reason behind it is that trends are fickle and they can change overnight. Furthermore, people are always drawn towards these trends, they give them an exhilaration, and they will do anything for it. So when you are developing an app, you need to do so according to the currently hot app trends. Try to find out the most in-demand features and other such app elements which you can adopt in your app to make it more modern.
Market research is an extensive phase, and apart from the phases mentioned above, it will also require you to research various technologies, smartphone platforms, and mobile app developers as well.
Android or iOS
Normally, we put this section in the bottom two points, but for this article only, it needs to be a bit higher in the order. Most people wonder, especially small businesses with strict budgets, that which smartphone platform they should target first- Android or iOS?
The answer is both! At least for a customer-side app. The reason is you cannot restrict your customers to just one platform; some might use iOS and some Android, it is their choice. And because you are developing an app to increase your customer base- which contains both iOS and Android users- it will just be stupid to alienate one of the groups and lose their business. The reason to develop this app is to increase your business.
But what if you can’t afford to develop an app for both platforms? The answer is, you don’t develop a complete app in the beginning. What you do is you release an MVP instead of a full app. A Minimum Viable Product is basically the most basic form of your app with only a handful of features. It is not the end product, what you do is you release an MVP in the market, and then you keep adding features to it with time. It will have multiple benefits.
The first one is naturally, lower development price. Once you get your MVP developed, you can get it updated and enhanced with your convenience and when your pocket permits it. The second prominent benefit of releasing an MVP is customer feedback. An MVP is always easier to tweak than a full app. The reason is a sparser architecture with fewer crisscrossing strings. So according to the customer reviews, you can change things about your app and turn it into a product your customers will love and cherish.
But what if you can’t even afford to develop two MVPs either? Do you give up? Well, you don’t have to. To solve this problem, what you need is a Hybrid app. Hybrid app development exists specifically for people who don’t want to, or can’t, conduct an app development process more than once. Hybrid apps, developed using React Native, Ionic and other such architectures, are developed only once and work on both Android and iOS platforms. So if your pocket doesn’t permit you to get two MVPs developed separately, then you can get one developed for both.
According to our experts here at Matellio, an MVP developed for a restaurant in React Native can cost somewhere between $6,000-$10,000. But it is to be noted that this is just for a customer-side app with an elementary feature list- Making online reservations and Checking Menus.
But if you want to create a good MVP which can reel in more customers for you, then you need to have a set of crucial features which we have listed below.
1. Making Reservations
If you are one of those big restaurants with posh clientele, then you have a strict-reservations-only rule. In that case, this first feature is necessary for your app. Your app should let your customers check for reservations and make them if there are any seats available. You can add a seat map of your restaurant in the app as well and mark the empty ones and reserved ones, and then let your customers pick their tables as well. This takes away the effort they need to make in making a reservation over the call. Remember, people always want things to be more simple.
2. Checking Menus
You need to have a beautifully created digital menu for your restaurant’s app. It must be adequately fractured into different sections based on cuisine types. It should also have numerous filters and a search bar to make browsing through your app easier.
This feature can work as the crown jewel of your app’s feature-list. The concept is, using your app, a customer picks what he wants to eat and then places the order, which is to be served to him when he gets to your restaurant. This feature is wildly popular among people who hate to wait for their order to arrive in restaurants. This takes away the waiting part and leaves only smiles.
4. Ordering Take-Outs in Advance
Customers never get tired of complaining about take-out lines, and they are right to do so, too. No one likes to stand in a line. So this feature allows your customers to make a take-out order beforehand. So when they get to the take-out counter, it is already there, waiting for them. Or if you’re an indoor restaurant, then all your customer has to do is walk up to the cashier and tell him about his order, it would be waiting for him there. This takes away a substantial amount of hassle from the entire take-out process and is one of the must-have features on the list.
5. Home Delivery
What is better than going to your favorite restaurant and having your favorite dish waiting there for you to devour it? Having that dish delivered to your house. In recent times, the home-delivery sector has seen a steep rise in business, all thanks to these mobile apps. The On-Demand Food Delivery sector has gotten so hot in fact that now there are businesses out there who exclusively deliver food from restaurants to customers. GrubHub, Foodpanda, they all work as a connecting link between customers and restaurants and earn hefty profits. Now you can have ties with one of these businesses for your delivery network, or you can have one for yourself. Having your own home-delivery network will prevent you from having to pay hefty fees to these delivery businesses and link you directly with your customers.
6. A Good Payment Process
Whenever money is involved, people get extra jumpy and rightfully so. So make sure that you make use of a secure and famous payment gateway which you and your customers can trust. Plus, try not to make the entire process too complicated. It has been seen in the past that people gave up on a purchase because the checkout process was impossible to deal with. Also, provide more than one method of payment, don’t limit your customers.
7. Order Tracking Mechanism
It is perhaps common customer behavior, once they order something online, they count seconds till their order is in their hands. So to ease their anxiety during this waiting period, your app needs to have an order-tracking mechanism in it. A real-time tracking mechanism with details like an estimated time of delivery will put your customer’s mind to ease and increase your customer retention quotient, too.
8. Social Media Integration
Every app, doesn’t matter what purpose it serves, needs to have a social media integration. Social media is responsible for a lot of revenue for restaurant apps. When a customer shares his order on his social media accounts- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. it gives you free publicity and brings in more customers. Plus, since it is a trend nowadays, having social media integration will only increase your likability among your customers.
9. Personal Accounts
Having personal accounts is not exactly a necessity for a restaurant app, but it is a good idea that you have one. By having this feature, you can allow customers to save their favorite orders, store their delivery address, save their payment information, etc. In this way, you speed up the ordering process even more.
10. Loyalty Points
A customer likes to feel cherished. We all want to be treated specially. And if you treat your customers like that, it will make sure that they remain loyal to you and your restaurant. You can add some added benefits for those customers who use your app to order their food or reserve their seats by your app instead of calling. You can have free breadsticks sent to their tables or something to show your appreciation for their continued business.
11. Push Notifications
This is one of the fundamental features every app needs to have. Push notifications are not only great advertising tools, but they also let you share crucial information with your customers.
From pinging about the progress of your delivery to telling them about some new cuisine that you might be bringing to your menu, push notifications are a great tool to have.
The features we covered in this article are some of the many features a fully developed app should have. But they will serve you and your app’s MVP well. Other than the customer-end app, your restaurant can also have in-house apps which your waiters, cashiers and other staff members can use for managing the restaurant more efficiently. Furthermore, you can also have an app for the backend, which will let you manage your staff, menu and other features about your restaurant.