Why Every Restaurant Needs Its Own App More Now Than Ever Before

Why Every Restaurant Needs Its Own App More Now Than Ever Before


The internet is ubiquitous, and in the past twenty years has been the vehicle of transition to a truly global market for the hospitality industry. Early adaptors to this transition such as food aggregates, saw this and invested in web-based technologies to create platforms of convenience for the consumer, as technology allowed. However, the last decade has seen this transition, driven by convenience, consistently shift to the mobile phone: the device of choice with over ninety five percent of the adult population owning a smartphone. It is no longer a device that only top businessmen can afford to use, but is now ingrained culturally as a key tool for enabling relationships within the lives of consumers. 

Thirty-four percent of people who own mobile devices, don’t own or use a desktop computer. Instead they have adapted to using their mobile phone to browse the internet. From this, the trend of using mobile apps and websites to place orders and book restaurants has risen, and is predicted to continually increase by analysts. Statistically orders placed online have already overtaken telephone orders in the US and the UK is soon to follow in this trend.  This shift in behaviour can be seen and confirmed by aggregate service providers who hold the majority of the market share, and are reporting huge profit margins each quarter. As a restaurant owner or manager, it’s a no-brainer that you need your own app. But it’s no longer just a case of having your own app. You also need a good marketing plan in place. 

The issues we hope to address here are what choices are available when considering your own app for your restaurant or takeaway business.  There are many options a merchant can choose; all of which depend on factors such as financial resources, available skills, level of IT knowledge and off course, time. Each option has its pros and cons and here we will go through them.


Option 1 - Hire developers

Developing a mobile app for your restaurant or takeaway from scratch by hiring a developer, will either be the worst mistake you make, or one of the best things that can happen to your business. There are many pros and cons when building an app from scratch. For a start, not all software developers are of the same calibre and you will need to source a competent developer or pay premium rate and use an agency.  The advantage of using an agency is you will have multiple talents working on your project and the risk factor of hiring someone who may not necessarily be the right person, is taken away. The average cost of developing a basic IOS and Android app with payment integration (where customers can place an order and pay using a credit or debit card) will be anything between £8000 to £15000 using a freelance developer, and £25000 and above with a reputable agency. 

For a more advanced app with additional features you will be looking at anything from £25000 to £150000 and above. Paying for the app to be built is not the end of the story, because every software has a shelf life and will require ongoing support. This is because most commercial apps will use various technologies and off the shelf components. Often, over time, these technologies and components are updated and require changes that only a developer can apply in order for the software to continue to work. It is common knowledge that every so often; Google, Apple and Microsoft bring breaking changes that require you to alter something in your app for it to continue to work and for new users to download it. With that said, some key benefits of building your own app from scratch are, but not limited to:

  • Custom cart experience that is in line with your branding and tailored to your customers
  • Custom marketing features suited to the way you service your customers
  • Own and manage your data keeping in line with GDPR requirements
  • Continually change your app inline with changes to your business needs
  • Own the source code
  • No contract except initial contract to complete the software
  • Proprietary rights to software


Some disadvantages of having a custom solution can be, but are not exclusively:


  • Initial cost per shelf life could prove to be very expensive
  • Ongoing support and maintenance cost which will vary as per developer or agency


Option 2- Buy an Off The Shelf Solution (OTS)

Purchasing an off-the-shelf software solution is another way of meeting your need for an online restaurant ordering system. This method of servicing your restaurant or takeaway online, will work best if you have some technical skills and time, as off the shelf solutions will in most cases still require some basic or advanced IT knowledge. OTS solutions are restrained and the type of licence you get with the software will determine whether it is customisable. It may come with source code which is encrypted, or source code that requires permission before making modifications for commercial use. OTS solutions are always cheaper than hiring a developer, in terms of shelf life and often come with one year’s support free. But with that said you are constrained to the cart experience and service flow of the system you purchased and must change your workflow to suit the software system.  Unless the system is customisable, in which case you can hire a developer to make the changes you need. This will still prove cheaper than building a software system from scratch. But in most cases OTS systems will come with many features, some of which may not be suited to you and you may never use.   

Some key advantages of an OTS system are:


  • Cheaper than hiring a developer or agency
  • Quick launch as system is ready to go
  • Should come with one-year support free
  • Manage your data in keeping with GDPR requirements
  • No contract


The disadvantages of an OTS restaurant solution can be:


  • In most cases some basic or advanced IT knowledge is required to get the system up and running so you may still need to pay for IT support to install the software.
  • No advantage over your competition unless the software is customisable and you hire a developer to make the changes that sets you apart.


Option 3- App Builders (Build Your Own)

Depending on your time and availability, technical knowledge and skill. Using an app building platform with drag and drop is another way to build your app. App building platforms are a good way to get a basic app off the ground if you have the skills required. I say this because though most platforms use drag and drop and you are not required to write a single line of code. There is still a requirement to have knowledge about the concepts and technologies been used. Using a build your own platform will get you a basic app with limited functionalities:

 The advantages of using an app building platform are:

  • Upfront costs can be low depending on your level of technical skill
  • Continual support


The disadvantages of using an app building platform are:


  • Limited functionality and constraints
  • Costly to run if you do not have basic to advanced IT knowledge and skill
  • Limited access to data on the platform
  • No direct access or proprietary rights


Option 4- Software As A Service (SAAS)

Using a SAAS platform or on-demand business software is another way to acquire the apps and online systems you will need for your restaurant or takeaway. Using a SAAS provider is a cost-effective way to meet all your online needs without any requirement of basic or advanced technical knowledge, unlike hiring a developer or buying an OTS software solution. SAAS platforms are continually updated, supported and maintained without additional costs. SAAS platforms will usually offer a full service offering of latest features within your industry and be able to offer you the services you need and restrict the ones you don't not to complicate things. Using a SAAS platform is the most cost effective and fastest way to get your apps and online ordering system in place. Some key benefits of subscribing to a SAAS provider are:


  • Low upfront costs
  • Continual support
  • Easy upgrades
  • Scalability
  • Access to customer data


The disadvantages of SAAS are you have no access to the code base unless there is an API:


  • Limited access to the data on the platform
  • No direct access or proprietary rights


These are some of the options available if you require an app or online ordering system for your restaurant or takeaway. We are pleased to say that as a service provider for the hospitality industry we highly recommend option four as the most cost effective solution for an app and online ordering website for your restaurant, takeaway, pub or cafe. 

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