A Restaurant App Development: Eat, Pray, Love

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01/08/2019
14 minutes

Food is a basic human need. Restaurants transform this experience into an art. Informational technology builds elegant shortcuts to its fulfilment.

Small wonder, restaurant apps are getting increasingly popular with restaurateurs and diners alike. In fact, over 80% of restaurants are turning to technology, aware that their customers are just a few taps away. The entire restaurant experience – from discovery, to evaluation, to delivery and beyond – is now deep-seated in a mobile app.

If you’re, like us, enthusiastic about restaurant app development, check out our insights in this article. Use the plan to skip to a question of your interest.

The restaurant app landscape

Just a few decades ago, at the heart of restaurant operations, was a shiny cash register. Next, came restaurant POS systems to cut costs, optimize management, and bring customer service in focus. Websites and social media accounts brought the craved connectivity. Before long, mobile apps came popping up like mushrooms to flood the smartphone space:

  • Restaurant search-and-discovery apps help find eateries in any area. Apps like Zomato, Yelp, and Foursquare cater for all tastes. While Feastly and Eatwith promote culinary adventure.
  • Electronic reservation apps take care of table reservation, seat assignment, preferences history and more. Apps like Yelp Reservations, Waitlist Me, OpenTable, Resy, and Q Host secure seats in top restaurants, which tend to favor regulars and feel weary of newcomers.
  • On-table ordering apps enable order placement electronically at a customer’s convenience. Ziosk and FlipDish are a few in this category to help diners browse food menus, place and modify orders.
  • On-table payment apps like Table Safe and TabbedOut serve as digital checkbooks for security and time efficiency.
  • Online ordering and delivery apps take care of branding, discovery, and delivery facilitation. Postmates, DoorDash, GrubHub and Just Eat are making on-demand delivery the biggest market in B2C.
  • Inventory apps aid in monitoring food spend, tackling spreadsheets & counting (Orderly).
  • Restaurant deal and discount apps like BigDish and LivingSocial target the foodies who like freebies (who doesn’t!).
  • Loyalty & rewards program apps like FiveStars, LevelUp, and Belly offer points, reward systems, and sometimes pay-by-phone options for customers, as well as analytics and marketing options for restaurants.

Clearly, there are tons of opportunities for the catering business enhancement.

Why do restaurant apps matter

take out app development

If you are a restaurant owner, you know the right path to your clients’ hearts. But getting into their minds and capturing their attention is quite another story. Staying in touch with your customers via an app can relieve restaurateurs’ deepest fears.

Margins can make or break you

The thin net margin of just 6% for restaurants, compared to 10% in hotel business and 20 in the beverage industry, asks for cost efficiency and strict control of operations. POS apps keep restaurateurs in the loop wherever, whenever. Busy to call on all your multiple spots daily? Monitor and compare their performance all at once. View the reports from a cloud-based control panel ‘on the go’. Track sales, labor expenses, check averages and other metrics that matter to you.

Decision making is biased

How do you pick an eatery in an unknown area? Exactly! You need a nudge. Did you know you have a key to hungry tourists’ gut instinct? Restaurant app developers will help unlock the power of iBeacon technology to turn your passers-by into clients. Set up a 50-meter radius for your restaurant, send push notifications, and – voila! – you’ve just made up their minds.

Time is money

Ordering and payment eat up your resources. A food ordering app will guide a user through the pick-order-pay process while your staff can start fulfilling the order right away.The Taco Bell app, for one, provides all possible in-premise services including order placement, modification in the menu, and finally, in-app payment without waiting in the queue at POS desk or accountants’ desks.

Loyalty is not by bread alone

Okay, your food is great. But you can set the cadence. Loyalty apps keep them coming back more often. Accruing points or getting a percentage off your every meal is an incentive, just like accruing miles and points for flying and hotel stay. Restaurant apps have proved good for encouraging long-term loyalty and frequent visits, with customised rewards programs, easy re-ordering, and targeted offers.

Millennials love all things tech

Ignoring millennials’ habits can backfire. When it comes to food experience, they are your saviors. They are adventurous with food, trust their friends’ opinions, prefer healthy eating, and spend more eating out. Above all, they are tech savvy and love convenience, which translates into getting what they want at the press of a button. This alone is a good reason to build a restaurant app.

That’s just a handful of reasons. In fact, there are so many ways in which mobile apps can help businesses to grow.

How to design and develop a restaurant app

Good design and architecture pave your way to success. These basic rules will steer you clear of the deadly sins of app development – building nonsense-ware, worthless-ware, cost-ware, bloatware, and strangeware.

  • Solve a critical problem. Just one. Is it last-mile delivery logistics, uneven client turnover, high cancellation rate, long wait times? If you solve it better than others, you’re the winner.
  • Deliver value to all parties. Your app is a platform that needs a network effect in order to take off. So the right features are crucial. For example, reservations / ordering / payments are a defensive moat for restaurants, while reviewing and delivery are beneficial for foodies and gig seekers.
  • Aim for cost-efficiency. Not all features monetize. Still, you need certain ones to create a positive synergy. Monetize with restaurant deals, drive traffic with reviews, foster instagrammability with share buttons, enhance engagement with notifications and user-generated content. Keep testing how various verticals work in your product. Look out for trends growth-wise.
  • Keep it clean. Don’t mess with hungry users. Either you feed them or they’ll eat you for lunch. Simple is the new smart.
  • Learn from the best. The apps that have stood a test of time can teach you a lot about user preferences. Follow their model when you develop your own app. Think how you can enhance this UX further on.

A restaurant-finder app like Zomato and Yelp

restaurant finding app development architecture

Restaurant discovery apps are extremely popular with travellers. You can pick a diner by various parameters – location, price, rating, recommendation, etc. Sort the search results in a list or map view. Zomato made the ‘search’ really simple, with a well organized database giving the most relevant results. Yelp also has a ‘nearby’ section that sorts places into categories (coffee shops, bars, etc.).

Both the apps utilize a crowdsourcing model, with users posting reviews, photos, following, liking, commenting. User generated content (UGC) fosters engagement and creates a community of trust. Users can create their personal food diaries and get promoted from a ‘foodie’, to a ‘big foodie’, ‘super foodie’, and ‘connoisseur’.

Location features are crucial. Yelp has a ‘check-in’ feature that notifies friends of your location. Another one – ‘monocle’ – is an augmented reality tool that utilizes a compass and camera to show the direction of a potential destination to your current location.

Here are the features you need to create your own restaurant discovery app:

A RESTAURANT SEARCH AND DISCOVERY APP FUNCTIONALITY

User Profile Photo / video upload
Restaurant search / filters Reviews and Ratings
Restaurant listings and map views Push Notifications
Restaurant information / menu screens Activity stream
Ingredients selection Reservation button / link
Photo gallery In-app messaging / calling

A dinner table reservation app like Waitlist Me and Resy

dinner table reservation app architecture

E-reservation apps have an air of exclusivity. You can’t just walk in a higher-end restaurant or even book a table at peak-times unless you know the owner. Or… unless you have a subscription plan with an e-booking app like Resy.

So a dinner table reservation app is a treasure trove for a customer, especially a tourist, it may seem. In fact, it holds value to restaurateurs as well, by helping manage reservation gaps, reservation conflicts, over and under-booking, reduce the time slot between two bookings, and make use of time efficiency in order to squeeze in an extra or more turn.

A user journey through a mobile e-reservation app may vary:

  • A customer leaves a reservation request with a particular place for a certain date and time while the restaurant picks a table. Though commonplace and easier implemented, this approach isn’t user-friendly enough.
  • An app displays a restaurant’s floor plan so a customer can pick a table by tapping on the interactive interface. This is a popular format with most ticket booking apps.
The key features revolve around the three client statuses ‘arrived’ – ‘seated’ – ‘removed’.

AN ELECTRONIC RESERVATION APP FUNCTIONALITY

Waitlist Seated parties
Reservations & appointments Sorting parties
Assignments View table status
Self check-in Drag and drop tables
Analytics and reports Timeline
Seating walk-ins View overbookings

Apps like Waitlist Me have a wider use. Wherever queueing happens, they help to manage waitlists, reservations, and appointments. Electronic table booking apps have a customer database. They also utilize heuristics to estimate waiting time. Two variations of the app serve the two roles – Guests and Staff.

An on-table ordering and payment app like FlipDish

on-table ordering and payment restaurant app architecture

Waiting can be frustrating, whether it is order taking or billing. Restaurant staff feel this pressure, looking for the telltale gestures of the client readiness to order or pay. Having an app where clients can go through the e-menu, place an order, and pay afterwards can take off the edge and put everyone in control of their time.

On-table ordering and payment apps feedback useful analytics on menu choices, length of stay, best performing tables. But that’s not all! E-ordering means order details aren’t lost or confused and they line up in the kitchen chronologically. And on-table e-payment can boost restaurant revenue by 14.1%.

According to this TSYS consumer payment study, for dine-in restaurants, 68% of the respondents chose to use a credit or debit card, while only 18% of respondents prefer cash. Cash-only restaurants miss out on ample opportunities.

Develop an on-table order-and-payment app with the functionality below.

AN ON-TABLE ORDERING AND PAYMENT APP FUNCTIONALITY

Menu Loyalty programs
Order form Bill split
Order details Pay at the table or counter
Re-ordering Mobile wallet integration
Order ahead Automatic tipping & tip adding
Delivery Email/print receipts

An online order and delivery app like Postmates and DoorDash

food order and delivery app architecture

In our recent post about the Postmates app development we explained the business model of food order-and-delivery apps. Gig-economy style apps like Postmates serve as marketplaces to unite various groups: customers (placing orders), eateries or stores (providing food), and couriers (delivering the orders). The app embraces the restaurant search, order placement, payment, tracking, and rating. And it’s not long before we’ll see new features like predictive ordering and drone delivery as part of the UI. To make the entire process work smoothly, it needs to focus on smart logistics algorithms.

The core functionality to make a delivery app will comprise these features.

AN ORDER AND DELIVERY APP FUNCTIONALITY

User profile Order details/history
Restaurant search Booking an order
Restaurant listings Delivery status
Menu Notifications
Card registration Ratings
Automatic payment Real-time chat

A home restaurant app for adventurous eaters

home restaurant app architecture

A home restaurant app is a platform to bring together foodies (adventurous eaters) and passionate home cooks willing to occasionally open doors to friends, acquaintances, or perfect strangers (mostly tourists) and share unique culinary experiences. Experience economy is transforming our idea of a vacation home rent (Airbnb), rideshare (Uber), and eating out (EatWith). Life’s an adventure. And since we can make informed decisions, who would settle for the second best with culinary experiences?

Does the best always cost? And is the best always branded? These are good questions and worthy enough if you’re looking to build a restaurant app that stands out.

Meet FlippDish, our idea of a home restaurant app.

The USP? Home restaurant recipes are unique. A family heirloom cooked with passion, what can taste more heavenly? And the app? That’s an awesome opportunity for a prodigy chef to gain recognition long before opening their own brick-and-mortar or for a seasoned chef to test a new concept. And for the gourmets, sharing a meal almost has a sacred meaning, turning strangers into lifelong friends.

The idea of having a home from home to share food experience at is taking off worldwide. San Francisco startups Feastly and EatWith are tinkering with the promising niche concept. And so can you! But let’s dig into the app’s functionality.

A HOME RESTAURANT APP FUNCTIONALITY

Easy dish search Social buttons integration
Filters / food categories Calendar
Venue listings and map view ‘Booking a venue’ button
Venue information page Booking form / details
Menu screen Card registration
Photo / video gallery Automatic payment
Photo / video upload Notifications
Reviews & Ratings Booking receipt
User profile Real-time chat
Activity stream In-app calling
Special offers & events Recommendation engine

What APIs to integrate in a restaurant app

Why do restaurant apps need API integration in the first place? Simply put, with all the complexity of today’s business relations, open APIs create shortcuts into interoperability. Any app developer will agree, keeping data in sync throughout is crucial. Just like the Lyft app uses APIs to integrate with technologies like Google Maps for navigation or Twilio for rider text alerts, among many others, your restaurant app needs different APIs to create a seamless end-to-end user experience. So which features to enhance and what APIs to choose?

  • POS system integration. Deliveroo API allows you to connect your POS system with the application. Although newer POS systems have APIs as part of the system, large, legacy restaurant systems may connect via Omnivore, Chowly, and SimplicityPOS.
  • Reviews. To gather reviews about your restaurant, use TripAdvisor Content API (tourist reviews) or Expert Review API (expert reviews). Starting reviews is usually hard. By pulling the existent data, you’ll be able to create the network effect sooner.
  • Suggestions and recommendations. Qloo API gives access to AI-generated tips. These are important as UGC keeps customer acquisition costs low.
  • Reservation system. Resy API can be used to provide customers with the reservation system. Moreover, it includes information on floor plans and allows user to choose the exact table they want to book.
  • Payment gateway. For payment integration, use Android Pay API, Apple Pay API, API by PayPal, Stripe, or Braintree.
  • Location-based functionality. For location-based functionality (navigation, recommendation, etc.), use Google’s Maps and Places. If you are developing an app for iOS, you will need CoreLocation framework and for Android, you will need Google’s Location API to select a given geographical region.
  • Delivery tracking. To streamline the shipping process and track orders, use the Shippo API.
  • Feature launch. You may want more control of your new feature releases, especially with multiple user groups. Launch to the select few – the so-called soft launch – with LaunchDarkly.
  • Restaurant information. For restaurant data, use Foursquare or Zomato APIs. Those lessen the efforts from the app owners’ side, as all the information and details of the restaurants in concern, can be directly drawn from these aggregators.

APIs provide a flexible solution to enable an incredibly dynamic business. For more ideas on restaurant APIs check this site.

Wrapping up

Our eating habits evolve. And it’s not cut in stone where food tech is going to take us next. But having a customer at your fingertips is a no-joker while a phone is something we start our day to and carry with us at all times. The next-gen customer is tech savvy, connected, and has high expectations. Why not use this opportunity to cultivate a new eating style through your ingenious restaurant app ideas?

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