Are Smartphone Apps Right for You?

It’s no secret that being online increases your company’s visibility. Burkett Restaurant Equipment can attest to that. In 2002 we created our first online store and spurred 1,200 percent sales growth in four years. With the rapid development of mobile technology, developing an “app for that” seems like a no-brainer.  Let’s discuss if it’s the right choice for your restaurant or franchise.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 40 percent of consumers said they would use a smartphone application to view a menu or place an order.  Another 44 percent said they would utilize a self-service ordering terminal, and 27 percent noted that mobile or wireless payment options appealed to them.

For consumers, ordering via mobile apps is easy, faster, and more accurate. For restaurants, it means not having to man the phones, not putting your customers on hold (or yelling over the weekend crowd) and increased business. With over 1 billion smartphone users worldwide, what drawbacks could there be?

Depending on your menu and target market, maintaining a mobile app can be expensive and time-consuming. Most mobile apps have to be built to run on specific devices, so if your target market is operating a bevy of devices (iPads, iPhones, Android devices, etc.) you’ll have to budget for additional development costs for each platform. The average app costs between $20K and $40K. Yikes!

Keep in mind, once your app is built, you’ll be paying a developer to make any changes to your menu, contact information, and so on. For those of you that feature daily specials or multiple menu changes, this can quickly turn into exorbitant spending.
Lastly, think about your target market. While over 46% of adults (age 18-35) own a smartphone, only 18% of seniors have the technology – as statistic that has remained fairly static.

So if you’re a small, single location business, what are your options? Consider mobile-optimized websites. You can format your content to display on a variety of devices and web browsers. Additionally, you can create a consistent looking website that is flexible if changes need to be made. Also, find a designer that offers “responsive design”, allowing your website to scale from iPhone screens to larger screen sizes.

Bottom Line? On average one-third of sales in a restaurant go towards food and beverage purchases. It’s important to creatively manage costs without increasing menu prices.  Try adding a customer loyalty program tied to a patron’s phone number, update your google+ and local listings, and make sure Yelp and UrbanSpoon have accurate information. Finally, make social media like Facebook and Twitter a priority.

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