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National Restaurant Association - 5 tips for building a killer mobile app

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5 tips for building a killer mobile app

Increasing restaurant traffic and sales can drive operators to invest in mobile apps to grow business. But despite the advantages, it can be expensive, so it’s important to plan your approach.

Here are five tips on how to start from our 2014 Restaurant Innovation Summit:

  1. Do your homework. Laying the groundwork is probably the most important thing you can do, said Annica Kreider, vice president, brand development, Mellow Mushroom. “People download a lot of apps, but they also tend not to use a lot of them.” Mellow Mushroom created an app that allows consumers to earn more loyalty points by playing a game. When creating the game, Kreider’s team decided to be methodical by setting goals and vetting them. They studied the feasibility of building the app, the cost and ROI. “We had everything laid out so we could see what success would look like in the long run.”
  2. Ask the right questions when planning your app. Ask subject matter experts what the best practices are, what works and what percentage of people will be attracted to it. Lean on them to tell you what to expect, what your success should look like, Kreider said.
  3. Be certain you really should create one at all. If you don’t really know or aren’t sure, make your website accessible on mobile devices, said Jason Clay, marketing/IT director Governor’s Restaurant & Bakery, a six-location company based in Old Town, Maine. “Ask yourself if you really want a mobile app. It sounds cool, but is it something you really need or should be doing? You can do a simple, sufficient mobile website that drives the basics you’re looking for.”

    The decision was simple to build an app for Franklin Restaurant Group, which has seven Tasty Burger restaurants in the Boston area. “The most important thing to us was getting the brand into people’s hands. It’s all about exposure, exposure, exposure ― and sales.”
  1. Know what to create. It’s important to decide what to focus on, how much you intend to spend, and how you expect to engage consumers. “Know whether you’re going to do something that’s just maintenance level, something that is just a baseline effort, or something that is really reflective of your brand and the services it provides,” said David Bloom, CEO of mobile app creator Ordr.in at the time of this article's publication, now president of product development and product strategy at Dow Jones. “Think about what parts of your business you want to attack, have a point of view. If you build something for that, you’ll hit a homerun.”

    What matters is who your guests are, their ages, what’s important to them, and what’s important to you, Kreider said. Mellow Mushroom focused on its loyalty program as the main piece of its app because it doesn’t do a lot of takeout. “We’re more experiential.”
  1. Have a clear idea of the features and design. Being on someone’s smart phone is another way of connecting with customers, but remembering why people use them will be integral to your app’s success, Bloom said. “People want to find you, so include your address, a map and a direction finder. Maybe they want to see your menu, too. Be brilliant with the basics. Give them a reason to devote precious real estate on their phones to you. You have to generate ongoing value, whether it’s through a loyalty program or the ability to transact.”

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