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Mobile Apps for Independent Restaurants

Posted by: In: Restaurant 27 Jan 2012 Comments: 4 Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Tom Fishburne Marketoonist

Apple states in a television commercial that there are over 500,000 apps and growing! Everybody has a Smartphone! Mobile usage is up, people who own tablets essentially doubled in a month!

And here are some more stats:

According to Nielsen 28% of cell phone users in the US have smart phones
More than 80,000,000 new users are expected by the end of the year this year alone
41% of new phones sold in the past 4 months have been smart phones
More than half of all iPhone users are over 44 years old
According to .com there are 142.8 million smart phone users in the US

Source: Restaurant Smart Phone Apps In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fan of Mark Laux and HotOperator and it is Mark’s recent post on mobile apps that inspired me to write this post. HotOperator is an elite group that understands the restaurant business and most importantly the menu.

So every restaurant needs their own mobile app, right?

In my opinion, NO!

But let me explain, currently developers have been building mobile apps for everything that consumers touch and that’s understandable since consumers are flocking to the mobile devices. Most importantly, one of the largest groups flocking to mobile devices are people over 44. Over 44, are you kidding? Yep, over 44, the ones with the money. So for marketers and developers that is an incredible demographic. But what about all of those kids, aren’t they “app-happy” too? Of course they are and marketers and developers love them too.

Here’s where we are today, mobile apps are becoming ubiquitous for QSR’s (Quick Service Restaurants) and the younger demographic (app-happy) is very active with these. But what about Independent Restaurants? Well with over 180,000 independent restaurants in the US, the marketers and developers are aggressively pursuing them because after all if it works for chains it should work for independents. Many developers have gained backing from venture capitalists after successfully building apps for many chain restaurants. Now, they want to push the model out to independents.

So what’s the problem? In my opinion, many independent restaurants could benefit from mobile apps but only if their brand is buttoned-down.

How about your menu? Is it doing what it should do, is it profitable?

Are people talking positively about your brand in social spaces? Are you happy with your social profiles?

How well is your interaction with your brand in the social spaces? Are you the only one doing the talking?

Do you currently have pictures that you would be proud to share all over the internet?

Are your internal touch points customer friendly?

How about your online profile as it currently exists? Are you happy with it?

Have you claimed your Google Places, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Urbanspoon profiles?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions and probably about a thousand more than you need to get a mobile app. My point is that unless you are 100% sure that you are ready for a mobile application don’t do it. Building an app that does not represent your brand well could have the unintended consequence of diminishing your brand and not enhancing it.


Mark Moreno

Here’s my bottomline for independent restaurants:

1. Build your Brand from the inside out
2. Never subordinate your brand with that of someone else
3. Never, Never, Ever Discount!

  • Rick Mosca

    In response to:

    Also, the type of app is important as well, native app vs. web app. With a native app, you have to submit it to each app market based on operating system. To update your app can be costly as well.

    With the new technology, like the one my company uses, updating the app is as simple, if not simpler, as a web app, plus with our apps we submit to all the marketplaces for the customer,included in the cost is UNLIMITED Push Notifications which are more effective than sms which can be very expensive to use. We also include a web app version at no cost!

    Our apps are equal to and in most cases less than the cost of the mobile website with all the features and more!
    Rick Mosca

  • Garrett

    Depending on what type of information your app provides is key to wether or not an app would work for an independent restaurant. Also, the type of app is important as well, native app vs. web app. With a native app, you have to submit it to each app market based on operating system. To update your app can be costly as well. With a web app, it can be downloaded via the restaurant website from the smartphone. Also, a web app makes your regular website mobile friendly. Meaning, whenever someone views the page via smartphone, the site will be easily viewable without having to zoom in to read or click links. Some benefits to having a web app/mobile website for independent restaurants is as follows: For customers on the go that search and find your restaurant, they can easily view your menu, find your location, and with “Click to Call” they can contact you with one touch, no dialing. Also, it is great for specials you are running because you can update in real time, meaning as soon as you hit save, the update broadcasted. So I believe it boils down to what you are trying to accomplish with your app. Are you using it for informational purposes like a regular website or are you using it for a utility to take orders like the Papa Johns app.

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  • Joe Welsh

    I agree with you Mark. Many restaurants are all caught up in the latest tech thing but neglect to focus in on the basics such as the menu or the guest experience. In the end, they will keep business flowing.

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