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Online Ordering For Restaurants: Website or Mobile Application?

by | Jul 27, 2016

The decisions facing restaurateurs are becoming more and more complex as tech evolves the marketplace. One of the most pressing decisions is Online ordering . It lets customers place their orders faster, easier and in a way they find convenient. It gives them a chance to place impulse orders and It frees up servers to deal with customer needs. The list does go on.  At it’s core, it is not a fad, rather it’s a growing part of the restaurant business and simply a reflection of evolution of the industry the same way the telephone was and the same way robots will be… (mark my words)

A big question is how to do it: Although there are many many layers of possibility to offering your food online, the question we are examining here is whether or not you should have a custom mobile application created for your restaurant or if you should use a responsive online ordering system that works across all devices. Each has its advantages and if it’s appropriate, you can even use both.


Advantages of websites

One problem with a dedicated native restaurant application is that the restaurant’s customers have to download it to place orders. If you are looking into a custom app that works just for your restaurant, think long and hard if you truly believe enough people will want to download an app for each place they like to order from. Some people are reluctant to clutter their devices with one more app, or they’re nervous about security issues (unfounded or not). Many people simply download apps never to use them again or delete them after one or two uses after they take advantage the intro discount or coupon that may have been associated with downloading it.

Modern programming technology lets websites do almost anything that an app can do, except for things it shouldn’t. Apps may or may not automatically update themselves, depending on device settings, while updates to websites go through immediately and work across all devices.

Finally, there’s the issue of cost. Applications are more expensive to develop than websites. You need at least two different applications to cover the majority of the market, iOS and Android. They have to go through an approval process before Google’s and Apple’s stores will offer them. If you discover bugs, you have to create and release an update and deliver it to your existing user base. Creating a customized restaurant application in house would only make sense if you ran a restaurant that had at least 10+ locations and even then, there are other choices available on the market that don’t involve hiring your own in house web team.

If you have apps for both Android and iOS, that’s still not 100% of the market. The market share for Windows and BlackBerry mobile devices is tiny, but it’s there, and users may be disproportionately vocal when they feel left out. A properly functioning ordering system on a website works with all up-to-date browsers.

Both approaches present some risk of obsolescence. If you use third-party code on the Web, its API can change, breaking your site. You want to be careful that your website and the 3rd party ordering system are not interdependent upon one another. With an app, it can stop working with a new release of an operating system unbeknownst to you. The risks are about equal on this point, but mobile apps may require bigger changes when they break. It can take significant work to make an app look good with new screen sizes or work well with new operating system features. The Web environment is more stable, and the fixes will usually be simple. If setup properly, a third party online ordering system will not interfere with your site or vice versa in the event of one them failing.


Advantages of apps

Mobile applications for restaurants do have their advantages. You have complete control over an application’s appearance, and it can include special features that are difficult for a website. Once customers download it, its presence reminds them of you and they don’t have to search for your site if they want to order food from you. You might feel It also gives you a certain high-tech cachet, more on that in a bit.

Ease of access is an advantage  as it takes just one tap to run it and it’s a little more work to access a website for a responsive mobile ordering system. Keep in mind, this is benefit if and only if the customer actually keeps your app on his/her phone after first use.

A native application allows personal recognition without making the user log in. It can store the customer’s name, address, and favorite dishes whereas a website can do the same but requires the customer to log in.

Lastly and probably the only stand-out advantage I see with a native app for a restaurant vs. responsive mobile web ordering system is the ability to communicate with the users via push notifications. This is a great way to drive incentives to your loyal customer base. The downside, you need to be on top of these engagements and you can’t overdo it for risk of having users delete you forever. It’s a constant cat and mouse game of delivering a great experience without driving users back out the door and it’s not for everyone. If you are looking for a way to drive users back to order online from you, a good online ordering platform will allow you to send incentives and coupons to your loyal customers by email which is less intrusive than a push notification. Sending emails to customers does not require a native restaurant application and can link them directly to your mobile friendly online ordering platform.


It’s your call, be sure to keep your customers behavior in mind

Whether or not a custom native app for your restaurant is a good fit should be thought over carefully. There is no need to rush to market for the newest shiny tech buzzword or because you see someone else has it at a competing restaurant. Just because they have it, doesn’t mean it’s a success or that it would fit your needs necessarily. Keep customer behavior at the center of  all of your tech decisions and don’t be driven by emotion or the allure of your own wants and desires, because that doesn’t pay the bills.

First and foremost, have a good, clean and trustworthy website for your restaurant.  If customers don’t come to your site, they aren’t likely to see  or download your app if thats the route you take and they certainly won’t be likely to order from your online ordering system on desktop or mobile for that matter.

At 9Fold, we make online ordering through the Web easy and let you avoid the problems of poorly designed sites. Please contact us for more information.

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