Why you should NOT get a smartphone app for your restaurant

A mobile-friendly website with online ordering is likely to be a much better investment.

When trying to decide whether an app or mobile website is the best option for your restaurant, cost is of course a very important factor. However, other aspects such as functionality and effectiveness are equally crucial to avoid making a costly mistake.

The high cost of apps in the long term

The process of creating an app is an expensive one. It doesn’t just need to be built for one operating system - to reach the largest possible audience, depending on approach taken it may need to be rebuilt three times to create a “native” app that works perfectly on all the main mobile phone platforms iOS, Android and Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile). The expertise needed for this development is less common and more expensive to hire compared to website creation. In comparison, building a mobile-friendly website for your restaurant should be cheaper, and will instantly be accessible to far more people, no matter what kind of device they are using, including desktop computers too.

Compatibility problems

Not only is the initial cost of developing a native mobile app normally greater than that of a mobile-friendly website, to have a decent lifespan an app must be properly supported and continually developed for usability and compatibility as phone models and operating systems change. All of this is much more complex than running a mobile website and less time and cost effective. In comparison to a mobile app, websites can be upgraded behind the scenes and seen by all users as soon as they are published; while with a mobile app the user must choose to download an update themselves. Restaurant owners need to keep in mind that on average an app only stays about 30 days on a user’s device, making a mobile website a much more sustainable choice.

Search engine marketing

Crucially, websites show up in search engines’ results whereas an app won’t. This alone makes a mobile-friendly website the best choice for marketing an independent restaurant because it has the potential of generating more business than an app due to the superior visibility. A website is certainly the best choice for establishing a restaurant or takeaway’s presence on the web. It can reach far more people than an app with little effort from the restaurant to promote it. In comparison an app must be advertised and pushed to customers to encourage them to put it on their phone, use it, and not forget about it or delete it. All of this makes an app a time-consuming channel that may not be suited to an independent restaurant or takeaway owner with limited resources.

Website sharing

Websites can also be shared easily whereas an app cannot be shared in the same way and the visibility of apps is determined by the manufacturers’ app stores. Customers can also be redirected from online advertising and other website listings to a restaurant’s website, all of which increases the sources of traffic over and above that of an app.

Choosing between a mobile app and website is an easy choice for businesses that are looking to take that initial step to creating their online presence. A website is the cheaper choice and is more manageable in the long run. It has more flexibility, visibility and potential to attract new customers.

Get a professional website

So what can apps do that websites can’t?

There are definite uses for an app but in many cases they are to perform tasks that need to work well when internet connectivity dies, or to hold large amounts of data that would take too long to download every time you needed it. The simple act of having a restaurant’s app on your phone is not enough to make you order from them, even if it provides an occasional reminder that they exist. In the area of loyalty programs and quicker ordering for regular customers apps may have the edge over websites because users register their account on them and stay logged-in long-term. But even these features can be added to websites to a degree.

Do your research

Before a restaurant invests in an app its utility for their customers would have to be carefully researched. What would make the app drive sales more effectively than a website, or an advertising campaign? How will it help your customers to order or book tables more easily than they otherwise can from your website? These are the kinds of questions that must be answered before investing in an app.

Any restaurateur interested in marketing their restaurant online should question the expensive process of building and promoting an app when it is simpler and more effective to have a mobile website. Restaurants with the goal of making mobile-friendly content and online ordering for the widest possible audience in a cost-effective way would in almost all cases be advised to opt for a website. Then in future, if a large and loyal fan-base of customers develops that would enjoy using an app to keep ordering from you, the justification for building one to run alongside your website could become valid.