Are restaurant apps worth the investment?

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Mobile apps have become an integral part of most of our everyday lives. Checking Facebook and refreshing my news feeds have become two of my most basic instincts. And, full disclosure—if you scrolled through my phone you’d have five pages of apps to choose from! Even worse? I only check two or three of those on a daily basis. Sound familiar? It certainly begs the question—what implications are there in the vast number of apps we download but rarely use?

Apps are a frequent topic of conversation when working with our restaurant clients—especially since apps are one of the channels we use to measure customer satisfaction. There’s a common perception among restaurant brands that you must have an app to be successful, or that more funds need to be allocated to app development to make it really work. In reality, 45 out of the top 100 restaurant brands have yet to invest in building a native app. How do you know if it’s worth the investment?

Here are a few things to consider:

If I build it, will they come?

Spending the time to develop an app that customers will download is a challenge, and there’s no guarantee your customers will even use it. In fact, 1 in 4 downloaded smartphone apps are never used. Plus, downloads don’t automatically relate to customer engagement or an increase in revenue. With the average cost-per-install at more than $5, apps with low usage rates turn out to be a pretty costly undertaking.

Don’t let delivery take you out

Customer expectations for mobile apps in general are already extremely high, but they’re especially high when it comes to restaurant apps. If you don’t provide an engaging and dynamic app experience, you could actually do your brand more harm than good. Customers absolutely view your app as an extension to your brand, and it’s critical to deliver something that will delight them as much as your menu and service.


Keep the ball rolling

Even if you deliver an awesome app right out of the gate, it’s essential to keep thinking ahead. Many brands fail to continue to innovate on its features or keep up with changing demands after the initial launch. Be prepared to consider and anticipate what will be most useful to your customers—and deliver it before they even ask. There are only a handful of brands that are currently winning at the app game, and they stay ahead of the pack by continuing to offer dynamic and innovative functionality.

Apps can provide great opportunities to engage with your customers in new and dynamic ways. But success for an already-daunting task is not guaranteed. Taking careful consideration of who your customers are, and what would serve them best are essential first steps in creating a worthwhile mobile experience. Brands who win big build great strategies up front and don’t let their app lie stagnant.

Want to go deeper on how apps fit into the restaurant industry? Download our white paper here.

Missy Heck
Senior Manager, Product Marketing
Customer Experience Update