Restaurant App Development: Types, Features, & Projections

The restaurant industry is changing. For decades, diners have gone to restaurants to enjoy the hospitality, the aesthetic, and the ambience of their favorite eateries. These are experiences that are best enjoyed in person, rather than online.

However, the restaurant industry has only recently started to tap into the potential of technology. This is because, until recently, it was very difficult for restaurants to efficiently deliver excellent service across multiple locations. If a diner had a problem with one of their meals, they had to physically visit the restaurant to resolve the issue. This was time-consuming for both the diner and the restaurant staff. Now, with the rise of online reviews, diners are more likely to leave negative reviews after a bad dining experience. This means that restaurants are incentivized to deliver great service across multiple locations. And, since the rise of online reviews, social media has become an increasingly important part of the restaurant experience.

Today, technology has enabled the restaurant industry to deliver the same level of service across all of its locations. It has also enabled customers to connect with each other, sharing their dining experiences. This has made the restaurant industry more transparent, which in turn has allowed diners to make more informed dining choices.

In this article, we'll take a look at the different types of apps and software solutions available to the Restaurant industry, the features these apps should have, and some projections for the future of this competitive market.

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The State of Tech and Apps in the Restaurant Industry

Restaurants are always looking for new ways to increase their profits and create new experiences for their patrons. As a result, they're increasingly turning to applications for their own use. They can use software and applications to streamline inventory tracking, better manage staff and payroll, provide platforms for customer feedback, create digital menus and new ordering systems, build loyalty programs, manage food waste, and make it easier for customers to make reservations. The investment in these applications has come in response to the increasing complexity of the industry.

While most restaurants are small businesses, they are capable of generating a huge volume of orders. Restaurants are also increasingly receiving orders for pickup, which adds complexity to the menu planning process. All of these complexities require software to manage, but the management of that software requires even more software.

The solution is customized software that can integrate all of the software that they require, or even replace them altogether.

The Market for Restaurant Apps Today

The restaurant industry is a bit of an outlier. While small restaurants generally lack the budget for enterprise-level software, the restaurant industry is the second-largest employer of software developers in the US. This paired with an industry-wide shift towards more digital, touchless offerings suggests that there is an increasingly large market of customers for restaurant-related software.

When it comes to the software and application needs of restaurants, here's what the statistics have to say:

  • 50% of restaurant professionals surveyed have stated that payroll, accounting, and business intelligence software is very important for their business. (Toast, 2019)
  • Restaurants use, on average, at least three different technology vendors to manage their back-office operations. (Toast, 2019)
  • Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is projected that there will be 44.1 million users of food delivery apps in the U.S. by the end of 2021. (eMarketer, 2020)
  • Using digital menu boards can increase yearly store sales per unit by $16,000. (Presto, 2021)
  • QR code payments will see a growth of 240% between 2020 to 2025, spurred by demand for cashless payments due to the pandemic. (Juniper Research, 2021)
  • 92% of all top-performing restaurants offered mobile order-ahead and loyalty rewards programs, or a combination of both. (Pyments.com, 2020)
  • 54% of guests say that online reservation is the most important technology feature. On this same survey, 41% stated that it’s free Wi-Fi. (Toast, 2019)
  • Profits from the restaurant industry are expected to rise to about 15% in 2021 as dining restrictions due to the pandemic are relaxed. (Moody’s, 2020)
  • 90% of guests research a restaurant online before actually going there. This is a practice done more in this business type compared to others. (Upserve, 2019)
  • Improving customer reviews by half a star can boost revenues by 5% to 9%. (Pyments.com, 2020)
  • 92% of diners read restaurant reviews. (Upserve, 2019)
  • 77% of consumers look up more on peer reviews compared to critic reviews. (Upserve, 2019)

So, what do these statistics tell us about the future of software and app development for the restaurant industry? Well, to start, the restaurant industry is going digital, and that's not likely to change post-pandemic.

Patrons will expect restaurants to place a greater emphasis on online and mobile ordering and order-ahead options, digital menus, and alternative payment methods. Restaurants should also expect that customers will be more likely to search for them in advance on review apps and platforms, so they should take care to maintain a positive standing on them.

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Types of Restaurant Apps Being Built Today

As we can see from the data in the previous section, there's a substantial market for apps and software that can be used to digitize and streamline operations and customer experiences in the restaurant industry. Products in this space can vary greatly, but we've included some of the most popular app types that you'll find being built today, below.

Restaurant Management Software

Restaurant management software is a type of business software designed to help restaurant owners manage their business. These products usually include features such as a point-of-sale system, a customer relationship management system, a business intelligence system, and a reservation management system. Restaurant management software is highly specialized, requiring products tailored to the needs of restaurants.

Examples of restaurant management software for restaurants include Toast, Square POS, and Restaurant365.

Food Delivery App

An online food delivery app is a software program that allows restaurants to sell their food online. They can be used in a variety of ways. Some restaurants have a website that operates independently from the food delivery app. In this case, the food delivery app is a secondary service that allows users to place orders from their smartphones. Other restaurants use food delivery apps as their primary online presence. In this case, the food delivery app is the only way to place orders, and it is also responsible for all of the marketing and website maintenance.

There are many different food delivery apps that cater to the restaurant industry, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some apps focus on speed and curation. They provide curated menus and fast delivery times while also managing the process of ordering and paying for food. Other apps focus on customer service. They offer a wide variety of menu items and guarantee delivery within a certain time frame.

Examples of food delivery apps for restaurants include Caviar, DoorDash, and Uber Eats.

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QR Code Payment App

A QR code payment app for the restaurant industry is an app that allows customers to pay for their meals using their smartphones. The payment process involves scanning a QR code (a 2D barcode) with a mobile device and then transmitting the necessary information to the restaurant's point-of-sale (POS) system.

The QR code payment app has become a popular alternative to traditional credit card readers because it is easy to use, inexpensive to implement, and secure.

Examples of QR code payment apps for restaurants include OrderAhead, Square, and Ziosk.

Accounting Software

Accounting software for the restaurant industry is a program that allows restaurants to track their financial transactions. Some restaurants use accounting software to manage inventory, while others use it to manage customer data. Some accounting programs are web-based, which means that they can be accessed through a browser, while others are installed on personal computers.

Examples of accounting software for restaurants include Sage Intacct, Restaurant365, and ZipBooks.

Inventory Management Software

Inventory management software for the restaurant industry is a cloud-based system that helps restaurants manage their inventory of food and drink items. It keeps track of how many of each item are available for purchase, when sales are made, and who sells the items. It also keeps track of the product's expiration date, so restaurants don't have to worry about selling out of fresh food.

Examples of inventory management software for restaurants include MarketMan, CrunchTime, and Yellow Dog.

Loyalty Program Software

A loyalty program is a software platform that allows restaurants to track their customers and their dining habits. It helps restaurants to create perks and promos for repeat customers and to better target advertisements to these customers. Loyalty programs can take a number of forms and there is not a single industry standard. Some programs track and reward individual customers, while others track and reward groups of customers. Some programs can be integrated with third-party services, such as Yelp and Facebook, while others are designed to operate independently.

This can be a crucial tool for restaurants that want to improve efficiency and grow their customer base without spending too much money on marketing.

Examples of loyalty program software for restaurants include Personica, Loyalty3, and Punchh.

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Online Ordering Platform

An online ordering platform allows customers to place food orders online, and it automatically delivers those orders to the kitchen. This system streamlines the restaurant's workflow and enables them to deliver food more quickly and with fewer errors. Online ordering platforms are very common in the restaurant industry.

Examples of online ordering platform software for restaurants can be found on restaurant websites for Chipotle, P.F. Chang's, and The Olive Garden.

Scheduling Software

Scheduling software is a cloud-based platform that allows restaurant managers to create and manage employee schedules. The software automatically notifies employees of their work hours and generates reports based on those hours. Scheduling software is a great way to help restaurants become more efficient and to streamline employee communication.

Examples of scheduling software for restaurants include Hubstaff, 7shifts, and When I Work.

Employee Training Software/Hospitality LMS

Employee training software or a hospitality LMS (Learning Management System) is used by restaurants to help their human resources teams train and engage their employees. It can be used to create training modules and then assign them to specific employees. It might also be used to track employee progress and ensure that they complete all of their training modules before they receive a promotion. Basic employee training software is usually used in conjunction with a solution for performance reviews and employee reviews.

Examples of employee training software for restaurants include ExpandShare, Waitrainer, and Wisetail.

Payroll Software

Payroll management is the process by which a company's employees are assigned tax information, tax deductions are calculated, and each employee's paycheck is calculated. Payroll software is software designed to automate this process.

There are many options for payroll software, but the first thing you should know is that there are two types of payroll software: off-the-shelf solutions and custom solutions. Off-the-shelf solutions are pre-built solutions that can be purchased and used right away. They are designed to serve the needs of many different clients. Custom solutions are built specifically for a single client. They are usually more expensive than off-the-shelf solutions, but they are also more flexible.

Examples of employee training software for restaurants include Gusto, Intuit, and PayChex.

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Restaurant Review App

A restaurant review app is a piece of software that allows customers to rate and review local restaurants. They can take many different forms and serve many different purposes, but usually, the purpose of a restaurant review app is to help users find and evaluate restaurants in their local area. These apps generally provide outlets for users to provide detailed reviews of their experience at a restaurant, including the food, the service, the atmosphere, and the price.

Some restaurant review apps are built for a specific restaurant chain. These apps can allow employees to communicate with each other and provide a better experience for customers. A restaurant chain might benefit from a review app like this because it can keep everyone on the same page with regards to new specials and allow them to discuss customer feedback and improve their service.

Examples of review apps for restaurants include Yelp, Foursquare, and Zagat.

Features That Restaurant Apps Should Have

Many food and beverage businesses produce websites and mobile applications for their customers. A new restaurant might create a full-featured mobile application that allows customers to order food, check their balances, and view the restaurant's menu. A larger restaurant might create an app with a similar menu and a rewards program. A restaurant franchise might build a mobile app that allows customers to order food and pay both online and in-store. Each of these applications should have a search function so customers can find a local restaurant, a menu so customers can browse available dishes, a way to place an order, a way to pay, and a way to view customer accounts.

These features are universal because most restaurants use them as a foundation to build their own, unique apps, but here are some additional ones to consider:

  • User profiles: Even the most basic restaurant app should include an area for users to enter their name, email, and password.
  • Restaurant listings: Restaurant listings should include the restaurant's name, address, phone number, and website address. It also should include recent customer reviews.
  • Payment options: Restaurants should be able to accept both cash and credit cards.
  • Notifications: Restaurant apps should notify users when they have received a new message or when there is a new review for the restaurant.
  • Loyalty program: Users should be able to join a loyalty program and receive rewards for their patronage.

Build Custom Restaurant Software Solutions with Crowdbotics

Crowdbotics is a full-service app development company with an abundance of experience working with enterprise clients to build the solutions that they need. Whether you're looking for applications to help you streamline your operations or more efficiently handle orders, restaurant staff and inventory, and accounting, we can build the high-quality tools you need 3x faster than manual development. To learn more, get in touch with us today for a detailed estimate!

Originally published:

September 24, 2021