Here’s a common conversation I have when talking to restaurateurs.
Restaurateur: “We’ve been thinking about building an iPhone app for the restaurant, but we’re just not sure how helpful it’ll be.”
Dixon: “When was the last time you downloaded a restaurant app?”
Restauranteur: “Actually, I never have. Hmm.”
If you are one of such restaurateurs, this article could be useful for you. As I lead the business aspects of Burpple, I’ve the wonderful opportunity to meet many merchants from the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry in Singapore. You’ve probably met about 7 mobile app developers - all of whom have pitched to you the extreme need for a mobile app, that apps are the future, and is the only way to engage the Instagram generation.
Specifically in Singapore, app developers will also tell you that app development is PIC-qualified, where you’re required to pay only 40% of the entire cost. I’ve heard that some pitches even say that building an app actually ‘earns’ you money when wrapped around tax incentives. Quotes range from the lowest of $5,000 to a high of $35,000, depending on the the perceived size and depth of your pockets. You can read more about the PIC program here.
Here Are 5 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Doesn’t Need To Build A Mobile App
1. Not a natural mode of discovery
After a year of building Burpple, we have collected millions of data points on customer behavior. The most typical ways people would discover your restaurant online are through the following modes:
A. Searching or browsing food specific networks such as Burpple, Yelp or Foursquare
- Decision is made based on results and relevance
- This customer already had a sense of where they want to go
B. Using a good search engine such as Google
- Will search with nothing specific in mind “great places to dine in Singapore”
- This customer has no sense of where they are going
C. Going to your website to for information
- This customer already knows you and plans to visit
There is almost zero opportunity for people to download your restaurant app. You can give discounts, a free soup for every download, or use Google AdWords, but essentially, you’re paying to advertise something that you’ve spent time and money to build that was supposed to increase your productivity and reduce cost in the first place. It just doesn’t add up.
2. Only regulars will know about your app
People who download your app are people who already know about you. Which means a mobile app is a really bad marketing tool- if your goal is to capture new users. Building a community on your app is never your metric, while it is the sole focus of social networks like Facebook or Burpple. Instead, you should utilize and engage the communities that these social networks have already built.
3. No restaurant app is ever in the top 10
There are exceptions like Starbucks or Pizza Hut. To once again prove that there is little or low likelihood for people to download restaurant apps, take a look at iTunes. On the day this article is published, there are no restaurant apps (other than those 2) sitting in the Top 10 of the Food & Drinks category.
4. Save your money
Developing mobile apps is not cheap. As mentioned, it can cost you anywhere between $5,000 - $35,000 to create an iPhone app, and don’t forget, you need apps for Android or Windows platforms too. Besides, many developers charge a retainer fee to maintain and update your apps. This can turn out to be really pricey.
5. Save your time
You will need to spend time laying down the product specifications, and working closely with developers to build the app. Feature customization will also be limited, as developers are working off templates (modules). It is better to work off current platforms such as Facebook or Burpple, as they offer greater flexibility for your content, and allow you to engage existing communities.
What else should I consider?
a. The goals of building a mobile app
b. Utilizing current platforms
c. A solution that is cheap, fast, and already has a good customer reach
So, what should I do?
At Burpple, we offer tools that help businesses promote their restaurant online, and instantly gain access to an existing community of food lovers through mobile and web platforms. It’s like owning your app, but cheaper, faster and better. You should check it out here.