Going app

The iPad and iPhone 4 are driving new marketing opportunities for restaurants—if you can afford it.

The iPad and iPhone 4 are driving new marketing opportunities for restaurants—if you can afford it.

You’ve got your own website—why wouldn’t you have your own iPhone App?

Having your own, branded App for your restaurant seems like a good idea—given how desirable iPhones and iPads are right now. And if you’ve got a web page, you should be able to throw an iPhone app together, right? Pizza Hut has one, so… Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Let’s take a step back. If you don’t have teenage children, or if you are a committed BlackBerry customer, or you live under a rock, you may have missed out on Apple’s smart phone and e-reader revolutions of the last few years. The rest of the world was reminded of it at the end of July, when the fourth version of the iPhone was released to immediate, almost universal delays of supply. The appeal of the iPhone—which is mirrored in the iPad—is not the phone part, but the countless number of applications, or Apps, that are available either free or very cheaply to users. Apps can be practical or frivolous, but the sheer volume of them makes the iPhone a top choice for anyone wanting a smart phone.

But putting an App together is significantly more complex than putting together a web page. Any restaurateur trying it would immediately stumble up against the prohibitive cost of doing it themselves, which can be up to $50,000.

“It’s not cheap, and we’re still in that Wild West time when it comes to App development,” agrees Antony Richards, a graphic and web designer who has just developed an iPhone app himself—Restaurant Connection. “There’s only a handful people doing it. In terms of commercial programmers, there’s not many, and they charge a premium.”

But if you do decide to press ahead, there are options available to you—the first is getting listed with an app like iTakeaway of Plastic fork; the second is having your own very basic app which works as an extentsion of phone ordering.

Tony Peter, managing director of iTakeaway, says the App was developed specifically as an iPhone App, as opposed to web-based applications. “We developed the app in October last year,” he says. “We’ve been involved in development of software for 15 years and saw an opportunity with smartphones and we felt we could put together an extensive package that would be appealing to restaurateurs.”

Peters says the most appealing factor for restaurateurs is the level of ease for owners to ammend their details. “It’s interactive and gives them a lot of control,” he says. “Restaurateurs can go to a separate website, and edit their menus or amend any details, and it all goes live from there. They don’t have to contact us for any alterations to their listings.”

The iTakeaway App is like an online database, except customers access it via their iPhone. Orders are sent to the restaurant via fax, email or an  SMS printer, and iTakeaway processes all payments. There is no charge to be listed, but iTakeaway charges seven-and-a-half per cent of the order value, which includes credit card processing fees.

“The reason we did it that way was so the restaurateurs would be confident that the orders are paid in advance before preparation. We wanted a system that provided an interactive site, which can be updated 24/7, and accepted credit cards.”

The model has some real advantages for restaurateurs, which are similar to being listed on a restaurant guide website. The alternative is to have your own iPhone App, which customers can source in much the same way as they would your own web page. That’s what Antony Richards has done with Restaurant Connection, an App which can be re-badged with your restaurant’sname, and download from Apple’s iTunes store.

“We’re still in that Wild West time in App development—there’s only a handful of people doing it, and they charge a premium.” Antony Richards, Restaurant Connection

“I chose to go with a decentralised model, so each restaurant could have their own App representing their own brand,” Antony explains. “Other apps aggregate restaurants, and they’re good, but if I’m a restaurant owner, I don’t want to be listing beside all of my direct competitors.”

Another key difference with the Restaurant Connection App is customers don’t pay through it—once their order is placed, the restaurant can contact them for payment. “All payments are dealt with by the restaurant themselves,” he says. “Other Apps are running a financial model that’s based on no orders, no fee. I’m not concerned with processing or taking payments. I think the consumer is happier with that too. They don’t want to put personal information into an iPhone App. It just alerts the restaurant as to how they’ll be paying.”

Richards happily admits the App he has developed just offers ‘the basics’ at this stage—but points out that to even get to this point, an individual restaurateur would need to invest a lot of money. “It has cost me, in time and supplier costs, over $100K to develop this over the last 12 months,” he explains. “And because it’s software you have to be on top of the whole development process. So I’m offering it to restaurants for a fraction of that cost.”

Currently he is planning to charge an initial set-up fee of $499, then a flat $149 per month to run the App, although he says there will be some small admin costs when a restaurant updates menus and details. “I’m trying to strike a healthy balance between charging for large changes like seasonal menus and making small item changes for free, but as it develops and the business grows, the client will be able to log in and manage their own menu,” he explains. Other future plans involve having the program input directly into a restaurant’s POS system, but he’s waiting for a few more customers before he upgrades it. ⎮

To find out more about iTakeaway or Restaurant Connection, see their websites: www.itakeaway.com.au and www.restaurantconnection.com.au

This great content is produced for members of the Restaurant & Catering Association. Find out about becoming a member here.

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