The Best Way To Get A Mobile App Your Restaurant

Learn the best way to design and publish a mobile app for your restaurant.

15 min read
October 18, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Having a mobile app for your restaurant makes it easier for customers to order and pay, improving their experience and your sales.
  • A good restaurant app should have an easy-to-use menu, a simple ordering process, and options for commission-free delivery.
  • Including a loyalty program and easy promotions in your app can help keep customers coming back and increase your restaurant's sales.

If you are looking to get a mobile app for your restaurant, you've come to the right place.

In this guide, I'll break down the best app creation method for independent restaurant owners, show you the five key components your restaurant app needs, and walk you step by step through real examples of what the app experience should look like for your customers.

Let's dive in.

What Is The Purpose Of A Restaurant Mobile App?

Having a mobile app for your restaurant can provide a number of benefits, including:

  1. Improved customer experience: An app can make it easier for customers to place orders, view menus, and make reservations, which can enhance their experience and increase customer satisfaction.
  2. Increased revenue: An app can make it easier for customers to order and pay for their meals, which can increase revenue for your restaurant.
  3. Improved operational efficiency: An app can help you to manage orders, track inventory, and communicate with customers, which can improve the overall efficiency of your restaurant.
  4. Enhanced customer engagement and loyalty: An app can provide a platform for special offers and promotions, which can help to increase customer engagement and loyalty.
  5. Competitive advantage: An app can help your restaurant to stand out from the competition and provide a unique value proposition to customers.
  6. Improved marketing and branding: An app can help you to reach a wider audience and promote your restaurant to potential customers.

Overall, having an app for your restaurant can provide a number of different benefits that can help to improve your business and enhance the customer experience.

What Is The Best Option For Building A Restaurant App?

If you're looking to create an app for your restaurant, there are two main options to consider.

The first option is to hire a professional developer or team of developers to create the app for you. This will likely be the most expensive option, but it can also give you the most control over the final product and ensure that it is designed exactly how you want it.

This is not a good option for 95% of independent restaurant owners. The time, budget, and risk involved are simply not worth the outcome.

The second option is to use an app builder or a dual website and app builder platform to create your app. These platforms typically come with pre-designed templates and tools that make it easy to create an app without needing any coding experience. While this option may not be as customizable as hiring a professional developer, it’s a much more practical option for 95% of restaurant owners.

Where most restaurant owners go wrong here is in choosing a generic mobile app builder.

Restaurants have very unique needs, and that’s why you want to use a builder or platform specifically designed for restaurants.

The 5 Key Components Of A Restaurant App

So what are the specific components that your restaurant app needs to deliver?

Every restaurant app needs the following 4 components:

  1. A beautiful, easy-to-use menu
  2. A high-converting ordering experience
  3. Commission-free delivery
  4. An integrated loyalty program
  5. Easy promotions and announcements

As you'll see in the following sections, these are the exact components that we deliver for our partners through the app. All the screenshots are pulled from our app, and you'll see exactly why each component is important (plus what it should look like) whether or not you decide to try our platform out for yourself.

Let's dig deeper into each of these components.


1. A Beautiful, Easy-To-Use Menu

A mobile digital menu needs to be intuitive and easy to navigate. How it operates should be obvious the moment the app is opened. 

This is what customers see when opening a restaurant app designed by You can see from this image that every word and image serves a purpose. 


The menu’s design inherently shows customers how it works—a few taps are all it takes to browse the menu and place an order.

Looking at this image, you can see that the restaurant menu is made of three main components.

  • High-quality photos
  • Descriptive menu items
  • Price

We’ve all heard the saying, “You eat with your eyes first,” so getting this right is critical. How delicious your food looks will directly affect your sales.

Photos need to be crystal clear and give a fair representation of your food. Don’t use pictures found on the internet. This will create a disjointed feel on your app and disrupt the consistency. 

Plus, it’s misleading to your customers. We’ve all ordered food that comes out looking nothing like the photo. It’s frustrating.

These images are from Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant’s mobile app and are perfect examples of photos done well.

These are pictures taken by Ottavio’s—the food looks delicious and authentic. Customers feel better placing an order based on pictures like these as opposed to overworked photoshopped images.

Cell phone cameras are ok to use if you’re in a pinch, but it’ll pay to spring for a professional photographer to create your sharp in-focus pictures. A pro can artfully craft light and spacing to make each ingredient really pop.

Images can only take you so far—to really sell, you’ll need to use descriptive words. 

Think of descriptive words as telling a story. You’ll need to reveal how it’s made and where it came from. 

For example, this description of rigatoni from Ottavios’s Italian Restaurant.

Right off the bat, we know that Sal, someone who either works at the restaurant or is a personally known good cook, is responsible for the recipe, telling us it’s from scratch and unique.

The very first words in the description are ‘homemade sausage,’ and that’s a home run. Telling people it’s made in-house is infinitely better than just labeling it ‘sausage.’ If you have unique qualities in your food, tell people.

You’ll notice two other words in the description—‘sautéed’ and ‘tossed.’ 

These action words bring movement to the dish and tell people how it’s prepared, adding another layer to the story.

 Words like:

  • Grilled
  • Poached
  • Marinated
  • Encrusted
  • Shredded
  • Fried

Don’t overdo it, though—there’s limited space on an app, so don’t name actions for every component. Keep it to the most prominent ingredients.

Lastly, you want to add words that speak to the five senses. 

How many commercials have you heard with the words ‘chewy,’ ‘crunchy,’ and ‘crispy’?

That’s because these words awaken our senses, create a response, and help customers identify what they are about to eat. 

Words like:

  • Sweet
  • Tart
  • Rich 
  • Flaky
  • Creamy
  • Smoky

In this example, Ottavio’s uses the word ‘creamy’ to give the customer the overall flavor profile of the dish.

It’s a simple but very effective way to help customers visualize what it’s like to eat a dish.

In each one of these examples, you can see the menu item description is short and to the point.

Use words related to preparation and eating experience, but space is limited, so cut out any words that aren’t necessary when doing the final edit.

Group similar foods together just like you would with a traditional menu for quick and easy selection.

Lastly is price. This is pretty straightforward, so we don’t need to spend very much time on it. By looking at any of our previous examples, you can clearly see the cost of each menu item.

Customers love this easy-to-scan layout, and having price coupled with every menu item aids in efficiency—customers don’t want to find the price only at checkout. 

2. A High-Converting Ordering Experience

The whole idea behind customers using a mobile app is convenience and speed. When ordering and making payments, customers should find the experience as effortless as perusing the menu.

I’m going to take you step-by-step through ordering and paying for a pizza from Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant on a mobile app. When you see how the simple design makes placing an order so easy, you’ll understand why customers prefer to order and pay for meals this way when short on time.

The first step is selecting your pizza. In this example, we are purchasing a Gianni’s Deluxe Pizza. 

After selecting the menu item, the app will pull up the description—this is where you can strategically place words about preparation and texture. 

You’ll also see that this is where customers can make any modifications to the menu item, or add any special requests, select quantity, or create a list of add-ons. In this example, guests are given a gluten-free crust option.

Once customers are happy with their pizza, they can push the “Add Item” button at the bottom. Notice the price is clearly visible on the button, so customers don’t have to work to find the price. 

It’s adding the menu item and the price—two birds, one stone.

After pushing the “Add Item” button, the app will take customers back to the menu page so they can browse for food if they like—if not, they simply tap the “Checkout” button.

The item count helps customers keep track of their food count. This feature can be especially helpful if feeding a larger group. You’ll quickly see if you have too much or too little food for the group.

Some menu items require you to make a selection before moving on. If a customer misses a selection, the app will automatically take customers to the required field and prompt them to make a selection.

For example, if we wanted to add sodas to go with our pizza but missed which sodas we wanted, we’d see a notification like this one here.

Prompts like this one help avoid mistakes, and customers are guided through the process.

Ok, pizza and sodas have been selected and are ready for checkout. 

After pressing the “Checkout” button at the bottom of the screen, the app will pull up “Your Cart,” which is a summarily of your entire order. 

“Your Cart” clearly shows every item that is about to be purchased. You can see the quantity, along with the price of each item, then the total cost at the bottom. 

After confirming the order is correct, customers can tap “Checkout” a second time to move on to payment.

Like the rest of the app, payment is simple and recognizable. Anyone who has purchased goods or services online has seen a payment format like this one here.

The tipping feature makes saying “thank you” to restaurant workers easy by hitting whichever percentage you feel comfortable making, or you can create a custom tip. The app automatically does the math for you by adjusting the price to the percentage you choose.

Once a credit or debit card is entered into the system and the user creates an account (we’ll cover that in a moment), the app will store the information for future use, so the customer doesn’t need to type the 16-digit code each visit. 

The app can store more than one payment option as well, allowing customers to add and subtract cards as they see fit. 

After the payment, a confirmation screen will pop up, saying thank you, with a summary of everything purchased, the address of where the restaurant is located, and a button to call the restaurant if customers have any issues.


3. Commission-Free Delivery

Most restaurants have the ability to offer takeout orders, but what about delivery?

Delivery is in high demand every since the pandemic, and very few restaurants are able to generate a profit paying out 30% commission through delivery apps like DoorDash and UberEats. is the only white-label app for restaurants that lets you offer commission-free delivery AND keep all your customer data.

Here's how it works.

You may have noticed on the last image in the upper left corner, under “Checkout,” it says “Pickup at 5:00 PM.” This is because you can schedule specific times for pickup and delivery.

Simply tap the text, and a tab will pull up, allowing you to schedule a time and date to pick up or have your food delivered. 

Restaurant owners can set the available times and dates based on their hours of operation—meaning customers can schedule times for the day of or up to six days in advance within the hours the restaurant is open.

The delivery is then sent to the customer at the specified time by a 3rd party driving team that charges a flat fee per order. You can pass the flat fee directly to the customer or split it with them. In both situations, both you and the customer pay less in fees than you would using a 3rd party delivery app.

Plus, having a custom-branded app means restaurants are able to take and receive orders through the entirety of your open hours.

Let’s say a regular knows they have a busy, jam-packed day ahead of them. 

Instead of trying to figure out lunch or dinner in the middle of all the chaos, the customer can place their order whenever it’s convenient, swing by at the set time to pick up their food or know that it’s being delivered at a set time.

The app has now become a valuable tool for their hectic schedule. Some customers find it so efficient that they use it daily. 

80% of profits come from 20% of your customers—a.k.a, regulars. Grow that top 20% of customers, and you’ll grow your profits.

To aid customers in becoming daily and weekly users, it helps to have a customer profile to access information, payment options, and order history quickly.

4. An Integrated Loyalty Program

In some ways, it's asking a lot of a customer to download your mobile app. While it's become common practice, most consumers don't want an app on their phone for every restaurant in their area.

That's why we aren't necessarily aiming at ALL your customers with this app.

Instead, we are primarily aiming at your regulars. We want the people who come to your restaurant multiple times a year to turn into people who come every month or possibly even twice per month.

This starts with simple features, like keeping customers logged in and tracking their activity.

Once a customer puts in their information and completes a checkout, the app will remember them from their processed information.

For example, this customer was logged in after completing their payment. The greeting has now changed to “Hi, Matt!”

The customer can now access information like the payment cards on file and order history. 

To access the order history, including the most recent order that is waiting to be picked up, tap on the person icon on the upper right side of the screen.

Once on the order history page, customers can see what they ate on previous occasions, perhaps putting in the same order till it becomes “the usual” or learning what dishes they’d like to necessarily care for. 

But this is just the beginning.

We need the app to integrate into a more robust loyalty program that incentivizes them to come back again and again.

And that's why the app that provides for its restaurant partners connected directly to the existing loyalty program.

Customers get points with every purchase, weekly prompts to eat at your restaurant, and a limited-time 15% off coupon once per month to provide some additional urgency.

Our loyalty programs increase order frequency by an average of 50%.

We talked about growing the 20% customer base that brings in 80% of a restaurant's profits, and a loyalty program incentives new guests to become a part of that 20%.

Another reason the points system works is that it becomes a sort of game. 

It’s gratifying watching points accumulate with each purchase knowing there’s a reward at the end. This can connect exceptionally well with millennials, who go out to eat more than any other age group. 

As customers place orders, they’ll receive notifications of points earned and how many points they are away from earning a free item. 

These notifications keep their points journey fresh in the customer’s mind, and with the app occupying home screen real estate, they are much more likely to order frequently. 

5. Easy Promotions And Announcements

Special offers and promotions are a great way to attract new customers and encourage existing ones to visit your restaurant more frequently.

You can easily push special offers and promotions directly to your customers' phones, encouraging them to visit your establishment and try new menu items.

Here's an example of a banner promotion on Ottavio's app.

There are a few key strategies you can use when it comes to using your mobile app to promote special offers and promotions.

One approach is to offer time-limited discounts or deals that are only available to app users. For example, you might offer a "buy one, get one free" deal on a popular menu item, or a discount on a particular dish or drink.

These types of promotions can be a powerful incentive for customers to visit your restaurant, especially if they feel like they're getting a good deal.

Another strategy is to use your app to promote special events or themed nights at your restaurant. This could include a weekly trivia night, a live music event, or a special menu featuring dishes from a particular region or cuisine.

By promoting these events through your app, you can generate buzz and interest among your customers, encouraging them to visit your restaurant and participate in the fun.

One thing to keep in mind when using your app to promote special offers and promotions is the importance of keeping your messaging clear and consistent.

Make sure that your app users know exactly what they can expect when they visit your restaurant, and use clear language to communicate the terms and conditions of any promotions or deals you're offering.

For more promotion ideas, check out our guide to restaurant promotions with 60 proven promotion ideas.


Frequently asked questions

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Their customer service is, bar none, the best and they’ve really helped with our success. In less than 5 weeks we have over $25,000 in sales and it’s the middle of winter not our busy season. I’m excited for the future and recommend it!

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Adam Guild is the CEO of Owner, a restaurant marketing platform that makes online growth easy for restaurants.


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