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The Cost of Developing a Mobile App for a Restaurant

Hannah Solovey
Market Researcher

COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives, and the way we eat and dine out has altered dramatically too. Given the pandemic’s influence on the restaurant industry, 2021 is the perfect time to tap into the shift toward mobile food services and develop a foodie-forward app.

Whether you want a dedicated app for your own restaurant or to launch an ordering and delivery service, we’ve got you covered. Here we examine restaurant app types and look at the approximate costs to develop a food service app.

Types of restaurant apps

Before we start estimating the cost of developing a restaurant app, let’s break down food service apps into categories. Because app development for the restaurant industry isn’t universal, your unique goals will dictate the type of app you need.

Discovery apps

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Example of Zomato functionality

With restaurant discovery apps, users can find and filter venues in their area based on reviews and ratings. Besides general discovery apps such as Foursquare, apps such as Zomato and LocalEats are specific to the restaurant segment and use geolocation services to provide customers with venue and menu information for nearby restaurants.

Table reservation and ordering apps

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Example of Tayble functionality

Some developments focus on restaurant tables and allow users to make bookings via an app. OpenTable, for example, is a convenient way to reserve a place before visiting a venue. This innovative idea has proven to be a hit with diners. MadAppGang created Tayble, a service that allows users to book tables, order food, and pay for meals in one app. In Sydney, Tayble processed over 500,000 orders in just one year.

Delivery apps

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Example of Uber Eats functionality

According to data from Statista, there were more than 45 million active delivery app users in the US in 2020. The projected revenue for app-based delivery services in 2021 is an impressive $28 billion. Online ordering and delivery apps include Grubhub and Uber Eats — the latter is practically synonymous with online food delivery and services hungry clients worldwide.

In-house restaurant apps

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Example of Papa John’s functionality

Major restaurant chains have dedicated in-house apps. Some serve as delivery apps, such as Papa John’s or Domino’s Pizza, while others are geared towards loyalty programs or include both elements in one application.

For more on developing a restaurant booking app, read our overview of the restaurant app market.

Why your venue needs an app

The vast majority of smartphone users use their devices to search for restaurant locations, opening hours, and delivery options. Think about the number of times you’ve used your phone for that purpose over the years. 

With the pandemic still in full swing, the importance of digital services in the food industry is growing rapidly. But why does a restaurant need its own, dedicated app?

Reservation and delivery options equal better client experiences

With an app, you offer more functionalities to existing clients such as table reservations, online orders, payments, and delivery options in one handy place. For in-house reservations, you can easily organise your venue according to current COVID-19 restrictions on the number of clientele allowed and social distancing measures. Plus, the more options your app provides, the better the client experience, which boosts retention rates.

Visibility and increased brand image

A restaurant app is an excellent way to boost your visibility. A well-developed application with an intelligent UI design contributes to your overall brand image, which is crucial in the restaurant industry. To compete in today's marketplace, restaurants need to adapt to changing societal mores, and that includes making the switch to digital to ensure a restaurant's brand stays relevant and is seen.

Loyalty programs for customer retention

It’s not enough to be visible, though. Today, the success of your restaurant is all about customer retention. For that, your app can offer a loyalty program with cashbacks or bonuses clients can exchange for complimentary meals or discounts. These benefits can also be exchanged for feedback.

The big players to take into consideration

Major restaurant chains have long used mobile apps to their advantage. Let’s look at how the big players leverage digital services to stay on the top of their game.


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Example of Starbucks functionality

In a sense, Starbucks’ app is a loyalty program app; it prompts users to order drinks in the app in return for special rewards and free drink bonuses. What’s more, pre-ordering means customers avoid waiting in line. In 2020, Starbucks reported that almost 25% of its transactions were mobile app orders.


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Example of McDonald’s functionality

The fast food giant’s app allows users to order and pay for pickups and track meals. It also notifies customers of the latest discounts, menu updates, and special offers. The app lets users participate in the McDonald's Rewards program where each order contributes to a free meal. Since the fast-food chain is literally everywhere, its app is used by millions worldwide.


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Example of Domino’s functionality

Domino’s runs its popular delivery app, with unique and varying functionalities, in more than 90 countries. It offers bonus points that can be later spent as discounts on new delivery or pickup orders. The ‘pizza tracker’ feature lets users see their order status in real time, and there are options to customise pizzas and add items with the help of a voice assistant.

How much does developing a restaurant app cost?

The cost of developing a restaurant reservation app is dependent on: the features of the final application, the platform it’s built on, and the rates of the restaurant app development company you choose. First, let’s discuss key functionalities for restaurant industry apps.

Functionality and features

The main thing influencing the cost of a restaurant app is the features the developers must build. Here’s a closer look at some essentials.

  • Menu: You need to show the menu in your app so that users can choose and order meals and drinks, a standard feature for restaurant delivery app development. Note that the menu screens should be interactive and logical so users can navigate and order easily.
  • Payment methods: You need to provide your customers with several payment options. Apple Pay and Google Pay are one way to go, but don’t forget to integrate traditional card processing and methods such as PayPal.
  • Booking: If you develop an app for your own restaurant, consider table booking functionality as a key feature. Your visitors can reserve a table online, which is more convenient than a traditional phone call.
  • Geolocation: Geolocation services are critical in delivery apps. And if you have several restaurants, users can easily find your venues. 
  • Loyalty programs: Everyone loves a freebie, and loyalty programs are a must in today’s restaurant apps as they keep clients engaged and spending at your business. Integrate cashbacks, points systems, or create special offers.
  • User profile and social media integration: To generate feedback and reviews, offer social media authentication. It’s also a fest and easy way for users to create an account with your company, without filling out a long form. The speed factor ultimately leads to more active accounts, which is never a bad thing.
  • Admin panel: Besides end-user functionality, restaurant administrators and employees need an admin area to manage incoming orders, reservations and/or deliveries.

Native versus cross-platform apps

There are three major app types: native, hybrid (or cross-platform), and web apps. While the last is a mobile version of a website adapted into an ‘app’, the first two are our subject for discussion.

With hybrid apps, you can have a working product faster since they share the same code regardless of the platform (iOS or Android). Hybrid apps are created on special platforms such as Flutter or React Native. While faster to produce, hybrid apps are more vulnerable to bugs and technical errors.

Native apps are designed specifically for both the Android and iOS platforms. Yes, it’s costlier to build two apps simultaneously, but it’s worth it from a long-term perspective. Android app development costs might be higher than iOS, but if you want to release your restaurant app in Europe, Asia, or Australia, consider starting with Android.

Restaurant app developer rates

After the features you choose, costs are dependent on the location of your developers. If you hire in-house developers in the US, for example, be ready to spend more, but if you outsource to developers in Europe, you’ll find wallet-friendly solutions.

Note that to build an app, you need more than just developers. Here’s a short list of the specialists involved:

  • Project managers help teams work together
  • Frontend developers work on the features
  • Backend developers make sure the app’s data is stored safely
  • UI/UX designers create the app’s interface
  • QA engineers test the application while it’s developed
  • A marketing team makes sure people hear about your service

As a rough estimation, a restaurant app can cost from $50,000 for an early version, known as a minimal viable product (MVP), through to $500,000 for a fully developed program.

Final words

While restaurant app development is far from cheap, getting a slice of the changing food industry’s pie is a matter of going digital. 

An app can promote your business, keep it competitive, help you retain clientele, and keep your business relevant during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.   

Given what’s at stake, not to mention the costs involved, it makes sense to be picky about who you work with on your project. Top restaurant app developers can make an app that’s smooth, elegant, and leaves your customers impressed.

After our successful work on projects including Tayble, and our experience and understanding of the restaurant app market, MadAppGang can confidently build your venue’s app, exactly the way you want it.

If you’re interested, find out what you need to tell us about your idea here, or drop us a line to start discussing your project.