Imagine apps that can do everything except chew for you (but don’t hold your breath, anything is possible). Technological devices are becoming more advanced by the nanosecond and apps are forerunners in the race to the computerized mountain we are creating. It used to be that you heard about a new, trendy lounge or foreign restaurant that you wanted to try so you planned ahead, rallying your friends and making reservations over the phone. In 2013, dialing ten digits is laborious and antiquated and that’s all due to smartphones.
There are hundreds of restaurant and food focused apps available through the iPhone store alone; If you startkeeping count of the independent companies that are joining the new age, you may just find an app that chews for you by the time you’re finished. However, there are always shining stars, even amongst staggering numbers. The likes of OpenTable, Urbanspoon and Yelp are not immune to the rise of apps like MyCheck, which is currently making strides overseas and building a repertoire on the east coast and Flow, the “one and done” go-to app for customer acquisition.
CEO Tal Zvi Nathanel discusses the features of MyCheck; “While most apps today are focused on checking in, MyCheck is more about expediting checking out of restaurants-but it does more than that. In a full service restaurant, MyCheck allows users to review their orders and assess their bill live on the phone and pay whenever they are ready to leave. They can easily add a tip, split the bill by item, amount or percentage and get an email receipt. The app also allows users to manage their loyalty benefits so they don’t have to carry around a loyalty card.” MyCheck ranks as the largest mobile payment company in Israel. According to Nathanel, Israelis are a tough audience to please due to the fact that Israel is garnering a reputation comparable to Silicon Valley. Given this, the company’s track record of soliciting users who use the app on average seven times a month is an indication of its appeal. Nathanel and his team have hopes of introducing MyCheck to SoCal in the near future. “Orange County is an obvious place to go given the proliferation of restaurants,” says the CEO.
Established in Toronto, Canada, Flow Inc. was formed in 2011 to bring the Flow platform to market. “Our aim is to watch for changes in the way people use their mobile devices. In order to get ahead of those changes, we’ll need to make adjustments to Flow’s platform,” says Amy Haar, CEO, when asked about future plans to further develop the app. So what sets Flow apart from other apps? It allows customers to place orders and arrange for delivery as most popular apps do but in addition, it is a built in marketing tool. Flow links restaurant ratings and reviews with social media sites, thus, a restaurateur can track customer reviews and reward said customers with targeted promotions and incentives. “With Flow, the future is now,” says Haar fittingly (technological enterprises can’t afford to be anything else).
Dining destinations are popping up left and right and apps created for these establishments are growing at an astounding rate. The San Diego based mobile application development company, IT Mentor, is quickly becoming the go-to source for app creation and can equip its clients with a competitive edge in 14 days or less. For an initial set up charge of $1,495 and a monthly maintenance fee of just $99, a business can go from illusive to sitting comfortably in their customers’ palms, pushing updates and incentives. Daniel Altbaum, President of IT Mentor, describes the creation process. “Once a client has purchased the app, we visit their website and begin pulling content and populating an app. Our team of developers, graphic designers and business team review the app to ensure it is functional, beautiful and meets the needs of the owner. Within 14 days of start, we send the client a demo of the completed app. If the client wants to make any changes, we quickly modify the app and resend the demo. Once the client approves the completed demo, we publish the app to Apple and Google Play.”
IT Mentor creates apps on iPhone, iPad and Android platforms and allows their clients to choose from over 200 modules (i.e. directions, tip calculators, social media and photo galleries), creating a fully customizable app. Local clients include Opah, 230 Forest, Asada and Watermarc. “Getting the word out about a mobile app is actually very easy. We provide marketing materials to our clients that can be put in their window, on their menu, website, Facebook page, twitter account, blog and on customer receipts,” says Altbaum. Restaurateurs interested in creating apps should consider offering them to patrons for free. “It is far better to give away your app and have thousands of people download it than to charge and have very few download it,” explains Daniel.
Small business owners are faced with the task of staying relevant by providing patrons with information as fast as one can do a search on their smartphone. The mark of a legitimate business used to be a business card and a website but as the digital clock keeps ticking, apps are beginning to replace websites as signifiers of legitimacy and appeal.