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What Makes a Great Food Ordering App & How Much It Costs to Build One

November 04, 2017 Written by Andrei Klubnikin, Senior Content Manager
Whether you run a restaurant chain or provide meal delivery services only, building a food ordering app will give you a competitive advantage over rivals and help you improve customer experience and extend it beyond front doors. Discover what makes a great food ordering mobile app for restaurants and how much it will cost you to develop one.

Insight into Restaurant App development: What Makes an Awesome Food Ordering App?

  • UI/UX design. With 90% of apps a user downloads being used only once, it is true to say that smartphone owners do judge the book by its cover. Starting with the icon, your app should have your brand written all over it, while its landing page must showcase the app’s full feature set. Animations, beautiful layouts and HQ photos aside, you should enable customers to easily navigate the menu and place orders in several clicks. Furthermore, make sure to secure payments through tokens and allow users to track delivery status and contact couriers if required.
  • Comprehensive menu & restaurant information. Further to our user experience talk, you should feature menu information (or at least certain items) on the landing page. Do not forget to add short and full menu descriptions offering nutrition facts to picky customers: detailed descriptions sell more food. When it comes to restaurant data, it should not be limited to your address and opening hours: customers who will take the time to install your app and link credit card to their account might want to learn more about your business.
  • Instant payments. Great food ordering apps employ reliable payment gateway solutions like Stripe, PayPal or PayU that allow customers to specify credit card data only once during the profile set-up stage, thus shortening their buying journey. Order splitting (the feature is utilized by apps like Uber and MyCheck) is a nice option, too.
  • Loyalty program features. Recent studies show that 65% of customers will download a restaurant app when promised exclusive offers and deals; 80% of those will return to the restaurant to redeem the deals and loyalty points. My Starbucks Rewards, one of the most successful mobile-based loyalty programs ever made, drives 40% of the company’s revenue. By incorporating loyalty program elements into your food ordering app, you’ll give customers a strong incentive to use the application on a regular basis and increase check averages.
  • Social features. These include ratings and customer reviews, as well as the options to refer the app to a friend, share it on social media and log in and sign up via a social media account.
As a prominent vendor with several delivery app projects up our sleeve, the r-stylelab.com team would like to illustrate these points with a real-world example and estimate restaurant mobile app development costs.
Food Ordering Apps: Feature Set Analysis & Cost Estimation

Building a Food Ordering App: Breakfast Delivered Case

Breakfast Delivered, a US startup we’ve recently worked with, wanted to create a food delivery app targeted at college students. Being new to both food industry and mobile development, the company didn’t have a clear vision of the software product; however, their major requirement was to enable order placement in 3 to 4 clicks.
The solution we came up with is a simple client-server application which retrieves data from the server using the REST API. In fact, we developed three apps (iOS and Android apps for customers and an Android courier app), a web-based admin console and a simple promotional website.

The mobile apps’ key features include:

  • User profile, which supports secure authorization and password setup.
  • Menu, with its items featured on the landing page to let users add meals to cart faster.
  • Mobile payments implemented through the secure Stripe SDK which collects payment data directly from customers using tokens.
  • Real-time order tracking; the feature is supported by the Socket.io engine and Google Maps SDK and allows users to track order status in real time. Courier data is processed and synchronized by the server.
  • Order splitting. The apps access a customer’s smartphone contacts and allow the person to order meals for other Breakfast Delivered users by simply choosing a name from the contacts list and adding menu items to cart; once a group order is created, the server sends notifications to all the parties involved.
Have any questions? Ask our team!
According to Dmitry Hanin, our Senior Android Developer, the courier app also makes use of the Google Maps SDK/Socket.io technology stack and enables delivery personnel to update their location data and manage orders. The web-based admin panel (Laravel, MySQL) facilitates content management and order processing and allows the company to define delivery area using the “Draw a line” tool (Google Maps Engine).
Our customer plans a soft opening in the spring of 2018, so the Breakfast Delivered apps will soon be available on Google Play and the App Store. Meanwhile, the company wants to enhance the software with new features such as the option to tip couriers.
Food Ordering Apps: Feature Set Analysis & Cost Estimation

How Much does It Cost to Develop a Food Ordering App?

According to Pavel Vaskou, Head of iOS Development Unit at R-Style Lab, it takes a little over 16 weeks to create a high-performance app like Breakfast Delivered. Social media integration, live chat and in-app currency like Starbucks stars may extend the deadline by 10 more weeks. US and EU vendors’ blended rates – that is, the average hourly rate of a team which consists of several developers, QA engineers, designers and project managers – range from $70 to $150; if you address an American or European software development company, a food ordering app will cost you anything between $200 thousand and $500 thousand.
Seems a lot, doesn’t it?
The good news is, you can outsource the job to a nearshore or offshore vendor and significantly reduce software development expenses; the median developer hourly rate in Eastern Europe, for example, is only $30-35.
Furthermore, you can address a software development company that has worked on food delivery apps before and build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) version of the app in just 4 weeks (which translates into $9.9-11.5 thousand if you set your eyes on Eastern Europe). The estimate includes mobile app development efforts (iOS and Android customer apps), the back-end part supporting menu and order management, the “Add to cart” option and geofencing (the option to place an order within a specified area).
4 weeks? Ok, but why did it take us 16 weeks to create an app like Breakfast Delivered?
The remaining time was actually spent on the development and deployment of custom modules (which are desirable but not essential).

These include (all the prices are based on Eastern European hourly rates):

  • Payments (the integration with shopping cart software and popular payment services like PayPal and Apple Pay), 3 weeks (or $7.2-8.4 thousand).
  • Delivery service (an Android-based courier app and features supporting real-time order tracking), 3 weeks ($6.3-7.4 thousand).
  • A web-based version of a food delivery app (your vendor can either build a website from scratch or enhance an existing one), 2 weeks ($4.5-5.3 thousand).
  • Social features (group orders, social sharing, invite a friend), 3 weeks ($5.1-6 thousand).
  • Ratings (the option to rate couriers and restaurants belonging to the same chain plus pre-moderation), 2 weeks ($4.5-5.3 thousand).
  • Loyalty program elements (in-app currency, multiple types of user accounts, digital coupons, bonus points calculator, etc.; although the Breakfast Delivered apps do not use these components, food ordering applications often incorporate certain features of customer loyalty programs), 2-12 weeks (anything between $3.3 thousand and $17.5 thousand).
  • Communication (a live chat between couriers and customers), 2 to 3 weeks (from $7.2 thousand to $8.4 thousand).
  • Chain management (enabling chain restaurant owners to manage multiple locations from one web-based admin console), 6 weeks ($7.5-8.8 thousand).
  • Custom design, 4 weeks ($4.8-5.6 thousand).
You don’t have to add all these features to the scope, of course! As long as you partner with a reliable restaurant app development company (by the way, check out our portfolio and download our Food Delivery brochure with cost and functionality breakdown while you’re at it), you can always start with an MVP version of the application and expand its feature set when necessary. If you already have a restaurant app, you can enhance it with order placement/delivery service/loyalty program features, too!
P.S. There’s just one question you have to ask yourself: does your company need a food-ordering app?
That’s a good question indeed. In case with Breakfast Delivered, our customer’s entire business is built around mobile software. If you operate a dine-in restaurant, the decision to develop food-ordering apps should, of course, be based on a thorough market research and your target audience’s preferences. However, these stats prove you’re on the right track:
  • Nearly 2/3 of US consumers have placed take-out orders at restaurants within the last 6 months.
  • In 2016, online food delivery accounted for 30% of the $210 billion restaurant market.
  • Since 2017, the online food delivery segment has been growing at a CAGR of 65%.
Building a custom food delivery app will certainly give you a competitive edge; do not waste precious time!

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