SMART BRIEF - Planning a mobile App? Here's What you Need to KNow

(Smart Brief, August 24, 2011) Smartphone technology is changing the way foodservice operators are doing business. Some restaurants have proprietary applications for the Apple iPhone and Google Android devices, and other restaurants are teaming up with third-party service providers. Loaded with content, including specials and promotions, location information, and ordering and payment features, restaurant apps keep wowing us. I reached out to Nick Ostroff, co-founder of 99 Apps, to get an overview of what’s possible and where to get started.

What are the most important app functions for any restaurant?

99 Apps approaches the “feature set” differently for mobile website versus native applications. For mobile Web apps (websites), this is frequently a discovery tool. A customer will search for a local restaurant on a search engine, click on a website and need some quick facts about the restaurant. Menu, phone, location … We have created a streamlined restaurant mobile website experience that delivers this information immediately within one click. For native iPhone or Android apps, this is generally a customer-retention, loyalty experience. Customers will download an application generally after the first enjoyable visit to the restaurant so they can keep the brand always handy on their phone to retrieve menu information, special offers, videos and media and receive push text alerts from one of their favorite restaurants.

What are the nice-to-have functions of some of your clients’ apps?

Push messaging is our most popular function to add to iPhone and Android apps. This allows the restaurant to communicate with text alerts to all loyal fans who have downloaded the app. Push text messaging is one of the biggest advantages of native applications to the iPhone and Android platforms because mobile sites cannot deliver this level of notification to users. In short, this is a great way to communicate specials, events and menu changes in a short-and-sweet text message that can be delivered to clients’ smartphones without extra text-messaging rates or charges.

How long does it typically take to create an app?

Restaurateurs have plenty on their plate, and they are generally coming to us so we can get them branded and accessible on their clients’ phones with as little effort on their side as possible. For mobile Web apps, one to two weeks. For iPhone and Android apps — native apps on those markets — approximately one month. This would include the setup of the graphics, menu and content for an application as well as publishing to the platforms of a restaurant’s choice.

In general, how much should restaurants budget for a mobile app?

Mobile-application costs can vary greatly from developer to developer, depending on the system and the offering, platform and level of custom work. Our approach is to make mobile apps that can be custom branded with the look and feel of the client without extra costs. Mobile Web app, $99 setup; mobile Web app plus iPhone or Android, $299 setup; all three, $499 setup. On a monthly basis, we have created an optional app-control system for clients that can be used to change content, menus, offers, etc. This runs $15 to $60 monthly depending on the platforms.


CRA Partners with 99 Apps to Provide Members with Mobile Marketing Solution

(SACRAMENTO, July 15, 2010) The California Restaurant Association has named 99 Apps, a Pacific Beach-based application developer, as a preferred partner. The company specializes in creating customized iPhone applications for restaurants, with apps for Android and Blackberry available soon.

"We believe this partnership will help our members especially independents enter the world of mobile marketing," CRA President + CEO Jot Condie said. "99 Apps makes it so simple for a restaurant to capitalize on this digital medium to inexpensively reach customers and improve their bottom lines."

Each application is customized by the company's creative team, which works to capture the essence and branding of each individual restaurant. The finished product is a live app available free on iTunes, along with access to an online console, which provides restaurateurs with instant access to all of their menu and special offers information, as well as optional capabilities such as text-messaging, online ordering and an event calendar, which is especially valuable for restaurants that host live entertainment and sports bars.

The company offers a custom app for $99 with several add-on choices. There also is an optional monthly service for the ability to access, modify and add information to an app at any time.

"We make it easy and affordable for restaurants to have a presence in the rapidly-growing mobile world," said Daniel Ostroff, executive director of sales for 99 Apps. "We believe that restaurants will benefit greatly from a customized mobile platform. Today an app is as essential as a website."


99 Apps Launches, Bringing Restaurants into the Mobile Revolution

On January 1st, 2010, 99 Apps ( launched, providing an easy-to-use and affordable service for Restaurant owners to quickly and easily develop their own, customized iPhone Apps for just $99 (with Android and Blackberry versions coming soon).  As proof of the rapid turnaround time, 99 Apps delivered over 50 live Apps that have generated thousands of downloads during their first two months in action, and they have many more clients in queue. 

"Our goal at 99 Apps is to make it fun, easy, and affordable for small businesses to develop very a customized, unique presence in the rapidly-growing mobile world," said Nick Ostroff, co-founder of 99 Apps.  "We believe that all businesses, large and small, will benefit greatly from a mobile platform, and the high cost of custom development shouldn't get in the way."

Each Restaurant App is customized by the 99 Apps creative team, to capture the essence and branding of each individual restaurant.  And 99 Apps makes the process very simple, using the restaurant's website to supply all the information they need to develop a very personalized mobile presence.  "Our creative team can design the artwork and upload the restaurant's menu and location data using existing information on the web as a guideline for the desired look and feel,"   explained Natalie Cookson, co-founder.  "Of course, the restauranteurs can be as involved as they'd like, but the beauty of our system is the convenience."  Busy restauranteurs can trust the 99 Apps team to take the reins from start to finish, freeing up their precious time for other pressing business matters.

The finished product is a live App on iTunes along with access to a specialized web console, which provides the restauranteur instant access to all of their App information.  The unique "live data" platform provides an easy way to keep customers up-to-date with the latest offers, menu updates, and special events.  And by taking advantage of Apple's "Push" messaging service, restauranteurs can use the App to send out instant text messages to all of their customers, allowing them to announce special deals and events or stir up business on a slow night with exciting offers and contests.

"Our clients find that mobile Apps are a great way to engage and interact with their loyal customers, reach out to new customers, and stir up frequent, repeat business," added Natalie.  "While our customers are some of the first small businesses to have their own mobile platform, we believe that they will wake up one day in just a year or two and realize that they helped bring about the mobile revolution."

99 Apps has a standard App package for just $99 and several optional Add-On packages.  There is also an optional monthly service for the ability to access, modify, and add information to their App at any time.  This starts at just $9.99 per month and is scaled by the number of customers that download each App.