A common assumption with these platforms is that it must be fairly difficult to replicate their apps, since they’re so popular and widely used, but this is not the case at all.

When thinking of restaurant delivery apps, there are a few names that jump to mind: DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub (or Seamless). Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, online food orders have exploded, bringing these apps along for the ride as their revenues boomed over the last two years. Restaurants, while eager to increase sales during lockdowns, were quick to learn of the downfalls with these platforms—20-30 percent commission rates. While the delivery giants still have a total monopoly on the market now, it’s important for entrepreneurs and restaurateurs to know just how easy it is to break the status quo, create their own ordering app, increase revenues, and develop customer retention.

Why create your own delivery app?

Many restaurant owners might ask themselves why they should be thinking about creating an app (or if they’re even qualified to do so), but the answer is simple: it works and there’s room for more. As mentioned, apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash dominate the online food industry, making them the ideal blueprint to follow on an individualized basis.

The global online food delivery market is expected to reach a value of $215.69 billion in 2022, signaling that the growth is not set to slow down despite a return to in-person work and dining for many people. There’s more than enough opportunity to go around, so why continue to rely on third party apps to run your delivery business?

Sure, restaurants can gain a lot from being on these platforms by way of marketing and digital exposure, but is the free marketing worth it when commissions are so exorbitant? 

How to build the ideal delivery app

A common assumption with these massively successful platforms is that it must be fairly difficult to replicate their apps, since they’re so popular and widely used. In fact, this is not the case at all. They’re extremely simple in practice—provided a restaurant owner uses the right tools and takes a measured approach to developing their app.

Step 1 – Choosing a build method and go

When it comes to building an app of any kind, including a delivery ordering app, one can either:

  • Build it themselves (including design, coding and testing)
  • Hire an agency/developer to do it for them
  • Use an online app builder

Depending on a restaurant owner’s comfort level with tech and coding, there are a multitude of options that can get the job done. Consider the benefits of each—building an app yourself can save massive amounts of money and gives an added layer of personalization; hiring a developer brings valuable experience and expertise for a high-quality end-product; using an app builder lessens the hassle and cost of taking on development yourself or by outsourcing. Each one can provide the desired result of a functional delivery app, but the journey will vary. But for an industry where coding knowledge and generous budgets are scarce, app builders make for the likeliest companion on your app-building journey. Regardless of method, though, the following steps are necessary to ensure that the app development process proves successful in the end.

Step 2 – Personalization

This is the fun bit. Once the structure of your app is settled on, take some time to think about the design. The best apps have easy-to-read and vibrant layouts, making it easy for hungry customers to navigate the ordering process. App builders make it easy to integrate all the right visuals in all the right places. Think about the restaurant’s branding and how it can complement the user interface, how the app itself reflects the personality of the target customer, what food imagery is used to entice customers to particular menu items. It all matters when drawing in and retaining customers for delivery orders.

Step 3 – Test, test, test

When the app is all but finished, it’s time for quality control. With an app builder, the need to debug is much less likely, and there’s no need for months of focus groups to get varying opinions on what the app is like, since the delivery app model has been tried and tested by much larger organizations already. It is a good idea, however, to test yours out with as many colleagues, friends and family as possible to make sure that its structure is user-friendly and that your design is laid out appropriately.

Step 4 – Final touches and Pre-Launch

After testing (which should take a few weeks at least), make any final changes based on the feedback received. Having a functional app means nothing if consumers are unaware of its existence, though. After years of helping small business owners launch their personalized apps at Builder.ai, it’s abundantly clear that a solid launch and marketing strategy was necessary to propel the big delivery apps, and it will be necessary to get yours off the ground, as well. Consider tapping into the local influencer pool for cheap promotions, maximize SEO, offer delivery deals to in-person diners. There are many ways to draw attention to the app once it’s ready to go.

Step 5 – Launch

When the on-screen product is ready for action, put it out there for the world to use. If building the app yourself or via a developer, ensure that you follow the correct protocol for each app store so that the listing goes smoothly. For those going the way of the app builder, providers like Builder.ai will launch directly onto the app stores for you, taking one headache out of the equation.

And that’s all. For small business owners looking to gain more autonomy (and better profits) in the delivery space, building an individualized app can be a godsend. With the right tools in hand and the right plan in place, any restaurant can plant their flag and succeed on their own in the digital realm.

Sachin Dev Duggal is a serial entrepreneur who created AI-powered platform Builder.ai to make building software as easy as ordering pizza. Sachin started his career at the age of 14 building PCs, and by 17, he’d built one of the world’s first automatic currency arbitrage trading systems for Deutsche Bank. He started a cloud computing company, Nivio, when he was 21 and still at university (Imperial College), taking it to just under $100m in valuation before exiting (he still holds a trademark for the word cloud in India!). Sachin was the World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer in 2009, Entrepreneur.com’s Serial Entrepreneur of the Year and a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

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