Restaurant App: to Build or to Buy?

If you don’t already have a restaurant app, you may be considering buying one or building your own. Here's what you need to know about each option.

Today, consumers expect to be able to order food online, either through a website or via a mobile restaurant app. Whether they are sitting at a table in your restaurant or sitting on their couch at home, it’s easy and convenient. However, partnering with delivery apps that charge fees between 15 and 40% per order, is no longer profitable for most businesses. While restaurant apps like UberEats, DoorDash and Grubhub might allow your restaurant to gain access to more prospective customers that are already using the app, restaurants are at the mercy of fees charged by these services, and how that third-party communicates their brand. 

A solution many restaurants are turning to is creating their own apps to offer their guests a digital ordering experience that keeps all revenue in house. If you don’t already have a restaurant app, you may be considering buying one or building your own. In fact, you may even think that the best way to get exactly what you want in a restaurant app is by hiring a team to build it for you. However, with restaurant technology evolving so quickly, the benefits of buying, or white-labeling, an app that has been specifically designed for restaurants may prove more worthwhile for your business. Let’s break down what making your own app vs buying one entails. 

How do you create a restaurant app?

If you’re considering building your own app, it’s important to know what it will cost you. Hiring a team of developers can range from $60,000 to $300,000, depending on the scope of the project and what kind of features you want to include in your app. Adding more functionality adds more cost, as does building for multiple platforms. However, before any of this development happens, there’s quite a great deal of research and planning you’ll need to do.

Research and strategy

First, it’s important to conduct market research on your target audience. What do your customers want in an app? What problems can your app solve for them?  Next, set a strategy plan with some business goals. Beyond wanting more customers to order from your business, consider aiming to earn more revenue than the year before or improve table turn time so you can seat more guests.

Finding a team

Next, you’ll want to hire the right software development company. Before you do, research and learn who your competitors have used. Once you have secured a development team, you’ll have to plan out what functionality you want this app to have. As much as you’d like it to have all the bells and whistles, adding more features will run up the cost. Work with the software developers to make a prioritized ‘must have’ list followed by a ‘nice to have’ list.

You’ll also want to work with a professional UX/UI designer to create a design blueprint. They might be part of the software development team and will use research to map out the best user experience for your customers. They’ll also want to work with you to make sure their designs follow your restaurant’s brand guidelines.

Marketing your restaurant app 

Once your app is finished and it’s been thoroughly tested (a time consuming process in itself), it’s time to market it to your target demographic. 88,500 apps entered the Google Play store in February of 2021 alone, so you’ll want to find creative ways to make sure that yours stand out from the rest. 

Collect and analyze feedback

However, your work doesn’t end there. You’ll need to collect and analyze all the data and feedback that you can once your app is in the wild. That feedback is going to tell you what features your app needs, which ones it doesn’t, and which need to be fixed. Plus, technology is constantly changing, so your development team will be continually working on software updates that adapt your app to the newest phones, trends and operating systems. 

The benefits of buying a restaurant app

Building your own app is an expensive, labor intensive process that doesn’t ever truly end, thus requiring a long term financial commitment. Fortunately, there is a less strenuous process: buying existing software or white-labeling an app. 

How much does a restaurant app cost?

Companies that specialize in restaurant apps can start at about $499 plus a monthly fee ranging from $45 to $85, which is a much more affordable option. Of course there may be additional costs for adding on custom features. Even with these additional costs, buying an app is still going to save you money in the long term because the app vendor will handle all of the support and maintenance. 

The Pros

Aside from the lower cost, there are several other features that make buying a restaurant app the better option.

Trendy New Features

When you white-label a restaurant app from a software company, you’ll have access to any new features that the app vendor releases, and these are usually baked into the cost you paid upfront.


You’ll save yourself months, possibly even a year’s worth of time, on market research and app development. When you buy, or white-label a third-party app, you can be up and running in a matter of days. This will give you an edge over your competitors who decide to take the lengthy route of building their own app. 

Support and Maintenance

The app vendor will handle all the tech maintenance and issues related to bugs, security, hosting, etc, so you can focus all of your time and energy as a hospitality leader on providing a top-notch experience for your guests. 

The top choice 

To save yourself from the stress, time and money that go into building an app, the smart choice is to white-label a restaurant app. One existing platform gaining popularity and known for supporting local restaurants is Sixdots. In addition to being fully customizable for each brand, Sixdots offers an API that integrates with most leading POS systems and other third-party apps. It brings its own online ordering functionality, menu creation tool, and suggestive selling features.

Sixdots’ contactless tableside ordering functionality was designed with customer safety in mind, as this has become a priority in all restaurants’ steps of service in a post-COVID world. As an added bonus, Sixdots is designed to grow with future tech developments, so you can be sure that you’ll always have access to the newest features on the market. 

Perhaps best of all, restaurants can offset some or all of the Sixdots technology cost by partnering with one of Sixdots’ supplier partners on a cocktail program. The bottom line is that with Sixdots, you get the benefits of building your own app at a price far below what it would cost to do so.


How do you create a restaurant app? 

Do some market research, set business goals, pick a software team, figure out functionality, design, test, and market it, collect feedback once it’s done. 

How much does it cost to create an app? 

Building an app in-house can run anywhere from $60,000 to $300,000 and beyond. An app built through an existing service like RestoLabs costs about $499 plus a monthly fee.

How much does a restaurant app cost? 

Most restaurant delivery apps charge fees between 15 and 40%. Delivery fees from third-party services also take a cut of revenue or commissions. Tableside ordering apps can charge anywhere from $40 to $360 per month.

What is the best app for restaurants? 

Sixdots is a clear winner based on its flexibility, customization, and free-to-use option when paired with Sixdots’ beverage alcohol suppliers.



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