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Own a restaurant? There’s a free app for that, thanks to appsbar.com, a website that allows users to create a fully functional mobile app at no cost.
The website lets visitors follow a step-by-step template to create a customized app, all in half an hour. By selecting a category (“Restaurant,” for example), users are prompted with five or six suggested modules they can choose from to design their app, adding and deleting items like videos and pictures as they go.
“You customize the app to have the experience that you want your customers to have, because no one knows the customers better than the businesses themselves,” says Scott Hirsch, founder of appsbar.com.
After customers submit their information, it takes 3–5 days for appsbar.com to create the app, and then an additional 3–5 days to be approved by Google Play. The app is an HTML 5 multiplatform application that can be downloaded and viewed on anything from an Android and iPhone to a Blackberry or even Facebook.
But many small business or franchisees may wonder why they should create an app in the first place.
“Billions of downloads are going on in the app stores, so if you don’t have an application, you’re missing out on millions of potential customers and billions of potential opportunities,” Hirsch says. “And in today’s economy, I don’t think you can afford to miss out on one opportunity.”
Oh, and did we mention it’s free? “Whether you end up with 200 or 20 or two new customers, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Hirsch says.
He also adds that apps are becoming must-have tech-marketing tools for every business and a trend that’s set to stick around for quite some time. “Getting in early is important, because if you don’t have an app, your competition will.”
However, Hirsh says that up until a year ago, when appsbar.com got its start in April 2011, creating apps could cost up to $20,000–$50,000. “That’s a lot of out-of-pocket expense that you don’t know if you’re going to recoup,” he says.
For small- and medium-sized businesses in particular, this type of cost—coupled with the fact that it could take up to three months to create an app—was something they couldn’t stomach.
But with appsbar.com, more than 150,000 small- and medium-sized businesses now have an app of their own. In the restaurant category alone, several brands and franchisees—from Cuban Guys’ Restaurant to a Pizza Hut franchisee in Florida—have seen success with their apps.
Hirsch says one of the best features offered by appsbar.com are coupons, which can be embedded inside an app and were requested by brand owners who were unhappy with other coupon services.
“People have been dealing with this online social couponing craze for the last few years, but we’ve gotten complaints from our app builders that they were having to give away 50 percent of the money, on top of a 50 percent discount, and some of those things just didn’t make sense to them,” he says.
With appsbar.com’s coupons feature, restaurants can set the discount and the expiration date. “It’s affordable, in that it doesn’t cost anything more than what you decide is an affordable discount for you,” Hirsh says. “Secondly, it puts the control in the restaurant’s hands.”
Hirsch says the best and most successful apps are rich in detail, including pictures, video, menus, and item descriptions.
He also advises that app builders encourage their current customers to download it so they can constantly communicate specials, promotions, and events. “Use it as a tool to acquire new customers,” he says, “but also as a tool to retain the customers you have.”
By Mary Avant