Nearly four out of five Americans today own a smartphone. Within that group, it’s safe to say a large majority regularly use mobile apps for all kinds of things, ranging from weather forecasts to games. And they’re only growing in popularity: In 2016, there were nearly 150 billion total mobile app downloads worldwide (to put that into perspective, there are about 7.5 billion people on the planet.) By 2021, that number is expected to more than double to about 353 billion downloads.
With more than two million apps in various categories available on both the App Store and Google Play distribution services, it’s not always easy for owners of bars and restaurants to know where they should focus their promotional efforts. Ideally, the apps they use to enhance patrons’ experiences and promote their establishment meet the following criteria:
- They’re free for users to download.
- They’re available on multiple types of mobile devices (that is, Apple and Android).
- They have a solid reputation, usually gauged by a combination of the number of downloads and overall user ratings in the App Store and Google Play.
- They pertain to something offered by a bar or restaurant (food, drinks, amusements, live entertainment, etc.).
- They’re relatively established, meaning they’ve been around for a year or more and will likely still be available at least that far into the future.
With the above standards in mind, we created this handy overview to help you figure out which apps can help your location increase business by attracting patrons and improving their overall experience. All of the apps included in our list below are free, available on both Apple and Android phones and have a good brand reputation.
What it does: Rates bars, clubs and restaurants for locals and travelers.
Why it might be right for your business: It’s available in nine languages, including Spanish, Russian and Chinese.
Why it might not be right: This app tends to focus more on the “bar” side of the bars and restaurants space, and it’s also very nightlife-oriented.
What it does: Uses geolocation and gamification (i.e., social badges and competitions) to help users find the best food and entertainment nearby, wherever they are.
Why it might be right for your business: It’s an engaging tool that employs various criteria to help consumers narrow their options for places to eat and drink.
Why it might not be right: It can be a bit “cutesy” for users who want to do a straightforward search of bars and restaurants.
What it does: Attracts customers to your location by offering special deals and discounts.
Why it might be right for your business: It’s often the first destination for people who are shopping around for a bargain on food and entertainment.
Why it might not be right: Many businesses have complained that Groupon deals don’t always lead to repeat business.
What it does: Provides food delivery service from eateries that might not otherwise have it.
Why it might be right for your business: It could help your patrons satisfy their cravings for your triple-decker cheeseburger or loaded nachos when they can’t (or don’t want to) leave their house.
Why it might not be right: You might be more interested in getting people to come to your location in order to drive revenue by way of video gaming or amusements.
What it does: Books restaurant reservations digitally.
Why it might be right for your business: It offers a simple, intuitive way for consumers to reserve a table at your restaurant, even when your business is closed.
Why it might not be right: You don’t take reservations. Also, if the app fails to properly register the reservation with you, your business could wind up looking bad when patrons show up and discover they can’t get a table.
What it does: Lets users make — and pay for — song requests on TouchTunes jukeboxes via their smartphones.
Why it might be right for your business: It’s an easy way for them to play the music they like in your establishment, without you having to manage that transaction.
Why it might not be right: You may not be eligible for TouchTunes in your location. (Learn more.)
What it does: Allows users to easily compare and contrast dining options in several cities.
Why it might be right for your business: It combines much of the functionality found on other bar and restaurant apps, including ratings, reservations, maps, menus and food photos.
Why it might not be right: As the name suggests, it’s primarily aimed at an urban demographic, so many suburban and rural establishments might not benefit from having a presence here.
What it does: Provides ratings and other information about bars, restaurants, theaters, shops, you name it.
Why it might be right for your business: It’s easily one of the biggest and most established review apps out there in terms of downloads and use.
Why it might not be right: With more than 50 million total reviews of all kinds of businesses, your location might get lost in the crowd. Additionally, this platform is known for its one-star “flame” reviews.
What it does: Provides concise, well-written reviews of bars and restaurants.
Why it might be right for your business: It’s a new version of the classic, venerable restaurant guide and uses professional reviewers.
Why it might not be right: The Zagat brand is traditionally associated with higher-end and trendy establishments, and it’s thought of as more of a “touristy” guide.
Tell us in the comments below what your favorite apps are for your business!