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How to fast-track, and afford, your restaurant's custom app

How to fast-track, and afford, your restaurant's custom app

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Appsbar lets users create their own mobile apps for free.

There’s no question that customers increasingly use mobile devices to find information about and otherwise interact with restaurants. But if you can’t afford to have professionals build your mobile app from scratch, you may wish to explore a free service that walks you through the app creation process and then does the heavy lifting that helps you publish it through various apps stores.

Restaurant operators have access to multiple app creation tools right now. Some are free, some aren’t. Some are simple to use, others require the coding skills of an MIT computer science major. You can view a few of the options by visiting sites like App Makr, i Build App and Conduit.

For this article, we’re taking a look at a service called Appsbar, for three reasons:

• Because it appears to be something a restaurant operator with limited technology skills and/or resources could actually use;

• Because is promises no costs, hidden or otherwise; and

• Because it has a restaurant-specific template that helps users create most of the functions a good restaurant app should have.

Whoever thought up the restaurant part of this company’s app creation platform seems to have had a good grasp of what content is needed on a restaurant’s mobile app and how that content should be organized.

The Appsbar platform aims for the middle ground of app creation. Its end products fall somewhere between a bare-bones app and one that has been slickly produced by technical wizards.  The apps operate on Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Facebook and websites.

A big key is that this service doesn’t just help its users create the app; it also guides them through editing and publishing part of the process.

“We know that competition is fierce in the dining industry and one way for a restaurant or QSR to separate itself from the competition is to have a compelling mobile app that provides content and information,” says Appsbar founder/c.e.o. Scott Hirsch. “No technical knowledge is needed to create an Appsbar app and it has the potential to be seen by customers in your hometown or across the world.”

What does all this cost? Here’s how the company answers that question on its FAQ page:

“Appsbar® is free (to all users). Free to create an App, free to Publish an App, free to access Appsbar®, just Free. In other words, it is …. free, zero cost, nada, no hidden fees, free.”

Still, we were skeptical that this service is totally without cost to its users. We asked Hirsch how Appsbar makes money. Here was his response:

"Each app adds value to the Appsbar community, now over 270,000 users,” he responded in an email. “While we don't yet monetize the large network of apps, we see a myriad of possibilities to do so in the future."

Ok, but be aware that right now, the company runs ads in the footer of each page, for which it takes all revenue. So ad revenue generated on your restaurant’s Appsbar-created app would go to Appsbar, not you. However, many operators may be willing to live with that because they’re getting a mobile presence without having to pay any cash up front. Or later, either.

We don’t know if Appsbar’s “Create Your Own App” platform is necessarily a good deal for operators. But it’s something you’d probably want to take a look at as you consider whether or not you want to have an app out there so your mobile-using customers can find you. If you’re not comfortable handling this chore, perhaps you could delegate it to a tech-savvy kid or two who already works for you. They’d probably jump at the opportunity.

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