Gone are the times when to get a table in your favorite restaurant you had to go and wait in a line. Today, we have an app (or a dozen) for this, as we do for most things. With just a couple clicks in a restaurant guide app like Zomato or OpenTable, you can find a place to eat, book a table, and even order food.

If you want to know how to make an app like OpenTable and how much it costs, here’s a guide based on our experience. You’ll find some tips and ideas to build a restaurant finder application that we believe would be the best in today’s market.


  1. What kinds of restaurant-related apps are there?
  2. How does OpenTable make money?
  3. Zomato business model
  4. How to make a restaurant guide app for diners
  5. You’ll need a separate app for restaurants
  6. How much does it cost to make a restaurant app?
  7. Conclusion

What kinds of restaurant-related apps are there?

There are generally two types of clients who develop mobile apps for restaurants:

  • Restaurant owners who wish to have an app for their own restaurant
  • Businesses that aim to create a restaurant finder app that’s an aggregator platform for finding restaurants, booking tables, and/or ordering food

In this article, we’ll focus on restaurant finder apps.

Zomato was initially a restaurant guide, a platform designed to help diners find places to eat. Later, the company added a food delivery system so customers could order a meal if there were no tables left or if they wanted a romantic evening at home but didn’t want to exhaust themselves with cooking.

In 2016, Zomato took another step forward with Zomato Book, a table reservation service. Now the company seems to have slipped into every part of the industry.

Zomato’s biggest rival is OpenTable, a veteran restaurant booking service created in 1998. OpenTable is a booking app, not a delivery app. It focuses on reservations. However, it provides a neat rewards program and covers over 48,000 restaurants all over the world. Now that’s hard to topple.

At the same time, a number of restaurants have left OpenTable. Why? Read on.

How does OpenTable make money?

OpenTable logo

Like most restaurant table booking services, OpenTable is completely free for patrons. It doesn’t cost anything to book a table via the Android or iOS app, the OpenTable website, or websites of restaurants that partner with the service.

Nevertheless, OpenTable is a profitable business because it charges restaurants. And it charges a lot.

To have a restaurant featured on OpenTable, restaurateurs pay a monthly fee of about $250 plus $1 per booking. There also used to be a one-time fee for the restaurant-side software and hardware, but it’s gone now. But even without it, the cost for establishments is high.

OpenTable’s business model was a hit in its prime. The system was new, unique, and had no competitors. It was also expensive to build and maintain, which justified the fees.

Today, though, competition is on the rise, with Resy, Zomato, Reserve, and many more services. Maybe the slowish but steady move of restaurants to these competitors will compel OpenTable to reconsider their policies.

What about the Zomato business model?

Zomato business model

The Zomato app offers more varied services than OpenTable; its revenue model is also a bit more diverse.

Zomato receives the largest portion of its revenue from restaurant advertising. According to the company’s annual report for the 2018 fiscal year, ad revenue in 2018 was 20 percent higher than the year before.

However, Zomato has other revenue streams as well, including their so-called “delivery services” — “so-called” because Zomato doesn’t have their own delivery personnel and only offers a platform for communication between restaurants and customers. The deliveries are actually made by restaurant staff.

Finally, Zomato provides consulting services, has two subscription programs, and holds events in collaboration with restaurants. Tickets to those events can be purchased via the Zomato apps. They bring in some revenue too.

How to make a restaurant guide app for diners

First things first. In a mobile app for restaurant patrons, it’s important to pay special attention to UI and UX design. Like, lifesaving important. If your app is cluttered and hard to figure out, your clients will go elsewhere. They have heaps of apps to choose from. Make sure that your app is appealing to the eye and easy to navigate.

Now to the features.

If you’re aiming at an aggregator-type restaurant app similar to OpenTable, here’s an approximate list of the top features you’ll definitely need to implement.


  • Geolocation
    Geolocation for restaurant app
    The main purpose of any aggregator restaurant finder app is to offer users a selection of establishments to dine in. Between two (or more) good venues, most customers will choose the one that’s closer. Hence, location-based search is important. Having established the user’s location, the app will be able to find places nearby. Google Maps integration will help users find places and navigate to them.
  • Search functionality
    Search is about more than just finding a specific restaurant by name. Allow your users to search for places to eat based on more than their proximity. Date, time, party size, and cuisine are all must-have search parameters in a restaurant mobile app.
  • Filters
    Adding filters to search results enhances the user experience. If you’re taking OpenTable as an example, its website offers to filter results by price, neighborhood, cuisine, time, and seating options. It’s also possible to display search results in alphabetical order, by restaurant rating (highest first), and by featured restaurants. The latter ordering is based on a collection of stats.

These are the core features of any restaurant app, but they’ll hardly be enough to get your app noticed in either the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. You’ll need to offer more to make users want to download your app.

Here are some highly valued features:

  • User reviews and ratings
    In February 2018, Bizrate Insights issued a report suggesting that “most online consumers check reviews before making purchases either always or often.” And by “most,” they mean about 65 percent. Another 25 percent answered that they check reviews “sometimes.” That’s 90 percent of shoppers. We don’t think it’s a long shot to assume the numbers would be similar for restaurant goers. User reviews add credibility to both your app and the establishments it features.
    By the way, the possibility to add photos to user reviews will definitely make a difference for #foodies. Just my personal opinion :)
  • Bookings/order history
    In this fast-paced world, it’s not unusual to forget things. And the names of restaurants aren’t the most important information for most of us. Booking history will make it possible for diners to check the name of a restaurant they liked so they can visit it again.
  • Social media integration
    Social media integration
    The possibility to share experiences with friends on Facebook and Twitter is always a benefit in the eyes of mobile app users. From logging in with Facebook to sharing reviews and recommending places, users always appreciate social media integration.
  • Notifications
    Email and push notifications with booking confirmations and reminders are always appreciated.
  • Support for multiple languages
    This feature will prove invaluable if your service operates internationally or in a city or country with lots of tourists.
  • Integrations with restaurant websites
    If restaurants you’ve partnered with have their own websites, integrating with them will allow your mobile app to use their menus, photos of dishes, and up-to-date prices.

Finally, there are two features that are considered controversial. It’s recommended to thoroughly research your niche before including them in your restaurant mobile app.

  • Rewards programs and special offers
  • Payment via your app

Now, in an app developed for a single restaurant as a brand app, both of these features are gold. Patrons will most certainly like any kind of loyalty rewards, and paying for their food via the mobile app makes things way simpler.

At the same time, if we’re talking about aggregator platforms like OpenTable, not all restaurants will benefit from third-party managed rewards programs. And even fewer might be willing to pay extra for you to manage their payments.

Further reading: Mobile App Payment Gateway Integration: Stripe vs PayPal vs Braintree

That’s it for the client-side application of your OpenTable clone. If you’re looking more to make an app like Zomato, with on-demand food delivery, you might find it useful to check out our other article: How to Develop a Food Delivery App Like Postmates and UberEATS.

You’ll need a separate app for restaurants

Managing restaurant orders will require a separate app and a solid backend to store the client database. A database can be used for marketing purposes — you and the restaurants you partner with will be able to access it for marketing. It can also be used for notifying users of upcoming events like the opening of new places, recommendations and, if you implement them, rewards and loyalty programs.

A restaurant-side app should be built for Android tablets or iPads since it’s more important to have a clear view of everything than for the device to be ultra-portable.

How much does it cost to make a restaurant app?

cost to make a restaurant app

The cost to build a restaurant app depends on many factors, one of them being the technology you choose for development.

For those planning to build a custom restaurant guide app and/or website from scratch, we recommend working with an established outsourcing company. First of all, by doing so you won’t need to hunt for each professional separately. Development companies have already caught them all — iOS and Android developers, designers, backend and quality assurance specialists, analysts, and project managers. And sometimes there’s a selection of them, meaning a range of specializations and experiences.

Most mobile app development companies provide help with business analysis, help you validate your app idea, and continue to offer support and updates after your app is launched (if you want it). Besides, you can give the reins to a project manager and go about your business, just checking on the status occasionally.

Further reading: How to Outsource Mobile App Development in 2019

The cost to make a restaurant app like OpenTable with a development company will depend on the company’s size and location and the team you hire. If your plan is to have a native app for both Android and iOS, you’ll need:

  • Project manager: 1
  • Android developers: 2
  • iOS developers: 2
  • Designers: 1–2
  • Backend specialist: 1
  • QA specialist: 1

With a team like this — and if you decide to outsource to a company in Eastern Europe — we can estimate the cost to develop a restaurant finder application to start at about $65,000. For a more precise estimate of the cost of restaurant mobile app development, you can request a free quote from us.

If you aim at a single platform or want a cross-platform app, the team will be slightly different and the cost will change as well. The number of features you’d like to implement will also affect the development cost.

Making a Restaurant App: Conclusion

Restaurant app development is more complex than it might seem at first glance. But it’s not too complex for an experienced team to handle. We’ve offered you our vision on the challenges and possible solutions. If we haven’t covered some specific issue of how to build a restaurant guide app like Zomato or OpenTable, contact us with your questions.