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A guide to order and pay apps

What is an order and pay app, and how can it help your hospitality business?

Order and pay apps aren’t a new concept. Popular pub chain Wetherspoons unveiled its order and pay app to a rapturous reception all the way back in 2017. By January 2018, its app saw revenue grow by 3.6% to £830.4m, while like-for-like sales rose by 6.1%.

Despite its success, other pubs and restaurants were reluctant to roll out their own versions of the app, with the general consensus being that order and pay apps would take away the essence of the hospitality industry excellent customer service. 

But times have changed since 2017 owed mostly to the recent coronavirus pandemic and now pubs and restaurants are looking to order and pay apps to help them decrease contact time, increase efficiency, and offer delivery and click and collect services. 

Order and pay apps can be native, hosted on the web, or operated through your point of sale (POS) system. 

A native app means the customer downloads the app onto their mobile device. 

A web-based app is hosted on a browser, and requires a QR code to access it. 

A POS-based app involves setting up a digital store, which can be accessed via a QR code.

In this guide, we’ll explain what an order and pay app is, what features you can expect to benefit from, how it works, and provide you with a range of supplier options. 

By the end of the guide, you should have all the information you need to decide on whether an order and pay app is the right move for your business and if it is, the kind of app you should be investing in.



What is an order and pay app?

Order and pay apps give your business an online presence, and can be used instead of or alongside a restaurant website. They give customers the means to view your menu, order, and pay, all from their mobile device. Customers can use the app to order at their table, click and collect, or have their food delivered.

We answer the all important ‘what is an order and pay app?’ question and clue you into more benefits in the video below:


Follow these three steps to find the perfect order and pay app to open up your revenue streams.

Order and pay apps can be simple or sophisticated, and you can often pick from a range of features. So make sure you compare apps and providers to ensure you’re investing in the best app for the best price.

Choose the type of app you need. Would you like a native app, a browser-hosted app, or would you like to set up a POS app to include order and pay? And what options do you want it to offer customers at the checkout?

Let your customers know about your brand new app and open your doors to delivery and click and collect for a pandemic-proof hospitality business.


The benefits of order and pay apps

Order and pay apps come with a host of logistical and financial benefits. As seen in the case of the Wetherspoons app, order and pay apps can help to increase profit.

They also enable customers to order and pay without leaving the table, which frees up waiters and waitresses, and reduces traffic around the premises. 

Here are just a few benefits of order and pay apps:

  • Customers can order and pay by mobile phone
  • Quicker service means quicker table turnaround time
  • Movement around the restaurant is reduced
  • Crowds are reduced
  • Set up delivery and click and collect services
  • Integrate them with point of sale software
  • Use imagery and advertisements to promote deals 
  • Use the app as a marketing tool for email promotions

Sababa tells us how its order and pay app has benefitted the restaurant

Fetch is an order and pay app used by several restaurants across London, and Soho-based Sababa is one of them. We got in touch with the busy Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant to talk about the benefits it’s experienced since investing in its order and pay app.

Sababa restaurant

Our order and pay app pops up on the customer’s phone as soon as they tap their phone on the table talker. They can order what they want with no contact, and don't even have to wait for the bill. In our experience, customers now expect to be offered a mobile order and pay solution, and more and more people are happy to use it. 

From a service point of view, it’s meant that when we’re open, we can turn tables around quicker, and we can utilise staff time more efficiently. They can spend time making sure customers are happy, and engage in a different level of conversation. No need to constantly check if tables want to order additional dishes or drinks customers can do that themselves. 

The second lockdown has meant we can utilise the Fetch app for click & collect so it’s an ongoing solution for us and Fetch integrating with our point of sale is a benefit too.


Types of order and pay apps

We’ve placed the types of order and pay apps into three categories:

Web-based

Native

POS integrated

What is a web-based order and pay app?

A web-based or browser-based order and pay app is usually accessed via a QR code. There’s a trend that web-based apps are preferred by customers, as they require far less faff on arrival and don’t take up device storage space. 

There are lots of white label suppliers out there that enable you to set up your branded browser-based order and pay app for free, only charging you per order. These apps are generally cheaper than native apps, as they don’t need to be compatible with iOS or Android operating systems. However, they don’t offer the same advanced level of functionality.

Web-based order and pay app supplier – Wi5

Wi5Wi5 creates branded web-based order and pay apps using your images and logo. Thanks to an optimised user experience, diners are sent straight to your menu when they scan the QR code. Customers can select portion sizes and modifiers, view clear dietary and allergy information, and even send special requests to the kitchen. They’ll then be able to pay using their card or mobile payments operator, and receive a confirmation email or text message once their order has been placed.

What is a native order and pay app?

A native order and pay app is developed in whichever coding language is required for a certain operating system. If you were to develop a native order and pay app for your hospitality business, you’d need to make sure it’s compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems. 

Native apps need to be downloaded onto a device from an app store, which isn’t always popular with customers. However, native apps have the potential to be far more intelligent than browser-based apps, giving you the option to add functions like push notifications and location detector technology. 

A cost-effective and simple way of investing in native app technology is by using a third party white label supplier. Usually, there’s a small set up fee, then you’re charged a small percentage per transaction made through the app. 

Native order and pay app supplier – Loke

Loke logo

Loke is a white label native app supplier, which means you use its system alongside your branding to create your own native order and pay app.  Used by the likes of Nando's, Loke allows hospitality businesses to build their own app super-easily. It also has a really simple pricing model – a £200 set up fee, plus a charge of 5% per transaction – which works out a lot cheaper than if you were to hire a developer to build your own native order and pay app.

What is a POS operated order and pay app?

While there are plenty of order and pay apps that integrate with POS or restaurant management software, there is a way for people to order and pay using the technology that you already have. An alternative to traditional order and pay apps, customers head to a digital menu via a QR code to make their order. The order is then processed and managed through your POS software app. POS order and pay tends to be used in a click and collect or delivery capacity, rather than order at table. 

POS order and pay app – Square POS

Square logoAlthough there are few order and pay apps that integrate with Square POS, such as Deliverect, they charge third party fees on top of the charges you already pay for your POS system. If you already have Square for Restaurants, you’ll have access to Square’s Square Online tool, which allows you to build your own online menu. Once your menu is set up, your customers can order and pay via the website, and their order is sent through to your POS app to be processed. Square charges 2.5% for every order made through Square Online.


How to get an order and pay app for your hospitality business

First, you need to work out which type of order and pay app is best for your business. 

You may be trying to work out which one matches your business model, or which one is friendliest on your back pocket. Well, nothing beats talking to suppliers directly and comparing their products and prices. 

We’ve teamed up with a bunch of reputable order and pay app suppliers who’d be more than happy to discuss your needs. To start, we recommend that you fill in our short questionnaire, as that’ll give us the basic information we need to put you in touch with the right suppliers. Once you’ve done that, you can sit back and wait for the suppliers to contact you. 

If you already have an EPOS system, you may want to get in touch with your provider. Chances are, they’ll be able to recommend an app that already integrates with your point of sale system, so you can then channel all of your orders into one place. You may even decide that you don’t need an app instead, talk to them about setting up click and collect and delivery options through your online store.


Order and pay app features

Order and pay apps offer hospitality businesses a whole host of features that they can pick and choose from to create the ideal tool for customers to order their food. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular order and pay app features in more detail. 

Sophisticated menu functionality

Create a digital menu that offers browsers even more information than your traditional menu. Categorise all of your dishes, enable upgrades, label allergy information, and even schedule your menus so lunch and dinner menus only appear at certain times.

Choose how customers get their food

Customers can select whether they would like their food ordered to the table, whether they want to collect it, or whether they would like to have it delivered. You can choose which options you want to offer. But bear in mind only native apps and POS order and pay setups allow customers to order offsite.

Integrated customer loyalty and marketing

Choose the option to include a customer loyalty function. Customers set up an account, and are then given loyalty points every time they order through your app. You can even give your customers the option to receive offers and promotions via email.

EPOS integration

Many order and pay app developers have partnerships with point of sale providers, meaning their order and pay app integrates with certain POS software. This means all of your orders are processed through the same system, keeping all of your business in one place.

Backend platform

Your order and pay apps collect a whole host of purchasing data. Discover your most popular dishes, see which promotions are performing best, find out when your most popular ordering times are, and work out when you should be rolling out offers.

Offer a range of payment options

Order and pay apps will always give customers the option to pay by card as standard. However, you can choose to give your customers other payment options, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and Android Pay.


Order and pay app case study

Bite Street

Crispin Slee runs BiteStreet, a pop-up street food event that uses the Square point of sale app to manage orders and process payments. When the pandemic hit, he needed a way to get all of the participating vendors online in one place, so he chose Square Online. 

Offering the same functionality as traditional order and pay apps, Square Online enables vendors to create digital versions of their menus, and have customers choose whether they want to click and collect their items or have them delivered. 

For those looking for a simple, cost-effective way for customers to order and pay, Square Online was “very straightforward,” according to Slee. “I'm not overly tech savvy, and I managed my first version in a weekend. The support team at Square is also brilliant.”

Similar to web-based order and pay apps, customers can access the pop-up venue’s online ordering system by scanning a QR code. In fact, Slee says he thinks that “this is a first a drive-in, take-out kerbside service powered by a QR code.”


Order and pay app costs

Order and pay app costs vary, depending on whether you’re looking for a web-based app, a native app, or whether you’re looking to use your point of sale software’s ecommerce functionality. 

Building your own native app (like Wetherspoons has) is the most expensive option, while for web-based apps and order and pay functionality through your POS system, pricing models usually work on a per transaction basis, rather than an upfront cost. 

While costs vary per supplier, we’ve given you an idea of what you can expect to pay or be charged in the table below. Don’t take this table as gospel make sure you talk to suppliers for an accurate cost. 

Native app
Web-based app
POS order and pay
Around £200 + fee per transaction (white label supplier)

Free to set up, then around 1.9% + 20p per transaction
Usually 2.5% per transaction (varies depending on POS provider

Order and pay apps: guide summary

To summarise, order and pay apps enable hospitality businesses to provide order at table, click and collect, and delivery services. As a result of investing in order and pay apps, businesses can see an increase in profit, offer a safer eating experience, and benefit from a range of different revenue streams, should the premises have to close. 

There are three types of order and pay services web-based, native, and through an online store like Square Online. While it is super expensive to use a developer to build your own app, there are plenty of white label solutions out there that’ll allow you to create a sophisticated app with your own branding. 

These solutions can include a setup fee, and then you’re charged a percentage of each transaction made through the app. Use our comparison tool to find out and compare fees from a range of order and pay app providers.


Order and pay apps FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions concerning order and pay apps.

Do order and pay apps facilitate order at table?

Yes, both native and browser-based order and pay apps give customers the option to order at their table.

Are order and pay apps easy to set up?

Yes! You don’t need to develop an order and pay app from scratch although you can if you want to! Research white label third party suppliers who’ll be able to get your order and pay app live in a matter of days.

Are order and pay apps expensive?

Only if you want to develop your own order and pay app from scratch. Using third party hosts is much more cost-effective. 

Do order and pay apps integrate with POS systems?

Absolutely. But check which POS systems are compatible with the order and pay app you’re looking at before you commit.

How do order and pay apps integrate with POS systems?

Both systems share data via the cloud, or can be integrated using an API (application programming interface).


Aimee Bradshaw
Aimee Bradshaw

Writer and researcher

Aimee recently joined Startups as resident expert in business tech, products, and services. Having ran her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she is an advocate of self starters and small businesses.

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