All-Time Best Restaurant Apps & Why They Work

Over 310 million Americans have smartphones. 

In 2022, QSR apps were downloaded to those smartphones over 10 million times… and the food delivery market hit $210 billion in revenue that same year. 

Combine those 12-figure revenue numbers with the fact that 80% of customers continue to prefer online ordering, and you get a paradigm shift that means restaurant apps are here to stay. 

But, much like snowflakes, no two restaurant apps are exactly the same. 

There are good restaurant apps… 

There are better restaurant apps… 

And then there are the best restaurant apps.

Take a look through our top picks for the best restaurant apps on the market, and see for yourself what it takes to make a restaurant app the absolute best.  

 

Domino’s Pizza — The Best Restaurant App for Ease of Use

Seeing Domino’s Pizza on our list of best restaurant apps might not be surprising to long-time Domino’s supporters; former CEO Patrick Doyle has been saying Domino’s is “as much a tech company as [it is] a pizza company for years. Considering Domino’s long-time tech-forward mindset — and the opening of its Innovation Garage in 2019 — it’s clear the brand is committed to having (and maintaining) one of the best restaurant apps on the market. 

Dominos Pizza app

The Stats 

  • Active App Users → 8.7M (Q3 2023).
  • App Downloads → 809k (Q2 2023). 
  • Digital Sales → 90% of delivery sales; 75% of carryout sales (Q4 2023). 

Why It Works 

Since its inception, the Domino’s app has been all about a simple, straightforward user experience. Legend has it that, at the beginning of Domino’s app development process, Doyle asked the company’s IT team to make the tech so easy to use that “a customer could order a pizza while waiting for a stoplight.” 

While we don’t suggest texting and driving, the Domino’s team has absolutely delivered on the ease of use front. Customers have called the app “intuitive,” the pizza-building process “phenomenal,” and “without fail the fastest” food ordering app they’ve used (plus the pizza’s pretty good, too).  

Back in 2016, the ease of Domino’s ordering system was considered a massive reason for the 50% of sales that digital channels were bringing in. Kelly Garcia, the brand’s then-Vice President for eCommerce Development, said he expected that percentage to grow… and he was right. At the end of 2023, orders placed through Domino’s digital channels — including the mobile app — made up 90% of delivery sales and 75% of carryout sales!

The Domino’s app has shown consistent success since launching in 2011… so what now? How can a brand with one of the best restaurant apps continue to grow? Data-led tech upgrades, of course! Domino’s Chief Marketing Officer, Sarah Barron, has said the brand is focusing on using their online data to continue growing the revenue generated from digital channels.

“The lifetime value of a customer when they’re on our app is 25% higher than any other customers,” Barron says. “We as a business have gone hell for leather behind that objective: think about our customers, get them on the app.” Then, once customers are on the app, Domino’s offers regular upgrades like Pinpoint Delivery and better loyalty rewards to make the experience even more worthwhile. 

Considering Domino’s has seen a 30% increase in app orders from Q2 2022 to Q4 2023, their tech-forward restaurant app strategy is obviously delivering… and not just pizza.

 

Starbucks — The Best Restaurant App for Order Customization

Considering over 33 million people actively use the Starbucks app (that’s ~10% of the entire U.S. population!) you’ve probably seen the classic green-and-white interface a time or two. Linked with the My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program that launched in 2009, the Starbucks app is one of the best restaurant apps for perks, payments, and personalization. 

Starbucks app

The Stats 

  • Active Users → 33M (Q4 2023). 
  • App Downloads → 1.3M (Q2 2023). 
  • Digital Sales → ~50% of revenue (Q1 2023).

Why It Works 

When restaurateurs, tech lovers, or coffee connoisseurs think about a “best-in-class” loyalty program, the perks of Starbucks Rewards usually come to mind. And, when we say loyalty program, we mean it; the Seattle coffee brand has some of the most loyal app users out there! A 2018 study showed that Starbucks was not only the most popular rewards app, but participants also spent through the app as a way to “build up” stars, free drinks, and other rewards.

Outside of spending hard-earned stars, Starbucks has also made it incredibly easy and intuitive for app users to spend their not-star-shaped dollars. With options to pay through credit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, gift cards, and Apple Watch, The Manifest calls Starbucks payment options the new “standard bearer” for mobile ordering.

The Starbucks app doesn’t just make it easy to pay for your coffee and cake pops — it makes it easier (and faster) to pick them up, too. Thanks to the estimated “ready” time, the separate mobile pick-up counter, and the pre-pay options, customers spend less time in line than it takes to brew a fresh espresso shot. 

Perhaps one of the most-loved features of the Starbucks app (and the brand in general) is the seemingly endless opportunity for personalization. Barbara Spiering, the Vice President of Marketing Technology & Quality Engineering, said that “customers [need to] feel seen and known” just as much on digital channels as they do in real life. And, as it turns out, personalization pays off — the brand’s long-standing commitment to personalization has been considered the “single biggest driver” of improved customer spend!

What’s even more impressive than the perks or personalization, though, is the sense of loyalty that Starbucks customers feel toward the brand. In February 2023, Starbucks completely changed its loyalty program, making it harder for customers to redeem stars for free products… yet active membership rates continue to grow by 15% YOY. 

So, does having one of the best restaurant apps out there help customers want to stick around even when your stars lose their shine? Well, we definitely don’t think it hurts.

 

Chipotle — The Best Restaurant App for Customer Engagement

Chipotle has been at the helm of restaurant apps for years, launching one of the first-ever quick-service restaurant apps in 2009. Since then, and especially over the past few years, the brand’s dedication to digital has only grown stronger. In 2020, Chipotle’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt said the company “poured the gas as much as [it] could to [digital] because that’s what consumers needed.” 

Chipotle app

The Stats 

  • Active Users: 30M+ (Q1 2023). 
  • App Downloads: 560k (Q2 2023). 
  • Digital Sales: 37% of total revenue (Q3 2023)

Why It Works 

Originally, Chipotle’s app was created just to offer an order-ahead solution, allowing iPhone users (yes, only iPhone users!) to schedule their burrito pick-ups in a few screen taps. However, Chipotle has continued to pay close attention to “what consumers [need],” maintaining their status as one of the best restaurant apps since their very first upgrade. 

Listening to the consumer craving for “more” is how, after a decade, Chipotle realized that a simple order-ahead feature wasn’t enough for consumers to download and use yet another restaurant app. That’s why when Chipotle Rewards — a points-based rewards system — was officially launched in March 2019, it skyrocketed to success almost immediately. By December 2019, only 9 months after launch, the brand had amassed 8 million Chipotle Rewards users, reaching 17 million users less than a year later in October 2020. 

Despite the (almost unbelievable) 112% growth that Chiptole Rewards saw in under 2 years, the company hasn’t slowed down on customer-centric innovation. Extras, a Rewards feature launched on the restaurant’s app in 2021, was intended to gamify the Rewards-earning experience for app users and offer new ways to earn more points. Then, not long after Extras was introduced, Chipotle got started on upgrading the app’s functionality, too. 

In 2022, Chipotle started testing a new opt-in location-based service that could offer app users “real-time data” about their orders. Chipotle’s Chief Executive Officer, Brian Niccol, explained that the new location-based upgrade offers a ton of features, from “[enhancing consumer] experience with order readiness messaging” to “reminders to scan the Chipotle Rewards QR code at checkout.” Part of Chipotle’s “Contextual Restaurant Experience” — and bolstered by “encouraging” test results — Chipotle users everywhere saw the new GPS feature on their restaurant apps in January 2023. 

The reason that Chipotle’s restaurant app has seen such consistent success since 2009 isn’t because of delicious burritos, refreshing agua fresca, or their queso fresco that just won’t miss…although that stuff definitely doesn’t hurt. It’s because they never lose sight of why they have a restaurant app in the first place: to make the consumer’s life better. Again and again and again. 

 

Wrap Up

If the last few years have shown the restaurant industry anything, it’s that mobile ordering solutions (like apps!) are here to stay. 

So, whether you want to make your ordering process as easy as (pizza) pie or you’re hoping for payment efficiencies that are sweeter than an iced latte, an app is the way to go. 

And who knows? Maybe you’ll even see your new Craver app on our next “best restaurant apps” list.