Archived Story

Designer launches restaurant app

Published 11:36pm Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tom Powell has big dreams for a mobile app three years in the making.

“I think it will eventually replace websites for restaurants,” he said of MobChow.

The app, available now for Apple and Android products, allows users to download the MobChow app and see what restaurants are nearby that offer the type of food they’re craving.

But it goes many steps further than that.

The app also allows restaurants to create their own apps quickly and easily by uploading their menu items and prices, hours, location and other important information. Users can download the free apps for their favorite restaurants and download the main MobChow app, also free, for when they want to try something new.

“I decided to figure out how we can help restaurants develop their own app,” Powell said. The message he heard when he talked to restaurants was that they could not afford to advertise, Powell said. He decided to fix that.

“This is like Facebook for restaurants,” Powell said. “All of this is managed by the restaurant, which they love.”

Powell has applied for a patent for the app. So far he’s had a few dozen downloads and about a dozen restaurants signed up — about half of them locally-owned Suffolk eateries.

While the app is free to users, it isn’t free to the restaurants. It costs $249 to start and $49 per month. Powell figures he needs about 50 to 75 restaurants signed on in the Hampton Roads area to turn a nice profit.

“I want it to be a good value,” he said of the app. “If it’s of value to the top restaurants, it’s of value to Tony the hotdog guy.”

From either the main MobChow app or a restaurant app, users can browse a restaurant’s menu, with prices and photos, view their hours and directions to the restaurant, call the restaurant or make a reservation through a link to OpenTable.com. Once at the restaurant, the user can share their location on social media. The restaurants can also promote specials and send immediate messages for special events, like when a celebrity drops by, to users who have downloaded the restaurant’s app.

The individual restaurant app is fully personalized for the restaurant with its colors, logos and other icons.

Right now, the app is useful only for the Hampton Roads area. But Powell said he can envision it expanding into other areas with local managers and even adapting the concept into other realms.

It can be downloaded from iTunes and the Google Play store.

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