Online Exclusive: How to: Build a Mobile App

RISD offers step-by-step process on building a mobile application.

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

In Becky Schilling’s cover story about online tools, she wrote about the Rhode Island School of Design’s mobile dining app and what it is being used for. But how exactly did the app come together? What are the steps the department took to get it built and launched? FSD spoke to Pierre St-Germain, associate director/executive chef for RISD Dining, to get the details about the app-building process.

Step 1: If you can, get a student involved
“I had a student named Jeongwoo Lyo who was working for me. We had been trying to create a mobile app for a while. At that point we’d run into a barrier with using a module for our menu management system that would have allowed real time updates of information via an iPhone app. So instead of dealing with that challenge, Lyo said he thought he could create a mobile app for Android phones. I thought that was funny because I think students tend to have iPhones and the faculty and staff have Androids.”

Step 2: Building it out
“We went to the Android app store where they offer a process where you can build an application. We could do for a nominal fee—I want to say it was $30. Creating iPhone apps are a little bit different. It’s automatically a $100 fee, and it’s a much more in-depth process. Lyo did a lot of the legwork on the actual construct of the application. The goal was to make it as user-friendly as possible. The app is designed to pull info from Google Documents. All we have to do is share Google Documents with a certain number of our staff and those people are responsible for that information. They can see the document and modify it accordingly. Lyo did all the exterior construction. We worked together to get create some imaging for the app, and he helped us create our new dining logo as the logo for the app. The app gives users info on all the venues on campus. It also lets the users know if there are any dining events going on.”

Step 3: Launch
“Once we got the app constructed and we had given everyone instructions on what their upkeep responsibilities were, the launch itself was tough. It took us three hours to make the app go live. Pushing it live was a matter of authentication, so there was this constant back and forth. It was also difficult because Lyo had to leave and go to class in the middle of the launch, so that delayed us a bit.”

Step 4: Maintenance
“We gave one or two of our managers and chefs access to the application’s Google Documents. They update it on a weekly basis. The app shows changes in real time. It’s kind of an interesting approach. We don’t have that many people signed up for the app. We’re trying to promote it on our Facebook page. Between two different venues on campus we have 1,200 friends on Facebook, so you’d think we’d have more people using the application. However, we get students who come through who say, ‘it’s great you have an app, is for iPhones?’ That’s why we’re going to start working on an iPhone app.

Step 5: Adapting
“Since so many students have iPhones we are looking to redesign the app. We may have to do the whole thing over again on a site that allows us to make both iPhone and Android versions at the same time. I think doing it that way will be money well spent. We have more knowledge now so we can bring that knowledge to the application.

One of the things we wish for even though it is very difficult is, I’d love it if our menu management system could deliver nutritionals into a mobile app. Menus would be awesome, but providing the ability for students to access nutritional information would be great. We tried to have a points calculator on our website and it kept having glitches. If we redo the application, I’m going to see if it can do something like that.

We actually want to see if there is a way to make the app more static. We want to be able to push the changes out rather than them happening in real time. We’re hoping to get to a point where it will automatically pull information out of our menu management system. But we had to walk before we could run.” 

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
boston college acai bowl

From Dannon Foodservice.

Catering to the go-go-go lifestyle of university students is a challenge, and it’s one that Boston College dining representatives wrestle with daily.

“Students don’t just want to eat dinner between 5 and 7 p.m.,” says Beth Emery, the school’s director of dining. “They may want to eat dinner at 9 o’clock. We’ve been trying to come up with creative solutions.”

Those creative solutions include everything from offering breakfast items throughout the day to providing healthier late-night choices to trolling social media for trendy new menu ideas...

Sponsored Content
savory yogurt parfait

From Dannon Foodservice.

What consumers eat and, most importantly, when they’re eating it has changed significantly in recent years, signaling opportunity for operators able to capitalize on this evolution.

For example, some 83% of consumers said they were daily snackers in 2016, according to Technomic’s Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report . That’s up from 76% just two years earlier. Snacking is growing across many channels from retail prepared foods to bakery and coffee cafes, fast-food locations and more.

Busy lifestyles, smaller households with greater meal...

Industry News & Opinion

Labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder has officially bowed out of consideration for the cabinet position, according to the Associated Press .

Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants—the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—was tired of being under fire for hiring an undocumented immigrant as a nanny and being accused 26 years ago of physically abusing his wife, an unnamed source told CBS News . The agency reported that Puzder was unlikely to show for the start of his confirmation hearings tomorrow.

Puzder has also been attacked by organized labor for comments suggesting that...

Industry News & Opinion

Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

Along with being gluten-free, Risley is also peanut free and tree-nut free.

The dining room is the second college eatery...

FSD Resources