Why are QR Menu Codes Still Around?

At the start of the pandemic, restaurants ditched physical menus and instead revived quick response codes, a long-sought technology. It seemed like a good idea at the time. As restaurants reopen from the government-mandated COVID lockdown, restaurant design experts advise them to clear their tables of high-touch items like salt, pepper and ketchup bottles. Even the physical menu had to go, and thus the QR code – which, when scanned, opens a digital menu – came into vogue.

As it became clear that COVID-19 was unlikely to be transmitted through surfaces, however, people revealed their true feelings about the menu code. He hated them.

But for restaurants, QR codes are not a way to provide contact-free menus. The technology solves problems that restaurants have had for years and are especially painful now, such as menu printing costs and staff shortages.

“It’s an interesting controversy,” said Robert Byrne, director of consumer and industry insights at restaurant consulting firm Technomic. Should restaurants continue to use technology that diners hate, or fall back on more cumbersome alternatives?

Some have decided that QR-code menus have to go, because customers don’t like them and order less overall because of them.

Other restaurants are catching up on technology, or adding it for the first time, because there are better options. may turn This is something that people really want to use.

In fact, better QR codes could be the future, Square, which sells point-of-sales and digital services to restaurants, saw its use of QR codes increase ordering efficiency among its restaurant customers by 143% last year, and so far this year, even higher. Has been.

‘Bring back the menu’

There are bad reviews for QR codes all over the internet. Last year, Slate ran a piece with the headline “Bring Back the Menu!” was demanded. Subtitle: “I’m sick of QR codes.” Earlier this year, a Vice headline declared “F*** QR Codes.” Then a plaintiff “I just want to have a menu again.”

We are not talking about a vocal minority of haters here. A recent tech survey found that around 88% of respondents said they prefer paper menus to digital QR codes. About 66% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they do not like QR codes because they include As you sit down at the table take out your phone. About 57% agreed that using a QR code felt like a chore, and 55% agreed that it was difficult to read and browse through a QR code.

Some restaurants, knowing that customers hate them, have brought back physical menus.

Darden Restaurant ,DRI,Which owns Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and other chains, used the code in the pandemic before transitioning to single-use menus and then back to regulars because of customer preferences, a spokesperson said. BJ’s Restaurant ,BJRI, Last year’s brought back its restaurant menu decline. “One of the things we’ve heard from our guests is that they prefer to have a physical menu,” CEO Greg Levine said during the October analyst call.

Jeremy Vladis, president of the restaurant group that operates eight restaurants in North Carolina, Washington, DC and New York, has also switched back to tangible menus. At the start of the pandemic, Vladis installed QR codes at his sit-down restaurant in New York City. But he eventually left them.

With a physical menu, “I think people see more stuff and order a lot more food, and have a better experience,” Vladis said. Plus, he himself prefers a real menu. “I like to see an entire menu,” he said. “I’m old-fashioned.”

That doesn’t mean there were no advantages to QR codes.” It’s easy, because you change the menu and change it on the computer, and then [it’s] done,” he said. BJ’s Levine said in October, “I think we were all really excited to get HTML menus into this business because everybody’s thinking we’re going to eliminate printing costs. Huh.”

beyond digital menu

QR codes can be a welcome respite for restaurant operators navigating a difficult environment, where ingredients are suddenly expensive or inaccessible, and the labor market is tight.

“When you’re updating a menu, even with a little bit of frequency, it can get expensive,” Technomics Byrne said. The cost increases when an operator is running a chain of restaurants.

And these days, maintaining a menu adds another level of complexity, Mentioned Brian Soler, Square’s general manager for restaurants.

Velveeta is making a comeback

The QR code let restaurants update pricing and availability quickly and at no extra cost, he said, if “over the weekend, the price of your avocados went up by 50 cents.” Plus, with QR codes, the host or server doesn’t have to waste time handing out menus to customers. This could ease the burden on restaurants with fewer staff, as many are.

Still, Solr understands why many people don’t like digital menus.

“When people say they want to see a QR code die, or they want to see it, I agree with that sentiment for QR Code 1.0,” he said, referring to the codes that appear in the static PDF menu. lead to or are otherwise difficult to access.

But, he said, people may actually prefer digital menus if they are more responsive and interactive, and can be used to order directly, add to their tab or pay for their food. “They’re a much, much more enjoyable experience than zooming in, zooming out from PDFs.”

Waiting to pay for a check is “a huge pain point for consumers” compared to reading a menu, Byrne said, and one that can be solved using similar technology. “Let me pay when I’m ready to go. And everyone’s happy.”

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