QR codes are a visual label meant to be read by machines, i.e. computers, that were originally created in the mid-90s in Japan to organize inventory at an automotive company. Though they’ve existed for almost 30 years; it’s only been in the past year and a half that they’ve become a major part of the dining experience.
During the pandemic, restaurants began using these codes to reduce contact between servers and guests for safety. According to the National Restaurant Association, half of all full-service restaurant operators in the United States have added QR code menus since the start of the pandemic. The trend is definitely on the uptick, and for good reason—QR codes offer convenience and provide additional opportunities to connect with guests while potentially lowering costs. Here are some ideas to keep in mind to make this trending innovation work for your business.
How It Works
Creating a QR code is simple. Choose a QR code generator, and fill out the information requested. Then customize your QR code so that it’s unique and test it before downloading. Make sure whatever you’re connecting to is smartphone-friendly, and then display the code around your restaurant.
When a guest opens the camera app on their phone and scans the QR code, they are prompted to click a link that takes them to your menu. Most restaurants post QR codes on the tables, either in table tents or other signage or even fixed on to the table in some way. When the guest clicks the link, they go to the business’s website or ordering platform where they can look at the menus, access specials, and continue to navigate through the site as desired. They may order through the app or directly with a server.
Using QR codes significantly reduces the number of menus that must be printed and reduces the amount of time a server must spend at the table. That’s a savings for the restaurant, but it can also be a benefit to the consumer as well. Some people prefer the app approach, and some prefer a more guided experience. Another huge advantage of a QR code menu is the ability to update menus in real time. When a dish sells out, you can remove it on the back end before guests ever get their hopes set on something that’s no longer available.
Because of their ability to reduce guest-staff contact, they can help create a safer experience for everyone, and that’s a high priority for restaurant consumers and an important consideration for an employer. They’re also recommended by the CDC.
You might think that QR codes discourage connecting with guests because there’s less facetime per table, but they actually provide an opportunity for continued interaction and can offer useful data about your target market that can help guide your marketing efforts. It’s important to make sure to create a website with navigation that leads guests to options for signing up for your newsletter, buying merch, and learning about special events and promos. If you’re introducing QR codes for the first time, now is a great opportunity to assess your website’s strengths and weaknesses and make improvements.
A QR code is another opportunity for a touch point. You can slap a QR code on the table, or you can align it with your brand in a way that’s memorable and engaging. Get creative and embrace the opportunity to connect with guests in a new way.
Not everyone will jump on the QR train immediately, and it’s important to continue to provide exceptional service for those guests as well. You may want to provide a limited number of printed menus and offer a little more time for service for guests who don’t feel comfortable using QR codes. You also have a chance to help them access the codes if they’re a bit intimidated. Even creating simple signage on the table that directs your guests to “Point Your Phone Camera Here” can make the experience feel a little more comfortable as guests navigate the new technology.