QR codes can do much more than provide guests with a digital version of a printed menu. They make the menu itself more dynamic and they activate different opportunities for restaurants to streamline their processes, collect valuable information and give diners a richer experience.
Unlike traditional paper menus, digital menus are much easier to alter on the fly. Dishes can be instantly removed once they sell out, or if they can’t be offered due to unavailability of ingredients. This saves waitstaff the return trip to the table to apologetically explain that another diner got the last cobb salad. Digital menus also give chefs more flexibility to adapt their offerings to spotlight seasonal ingredients or test-launch new dishes.
For Richard Mendis, CSO at BrandMuscle, this is a big-time money saver. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said, “In the print world, it would be very expensive and cumbersome to keep printing your menus [...] In the digital world, it’s a couple of clicks and you’re done.”
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An online menu also gives diners the option to order remotely by integrating with the restaurant’s ordering system. According to the National Restaurant Association, a quarter of restaurant operators across all sectors added the functionality of in-app or online ordering during the pandemic. This was primarily done to promote social distancing and reduce the amount of time waiters spent at tables.
The verdict is still out on online ordering and preferences vary generationally.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s consumer survey, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers prefer traditional table service (69% and 67%, respectively). On the other hand, 55% of Gen Z adults prefer electronic alternatives.
QR code payments
Digital payments using QR codes also became part of the touchless experience during the pandemic. They allowed guests to pay their bills through their devices without having to exchange cash or use credit cards.
The National Restaurant Association found that 40% of operators implemented contactless or mobile payments as an added safety measure. For 21% of restaurant guests, the availability of these options was a contributing factor when choosing where to dine. Tom Sharon, co-founder of Cheqout, told the New York Times that using QR code menus with the added functionality of ordering and payments could reduce restaurant labor costs by up to 50%.
QR code payments are also gaining traction outside the U.S. In Japan, a unified QR code called JPQR launched in 2019 in response to the high number of QR code service providers operating throughout the country. According to a January 2021 survey, QR codes were the preferred payment method for 33.3% of respondents..
In Argentina, 17% of adults used QR code payments in 2020, compared to just 3% in 2018. According to the report by Accenture, this is expected to increase up to 24% by 2022.
Related: Is traditional service on its way out in hospitality?
Loyalty program integration
Loyalty programs and reward schemes can also be integrated into QR code menu usage, particularly when linked with digital payments. Loyalty points can be added directly from within an app linked to a diner’s account.
Restaurants can also integrate reward schemes into the dining experience by adding a call–to-action (CTA) to the landing page that diners can access upon scanning the QR code. They can then earn discounts on their orders or enter giveaways by signing up for a newsletter, downloading an app, following the establishment on social media or filling out a feedback survey.
The National Restaurant Association found that a third of off-premise customers would consider the availability of loyalty programs when choosing which restaurants to order from.
QR codes also present a great data collection opportunity for restaurants. By using a CTA or asking diners to sign in to a digital platform, restaurants have the unique opportunity to learn more about every person sitting at the table.
Starbucks uses the data it collects via QR codes to offer customers a more personalized experience through the Starbucks mobile app. The recommendations the app gives are based on a number of factors, including each particular store’s inventory, the weather, local favorites and the customer’s previous orders.