QR Code Menus: The Touchless Revolution In Restaurants and Hospitality
For restaurants during the pandemic, regulations against indoor dining have been a huge hurdle to overcome. Once restaurants were allowed to serve people sitting at outdoor tables, they had to do things differently still. There was a greater need for PPE for workers who previously didn’t need it. There was a need for hand sanitizer on a large scale. And the way customers look at the menu has changed—possibly forever.
You’ve probably seen this if you’ve sat down at a restaurant recently. Rather than picking up a menu, you scan a QR code on a sticker on the table. From there, the menu loads on your smartphone.
This has helped against surface contamination during the ongoing fight against the spread of COVID-19, but it’s reduced the need for a product distributors have historically sold their restaurant clients.
Due to the convenient nature, customers have responded positively to the QR code method.
“People have been loving the ease of access,” Scott Selman, head of marketing for the D.C. area restaurant collection Titan Hospitality Group, told Digital Trends. “For many of our patrons, it’s an experience they continue to talk about.”
“[One guest] interacted with it and changed her tune to ‘I know I was hating on this QR code thing, but this is actually great. Why doesn’t everyone do this?’” Josh Phillips, co-owner and general manager of D.C. restaurant Espita, also told Digital Trends. “That’s a pattern I see repeatedly with the few people that have had complaints. By the end of the meal, they are always on board and think it is great.”
It’s catching on in the hotel industry, too, where things like in-room dining and resort information that usually would be printed are now available via QR code.
From eating in the restaurant to in-room dining, over the last few days at the @HiltonHotels in Shillim we haven’t missed the old paper menus at all. Just scan QR code and the menu pops up on the phone. This definitely is a +ive outcome of the pandemic I hope it stays this way. pic.twitter.com/ocQWnUMfMC
— Shipra Baranwal (@ShipraAtALounge) August 3, 2020
Check out our unique, touchless menu experience for the Castaway Cantina, Harvest & Reel, and In-suite dining. Just scan the QR Code with your smartphone and select the desired menu. We want to be responsible by eliminating single-use menus as much as possible. Enjoy! ✨#Saftey pic.twitter.com/7rq4PmIXvd
— EmbassyStAugustine (@ESStAugustine) August 3, 2020
Maybe this touchless, tech-based revolution in food service was an inevitability, but the pandemic probably gave it a little kickstart. Especially with companies looking to be more environmentally conscious, having menus on smartphones saves a lot of paper and other materials. Restaurants are able to make immediate changes to the menu with instant results, rather than having to deny a patron what they wanted to order or just blacking out a line on the paper menu with permanent marker.
Jack Serfass, CEO and co-founder of Uptown Network, which provides restaurants with digital menus using iPads and now QR codes, told Restaurant Hospitality that its QR system has kept almost 723,000 paper menus out of landfills.
For distributors, though, there is an opportunity to use this when working on a client’s branding. Thinking from the customer standpoint, a restaurant looks a lot nicer when it has fully branded and customized QR code stickers on its tables, as opposed to printouts on computer paper taped down. It’s just another aspect of the branding ecosystem, just like uniforms, name tags and signage.
And there are other items in this tech boom in the restaurant business that could work from a promotional products standpoint.
A company based in California called iPourIt Inc. came out with an item called the Touchless Tap Key (TTK), which looks sort of like a carabiner, but contains RFID technology that works with a self-service tap for pouring beer and other drinks. And you’d better believe there’s a spot for a logo on there. It’s the kind of thing regulars will hold onto and bring back every time.
Self-Pour Beverage Dispense Technology Company iPourIt, Inc. Launches Touchless Tap Key.
— Brewbound (@Brewbound) July 15, 2020
That's just one example. Going forward, even as COVID numbers go down, and restaurants go back to normal, these changes will likely stick around. Why wouldn’t a restaurant look to save paper when they can? In that instance, they’ll be looking for QR stickers that fit in with their overall aesthetic. And even once we beat COVID, people are still going to want hygienic and safe options for shared environments. These changes were probably always on the horizon, but with the pandemic they came at us a little more quickly than expected.