QR Code Menus: Why Restaurants Should Make The Switch

Two women, wearing masks and sitting outside at a restaurant, use a QR code to access a digital menu

As restaurants embrace modern technology to streamline their restaurant options, it’s only natural that one of the key parts of a restaurant gets a digital update as well: the menu. This shift, expedited by health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, was in motion well before. In the last few years, restaurants have been moving in a digital direction when it comes to menus.

For current pandemic operations, moving away from physical menus makes a lot of sense. Customers and employees want to avoid hand-to-hand contact as well as reusable items that get passed from customer to customer. With menus being some of the most handled items in a restaurant, it was a quick and obvious move to shift away from them.

But digital menus are likely here to stay past the pandemic so what at first might seem like a temporary solution has staying power as more businesses shift to digital menus and experience the long-term benefits and overarching impact on streamlining the way their restaurants operate.

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QR code menus: why restaurants should make the switch from physical menus

Similar to other experiences, like drive-throughs and drive-ins, QR codes are making a comeback.

You might be familiar with QR codes from when they first became popular around 2010. When they first emerged, businesses had high hopes they would be rapidly adopted by customers to make interacting with a business or website quick and easy. They didn’t have the immediate adoption that was initially expected, and seemed to fade away. But across the globe, QR codes were steadily gaining popularity and having success in the restaurant industry. With the pandemic accelerating the need for contactless options, QR codes are having a resurgence.

The scannable black-and-white squares can be held up to a smartphone camera and instantly open a link or webpage— in this case a digital restaurant menu. By placing unique QR codes at customers’ ordering touchpoints — tables, parking spaces, kiosks — customers can scan a code with their phone to launch a restaurant’s ordering page and place their order directly.

This technology has enabled restaurants to rethink what the customer ordering experience looks like. By shifting to QR code-enabled digital menus — self-serve ordering — restaurants are putting more power in their customers’ hands and streamlining their operations for an all-around better restaurant experience.

How QR code menus can benefit your business

Flexibility. Restaurants can easily and quickly update a digital menu to reflect last-minute menu changes, minimising the chance of having to let a customer know you’re out of an item after they’ve already placed their order.
Efficiency. Putting the ordering in the hands of the customer helps to streamline your restaurant. By minimising the back-and-forth between waiters and customers, you can turn tables more quickly, increasing the overall number of customers served in a day.
Connected operations. When an order is placed, it goes directly to your POS and kitchen display system (KDS), seamlessly updating all of your automation tools for a smooth back-of-house.
Insightful data. Digital menus give you access to insightful data that you can use to optimise your menu for your customers. With more control over the ordering process, you might be surprised at which items become the front-runners on your menu.
Optimised staff. QR codes and digital menus don’t replace staff, but they do free up their time to focus on customer questions, needs, and ensuring customers have a good experience.
Autonomy: With self-serve ordering, customers get the freedom to order and reorder when they want. No more having to flag down a waiter to order another round.
Sustainability. Printing and reprinting menus has a long-term environmental impact. By switching to digital menus with self-serve ordering, you can be both cost-effective and environmentally conscious.
Peace of mind. Digital menus do offer customers peace of mind around health and safety concerns that will likely stick around for some time after the pandemic. By limiting contact between the staff and customers and any shared surfaces, customers can feel safe knowing they’re following health and safety guidelines.

How do I create a QR code for a menu?

You don’t have to be a tech expert to start using QR code menus at your restaurant menus today. If you use Square Online Store, you can set up Self-serve ordering for one or more locations straight from the Square Online Overview page. From there, go to Fulfillment > Self-serve ordering and select Set up QR codes. Go through all of the steps to generate QR code menus and create ordering cards and you’ll be making the switch from physical to digital menus in no time at all.

For restaurant customers, contactless options like self-serve ordering let them scan QR codes at their table and order and pay straight from their own device. On the backend, these orders are sent straight to the restaurant’s point-of-sale and kitchen display systems, just like server-entered orders would be, but with less contact and less margin for error.

While these tools limit server interaction, they are still interactive. And right now, when guidelines are telling everyone to put space between themselves and strangers, they make customers feel safer dining in your establishment as well as providing long-term benefits for your business.