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The pandemic has forced restaurants to make several changes in order to keep up with health and safety measures including capacity limits, social distancing, vaccination checks, and the list goes on. But as restrictions across Australia have almost completely lifted, which changes positively impacted restaurant businesses and will be sticking around?
If you’re only just emerging from a pandemic-induced hibernation, you might not be familiar with these square barcodes popping up everywhere. Short for quick response, QR codes are essentially scannable barcodes that store data. They are not new but have seen a massive resurgence in the past two years due to the contactless world we find ourselves in. According to Bitly, a link management service, 2021 saw a 750% increase in QR code downloads.
The original purpose of the QR code was to track vehicles and parts moving through the assembly line, invented in 1994 in Japan by Masahiro Hara, chief engineer of Denso Wave. The smartphone era transported the QR code beyond the factory floor and gained even more momentum when scanning the code became integrated into phone cameras in 2017.
A QR code is made up of black squares and dots that represent different pieces of information. Just the same as a barcode being scanned at the supermarket, when a QR code is scanned the unique pattern translates to a piece of readable data.
Most commonly they're used to redirect users to landing pages, websites, social media profiles, or discount codes. There are two types of QR codes; static and dynamic. Static codes contain information that cannot be changed and doesn’t expire. Whereas a dynamic code can be changed as many times as you like as the information isn’t stored in the code itself but rather on a specific URL.
Restaurants have seen a shift towards digital systems when it comes to reservations and point of sale but one item retained its physical presence up until the pandemic struck - the menu. A reusable printed menu that gets passed around from customer to customer raised some obvious health concerns during the pandemic. The solution…a QR code menu. Contactless and scannable at the table, it instantly did away with the germ-carrying paper counterpart.
Customers can browse a menu from their phone and do away with having to flag down wait staff to ask that pesky question - “Can I please see a menu?”
Realising the benefits of doing away with paper menus some restaurants have then gone one step further and incorporated the ordering function via a QR code. So not only can you scan the code and access the menu but you can place your order and even pay for it right there at the table.
Does this take away from the customer experience at a restaurant? Or is it actually enhancing it by creating efficiencies for both the customer and the restaurant so they can focus on what really matters - the quality of the food.
So often chefs are impeded by a printed menu, with the ability to instantly update a digital menu, your kitchen can regain full control of the daily offering. Don’t have mushrooms today, no problem, just turn off that dish. Sold out of a dish mid-service, instantly update the menu and save your FOH having to explain to a customer who's already ordered it that it’s no longer available.
Not only do you have flexibility in making changes to the items on the menu but you can also adjust the price. With raw materials going up and fluctuating weekly, flexible pricing might be the solution to controlling that healthy margin. It can also allow for specials and happy hour pricing to be switched on in an instant.
Streamline the ordering process by cutting out the need for tableside ordering. Tickets go straight to the kitchen, saving time, reducing order errors, and increasing efficiency. Especially for casual/fast food outlets, this speeds up the process allowing you to turn tables faster.
A digital menu means that you are capturing insightful data directly into your POS. When the customer has control over how they order, does this shift which items are more popular? Capturing data at the table is especially beneficial for restaurants who don’t take reservations and have no record of the customer until they pay. QR code ordering can allow the restaurant to know who the customers is when they order and even save data and preferences for next time they visit.
QR code menu ordering doesn’t necessarily make your FOH staff redundant, but it will free up their time to be more attentive to the customer experience.
Think about the trees. By switching to QR code menus you are not only saving on printing costs but you are also saving the environment and sending a positive message to your customers. Digital menus are one step towards a more sustainable restaurant business, read more about reduce your restaurant’s waste here.
Remembering how this all started - using QR codes for your menu, ordering and even payment will give your customers peace of mind knowing that their health and safety is being fully considered. Contactless service is a huge asset to your restaurant which will stick around long after the pandemic subsides.
What is your take on QR code menus and ordering, are they here to stay or are they killing what hospitality is all about - that interaction between a customer and the restaurant staff.
At Chef Works, we are driven by those who are inspired by all things culinary. Fueled by the belief that every culinary professional deserves the right apparel and tools to enhance the work they do. We understand that the recipe for excellence goes far beyond simple ingredients.
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