Are QR Codes Here to Stay?

Many restaurant customers prefer the flexibility offered by QR codes in their dine-out experience.

  • QR codes hit a new peak in popularity for restaurants when the pandemic hit, helping to create a contactless experience for customers wary of exposure to COVID-19.
  • In addition to offering an alternative approach to menus, QR codes can be linked to your Google My Business page to encourage positive reviews or to your online ordering site.

Related: Six creative uses for QR codes at your pizzeria

By Megan Prevost

Anytime you step into a restaurant, whether it’s fast-casual or full-service, you’re bound to see a QR code somewhere. Whether they’re using it to link to their online menu or to make it easier to place a takeout order, running into these codes in the wild is pretty much inevitable these days.

Which begs the question: Are QR codes here for the long run? They became more popular as a way to prevent the spread of germs at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and have since stuck around for the same purpose. However, while the pandemic slowly burns out (hopefully), will these codes fade into the background along with it?

Where Did QR Codes Come From?
The QR code has been around for a long time. Initially, they were introduced in 1994, but many didn’t see the appeal. However, once the pandemic started, restaurants began using them to link to online menus, allowing customers to check out the menu without having to worry about sharing germs by using a physical menu. Physical menus had to either be disposable or wiped down in between uses. By opting for a contactless option, restaurant owners didn’t have to deal with this issue.

Pros and Cons of QR Codes
When looking at the pros and cons of QR codes, it’s easy to see just how beneficial they are for restaurants and other types of businesses. Let’s dive into it.

Pros: 

  • Easy to access, can be used by anyone with a smartphone
  • No learning curve
  • Allows for a contactless experience
  • Free and paid options for business owners
  • Multiple use cases

Cons: 

  • Some people dislike the idea of using technology during the dining experience
  • Older people without smartphones or people who find technology complicated may prefer more traditional methods

For the most part, these codes are a great way to allow customers to access further information, such as menus, product descriptions, websites, events, and so much more. Since it’s such an intuitive process (scan the code, open a link), there isn’t much of a learning curve, meaning that almost anyone can use this technology. On top of that, it’s simple to offer alternatives for those who can’t or don’t want to use QR codes, such as a physical menu. So, while there are few cons, it’s easy to work around them to please every type of customer.

Related: 7 ways to promote your QR codes for contactless ordering

How Customers Feel About QR Codes
For the most part, customers don’t seem to mind the inclusion of QR codes as a part of the dining experience. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a bit of an adjustment period to this new technology, but nowadays we’re used to seeing codes everywhere and anywhere we go.

The easiest way to ensure that all of your customers are happy with the dining experience is to offer alternative options for those who prefer a certain method. If you primarily offer physical copies of your menus, keep a QR code on standby for those who would rather not handle a shared menu.

For those who prefer physical copies, keep a couple on hand as an alternative to QR codes. Of course, it’s up to you whether you want to enforce the use of one over the other. QR codes save on printing costs, and it’s much easier to update your menu frequently, so many restaurant owners are leaning toward the full-time use of these codes instead of constantly paying to update and print paper copies.

Other Uses of QR Codes
However, QR code use isn’t just limited to restaurants and contactless menus. There are many other uses for these bad boys, and we’re probably going to see them get more and more common in the next few years. Here are a few other ways your business can use QR codes:

  • Link to your Google My Business page to encourage positive reviews
  • Link to your phone number for customer service or ordering
  • Link to your ordering site
  • Link to a web page that lists further information about a certain product or service
  • Link to forms or downloads

It’s safe to say that QR codes probably aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the contactless dining experience and overall restaurant automation are getting more popular globally. More and more customers prefer to have the flexibility in their experience, enjoying the freedom to choose whether they want to interact with physical menus or even human beings in general. So, whether you like it or not, it’s time to get on the QR code bandwagon!

Megan Prevost is a marketing content writer for MustHaveMenus. When she’s not writing about restaurant marketing, she’s hanging out with her three cats and binging the latest television shows. Her work has appeared in App Institute, Bar Business, CLH News, FanSided, FSR, Miss Details, Modern Restaurant Management, PMQ, QSR, RestoBiz, RestoHub, Site Social SEO, Small Business Currents, and The Daily Fandom.