Even if you hate them, QR code menus aren’t going away anytime soon

Changing our menu according to the season and arrivals is part of our philosophy.says Otman Amer, co-owner of Darna Bistroquet, a restaurant that serves dishes inspired by Moroccan counters and features local foods.

There is also the ecological concern. Before, each time we changed the menu, we had to reprint everything. The amount of paper we used…

And most importantly, with the severe labor shortage affecting the industry, getting rid of paper menus removes a considerable logistical hassle. It took about a whole day, with the format of the pages to establish, the fonts, etc.

Conversely, with the online menu accessible via a QR code or on the restaurant’s website, Otman Amer can make changes to his menu in just a few clicks.

Honestly, from a practical point of view, it took a big worry out of me. There aren’t many staff in the restaurant, and efficiency is the order of the day.

The imposition of QR codes did not please everyone

The QR code was invented in the 1990s in Japan. But until the pandemic, we rarely had the obligation to use it to obtain goods or services.

It was public health guidelines to limit the sharing of objects and exposure to surfaces possibly contaminated with the COVID-19 virus that made this discredited digital scribble relevant again. Later, it was established that these measures were not very effective in preventing infections, with SARS-CoV-2 being transmitted mainly by aerosols(New window).

But not all QR code stickers have disappeared from restaurant tables, much to the displeasure of many foodies. A recent survey by Technomic, an American firm specializing in collecting and analyzing data for the restaurant industry, revealed that 88% of the 1,000 customers surveyed prefer a paper menu to the QR code leading to a digital menu.

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The majority of customers prefer to consult the pages of a traditional menu, according to a survey. | Photo: iStock

This same survey indicated that 55% of respondents find it difficult to read QR codes and consult digital menus. According to half of those surveyed, QR codes are detrimental to the dining experience.

And these opinions are widely shared by people who rail against QR codes in restaurants on social networks, and even in editorials from major media like Slate or Vice.

I’m tired of having to navigate on a new digital platform every time I go to eat at a restaurant, can we read in the text of Slate. I hate having to spend the first 10 minutes of a meeting on my phone. And I never want to have to compose again […] with a QR code that takes me to a website where each of the seven menu pages is a different PDF file.

Many customers like to turn the pages of a real menusummarizes Julie Vaillancourt, to the communications of the St-Hubert Group.

The famous rotisserie chain will still use the QR code in its restaurants, but it is not 100% ready to make the electronic leap. However, it plans to print fewer menus than before the pandemic.

The nobility catering

For the owner of the Sherbrooke gourmet restaurant Auguste, Anik Beaudoin, there is no question of abandoning the traditional menu.

As a consumer, I’m not interested in going out to eat with friends or family, and the first thing we do is to get on our phone. [pour lire] the QR code. »

A quote from Anik Beaudoin, owner of the restaurant Auguste, in Sherbrooke

For us, it is important, the experience of the customer who can look up from the menu and then listen to the waiter who guides him [à travers le menu].

After going through the lowest moments of the pandemic that made her doubt her will to persevere in the industry, Anik Beaudoin finds that the effort is worth it. We want to reclaim the nobility of what we do.

She recognizes, however, that the digital card concept can make life easier for restaurateurs, including some of her colleagues, who have told her they don’t want to go back. Many establishments with a bistro or tapas bar formula have notably adopted digital menus. I have the QR code tooshe adds.

It is sure that with the prices of our suppliers which change every two days […]it would be easier to change the price of the menu online.

Not all on the same level in the digital age

The QR code remains inaccessible for anyone who does not have a smartphone. And for many people less digitally savvy, QR codes never seem to work.

There are also people who do not have cellular data to access the menu online, as is often the case for tourists.

This is one of the reasons why at Darna Bistroquet, we offer the possibility of borrowing a tablet to consult the menu.

It took a little getting used to, but I would tell you that, nowadays, for 95% of customers, [le code QR] Do not disturbsays Otman Amer, from Darna Bistroquet.

The restaurateur immediately concedes that the QR code is not a tool suitable for all types of establishments. There are restaurants that don’t change their menus a lot, or others for which it’s not refined enough.

Especially since the tool, in its current version, is far from perfect and, all in all, remains quite rudimentary. The push towards even more sophisticated technologies, such as autonomous table-top control systems, is well underway, however, according to Otman Amer.

So, if the menus in multiple PDF files exasperate you, you can at least hope that the technology improves to make their consultation less tedious. But the QR code and digital menus aren’t going away anytime soon.

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