QR codes aren't exactly what you'd call new technology, but with the recent surge in contactless ordering methods, they certainly are a Cinderella story. In 2024 the QR will celebrate its 30th birthday.
In case you're unfamiliar with the term, QR codes are a type of square-shaped barcode that stores massive amounts of information within their pixelated arrangements. Scanning them, using a mobile device's camera, unlocks loads of brand-specific information for the businesses that use them.
While their origins can be traced all the way back to Toyota's production lines in the early 1990s, the QR code is currently in the midst of a renaissance, especially where the restaurant and hospitality industries are concerned. Today we're going to take a look at the (re)emergence of the QR code and how it relates to the rising trend of contactless ordering in a post-COVID world.
The Birth of the Contactless Menu
QR codes have come a long way since their inception. They were originally conceived as a way to keep track of inventory in Toyota's manufacturing plants. Sometime in the late 2000s, however, they began to bleed into the public arena alongside the rise of personal mobile devices.
At first, they were positioned as the next wave in AR technology, but businesses were slow to implement them. As a result, early QR code usage was seen more as a novelty than a legitimate business tool. It took nearly a decade for potential use cases to catch up to the technology, due to two things: Apple’s integration of the QR code into their technology in 2017, and the inescapable specter of COVID-19 in 2020.
Under the COVID pandemic, the restaurant industry has changed radically. The way that we interact with one another has changed as well. Between quarantines, masking efforts, and social distancing, in-person businesses the world over have had to rethink their in-house operations with an increased focus on customer safety and legal compliance.
It's a sweeping societal change, to be sure, and perhaps no industry has been more affected than the restaurant, entertainment, and hospitality industries have.
At the height of the pandemic, many restaurants, cafes, and other venues were forced to close their doors. Those that persisted did so by building out their takeout and delivery business.
On paper, it seems like a simple plan, but smart business owners soon found new challenges to overcome in the form of increased overhead, and the rise of internet culture filled to the brim with younger, tech-savvy customers.
Enter the QR code menu.
Contactless Menus: the New Normal
After more than two years, countries all over the world seem to finally be coming to terms with COVID-19. Lockdowns and other restrictions have eased, especially in the United States. We have ways to fight the disease and a wealth of knowledge that we lacked two years ago. And yet, contactless ordering methods remain an industry standard.
The phrase "New normal" has been used across multiple contexts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Contactless ordering and QR code menus are a big part of the new normal where the restaurant industry is concerned.
When innovation meets both demand and customer preference, then you've got a winning ticket. In fact, 68% of all restaurant patrons in the U.S. say that they would prefer to keep using contactless ordering options even after pandemic ceases.
QR code menus are more than just a COVID-related tool or a simple trend, however. Something about contactless ordering methods speaks directly to the current societal climate as well as the tastes and preferences of an increasingly younger demographic. Before we discuss all the benefits inherent to contactless ordering, let's take a look at QR code menus by the numbers.
Contactless Ordering by the Numbers
Worldwide use of QR codes, specifically in the restaurant industry, has increased exponentially since the start of the pandemic. Let's take a look at a small cross section of global stats relating to QR code usage.
According to UK-based LXA (also known as the MarTech Alliance), more than 86% of European smartphone users have used a QR code at some point. Many go well beyond that, with 36.4% using QR codes on a weekly basis.
In Australia, the keyword "QR code" was searched over 60,000 times during 2021. To provide context, overall QR code usage in Brazil was 7% of the entire consumer demographic. In Europe, it was 8%.
Furthermore, 50% of Chinese consumers use QR codes on a weekly basis. Alipay, the world's most prominent payment app, is accepted at 15 million Chinese establishments. To 65% of Chinese consumers, QR codes communicate a sense of trustworthiness. In fact, 40% of all global coupon redemptions come from the region.
Here are some additional fast facts to help you understand the utility of the QR code menu:
- 75% of Brazilians prefer to scan QR codes while shopping
- 25% of Irish consumers scan at least one QR code per business quarter
- 57% of Canadians use QR codes to obtain information about food products
- 52% of all American restaurants have already made the change to QR code menus
The Benefits of the Contactless Menu
Contactless ordering via QR code menus is more than just a COVID-related trend; it has become an industry wide mainstay with numerous applications and far-reaching benefits. While there is a near endless array of benefits associated with QR code adoption and contactless ordering, we'll discuss some of the major highlights below.
Contactless ordering is more hygienic
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene has been the name of the game. From masks to HEPA filtration systems, hand sanitizer to frequent hand washing, the world has arguably become a more hygiene conscious place. That's one of the main reasons for the sudden reemergence of the QR code as a restauranteering tool.
Contactless ordering methods mean hands free with minimal interaction with restaurant staff. Through contactless ordering, you eliminate the need for multiple hands to touch menus, as well as the increased risk of spreading disease through close proximity.
Contactless ordering makes customer transactions more efficient
Nothing sours a restaurant visit like poorly paced service. Your customers are there to enjoy good food, good drink, and each other's company. Waiting for menus, waiting for your food, and above all else, waiting for the check can have a negative impact on the overall experience. Contactless ordering radically changes the pace of your customer's meal.
Through QR code menus, customers don't have to wait as long for service. They are in direct control of the experience, ordering when they want, paying when they want, and leaving when they want. Contactless ordering puts the power back in the hands of the customer.
Contactless ordering helps reduce order errors
QR code menus allow customers to dictate the pace of the meal. They also put responsibility for the order directly onto the customers themselves rather than the waitstaff.
Think about the telephone game. The more people who are involved in the transfer of information, the more likely that information is to change or be incorrect by the time it reaches its destination. Contactless ordering eliminates extra links in the chain, improving the overall customer experience.
Contactless ordering provides customers with a dynamic menu
Your restaurant's menu is a living thing; it changes with time, and in accordance with customer preference. Changing a traditional hardcopy menu is a difficult and time-consuming ordeal. It involves expensive printing runs and lamination anytime you want to offer something new. Contactless ordering changes that.
QR code menus are easily updated. Once the QR menu has been established, it's simple to swap out high quality images of your menu items at will. Out of a particular fan favorite? It's easy to temporarily remove menu items when you're working in an all-digital format. Not to mention the fact that digital menus allow you to include pictures of ALL your menu items, thus driving sales exponentially.
Contactless ordering helps ease the staffing crunch
Contactless ordering benefits your enterprise as well as the customers themselves. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a traditionally stable level of supply and demand. As pandemic restrictions have eased, restaurants, hotels, and other large-scale venues all over the country have struggled to restaff their brick-and-mortar locations. That means increased wait times and a diminished customer experience.
Contactless ordering helps to offload critical tasks from an already strained waitstaff. Through QR code menus, you can improve both the quality of life for your employees and your customers.
Contactless ordering provides robust analytics
QR code menus can bring an incredible level of versatility to the table. You can integrate your QR codes with both your point of sale (POS) system and your customer relationship manager (CRM). This allows you to pull valuable customer data, information, and metrics from each transaction.
In fact, with these systems paired, every time your QR code is scanned your business receives a treasure trove of actionable customer data. Anytime a customer makes a purchase, your POS and CRM work together to identify sales trends, allowing you to offer new programs to your customers and adjust your business practices to facilitate more sales.
More Than Just a Menu
The benefits to implementing contactless ordering methods in your venue are grand in scale. From the customer experience to your bottom line, implementing QR code menus is a win-win for your business. There's so much more you can do besides browsing and ordering, however.
QR code menus not only provide a dynamic visual menu for you customers, as well as a contactless ordering method, they also help customers to better manage their orders. From the QR menu, customers are able to split payment between their party, select pickup and delivery options (if not dining in), and facilitate multi-vendor orders at larger venues such as stadiums and arenas.
Ready to implement your own contactless ordering method? Mr Yum can help. Contact us today to book a free demo.