A brief history of QR codes and what they mean for your food service business
We're living through tumultuous times where change has proven to be the only true constant. Since the start of the 2020s, the economy, society, and global landscape have changed radically and in unpredictable ways. Contributing factors represent a perfect storm of upheaval: a sweeping global pandemic, changing social norms, supply chain chaos, and international conflict.
This virtual deluge of rapid change has left no industry untouched, especially the food service industry. Over the last two years, food and hospitality businesses have had to rethink virtually every aspect of their operations. What has been learned after this trial by fire? That contactless, digital ordering is the way forward.
Today we're going to take a look at the ways in which mobile apps, especially those featuring QR codes, have changed the restaurant industry, along with the history of the QR code, and some key points you should keep in mind when integrating contactless ordering into your own establishment.
What is contactless ordering?
Before we begin our discussion, let's talk terms and definitions. What is contactless ordering exactly?
Contactless ordering harnesses the power of QR codes to give customers access to a wide range of service options directly from the comfort of their mobile devices. QR codes are a type of square-shaped barcode capable of storing a massive amount of information within their pixelated arrangements. By scanning these barcodes using your phone or tablet's camera, customers gain quick access to restaurant features including:
- Robust visual menus
- Ordering functions
- Delivery options
- Checkout and payment
- Loyalty programs
- Coupons and promotions
History and innovation in the restaurant ordering business
QR codes as the latest restaurant tech trend of 2022? Isn't that old technology? Let's take a look at the history of the QR code as it has changed from an industrial tool to a restaurant mainstay.
QR codes were first invented by Japanese engineer Masahiro Hara back in 1994. At the time, the young engineer was employed at a division of Toyota's manufacturing operation. Hara noticed numerous process inefficiencies on the assembly line.
At the time, Toyota was pioneering a process known as "Kanban," which roughly translates into "just-in-time." Under this methodology, the manufacturer would receive just enough materials to complete each order.
Reorder was contingent on good intra-factory communication. To help improve the now-famous kanban method, Hara developed a special kind of barcode capable of holding complex information. He called this "The QR code."
From 1994 until the mid to late 2000s, the QR code was primarily used only in the manufacturing industry. After an initial surge, QR codes were present but struggled to find a true foothold. They were a solution in search of a problem. And while the QR code isn't exactly new technology, its modern use case is.
However, with the advent of smartphones, the average consumer now has a QR-enabled scanner right in their pocket. Major manufacturers, such as Apple, began to integrate QR codes into their business models on a much wider scale. QR code use began to proliferate.
In great part to the COVID-19 pandemic, QR code use is once again surging, with 4% of all global commerce conducted using scannable QR. In fact, by 2025, it is projected that yearly QR code transactions across the globe will eclipse $2.7 trillion dollars.
The COVID pandemic served as a watershed moment for QR codes. Between quarantines and social distancing measures, society as a whole experienced a renewed fidelity to hygiene practices. QR codes enabled business owners to transition many of their in-person services to a digital format.
In the pandemic's early days, QR codes were a great way for customers to access a restaurant's menu, log an order, schedule a delivery, and pay while maintaining social distancing guidelines. But as we've learned more about the virus and its treatment, worldwide COVID precautions have evolved. Now, savvy restaurant owners have found that customers continue to prefer contactless ordering methods.
Keeping up with the Joneses: contactless ordering and payment
It is safe to say that QR codes have hit their stride. According to the above-referenced stats, more than 33% of restaurants across the globe have implemented QR codes in their day-to-day operations.
Going forward, that number is only expected to increase. QR codes are experiencing a renaissance, or perhaps more accurately, they are in the prime of their life. Regardless of semantics, QR codes are no longer a novelty —they are a necessity.
Younger demographics, of course, are quick to embrace new technology, or at least new use cases, such as the QR code menu. In the United States, for example, 49% of the total population has used a QR code while in a restaurant setting– but a staggering 78% of millennials and 68% of generation Z have utilized contactless ordering. It goes without saying, but that's a huge percentage of a business's customer base.
QR codes are no longer just a fun trend; they are an integral part of your restaurant or cafe's business strategy. If you fail to implement QR code menus into your day-to-day operations, you stand to lose a good portion of your market share. Because contactless ordering methods are relatively easy to set up, it is in your best interest to get on board with their implementation. The choice is simple: keep up with the Joneses or lose revenue.
Future proof your business with proper QR code integration
The dining establishment landscape has been irrevocably changed. There is no going back. Restaurant, cafe, and other food service business owners would be wise to embrace the advent of new technology, including QR code integration and contactless ordering methods. Integrating QR codes into your restaurant's day-to-day operations is a relatively easy process. There are, however, a few key factors you should look out for when setting up your contactless ecosystem.
High-quality visual menus
When working with a partner to set up QR integrations, crafting high-quality visual menus should be at the top of your must-have list.
Unlike traditional paper menus, QR code menus feature a much greater level of utility and adaptability. With paper menus, even the slightest change requires costly reprints, and it is nearly impossible to show images of each appetiser, entree, and dessert given budgetary constraints.
QR codes change all that. They allow you to add images to each menu item and swap them out at will, so there are no more costly reprints, only enticing images and increased sales volume.
For better or for worse, our society lives on social media. Therefore, it is to your advantage to maintain an active social media presence across multiple platforms. QR codes can help.
QR codes can be used to route customers to your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account as well as carry out order and payment functions. Look for partners that can help you set up a full-bodied ecosystem meant to boost customer engagement and drive business through your door.
Integration with your POS
Visual menus are great; interactive menus are even better.
Contactless ordering via QR code menus allows you to sync your remote ordering process with your point of sale system (POS) giving your customers a complete end-to-end solution from the comfort of their own mobile device. They can browse, order, and pay all using the QR menu's infrastructure.
Speaking of ordering, QR code menus give your customer extreme flexibility when pending orders. You can easily configure your QR codes and their links to meet the needs of your customers, whatever they might need.
Look for partners who can help you to set up multiple ordering options for your customer, from dine-in, to pickup, to delivery. The key is creating a contactless menu driven by the customer experience. That means giving your clientele as many options as possible.
Loyalty program integrated with your CRM
QR code menus don't just help you facilitate the sale at hand, they're about future-proofing your business. You can use QR code menus to offer various coupons and discounts and to set up a customer loyalty program.
In turn, you can capture valuable customer data, from purchasing trends to demographic information, every time a customer scans your barcode. By syncing your QR code menus to your customer relationship manager (CRM), you can keep track of high-level consumer trends and use that information to drive business directly through your door.
An integral part of the industry going forward
After nearly 30 years, QR codes are singing their swan song. These convenient yet powerful tools are making a huge impact in the post-COVID food service industry. They can be found virtually everywhere across the globe.
If your business isn't currently using QR codes, you stand to lose revenue and customer trust. If you are using QR codes, then you've seen firsthand what makes for good QR code integration and the impact that technology can have on your bottom line.
Interested in setting up contactless ordering for your business? Mr Yum can help. Contact us today to learn more.