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Incorporating QR Codes Into Your Restaurant Strategy

Published 11/24/2020  •  Updated 05/27/2021
Add QR codes to your menu for easy access on mobile phones.

2020 has been a year of rapid evolution in the restaurant industry. A growing number of businesses are introducing delivery, switching to takeout only, and adopting a variety of other strategies. Restaurants nationwide have adopted new digital features - including menus - using QR codes to give customers an easy way to access their menus online.

While QR code usage began to decline in 2018, it recently started to rise again. In fact, the use of QR codes is expected to continue to increase by millions of households by the end of 2020, according to Statista.

In other words, QR codes are back. If you’re considering using these blocky squares in your restaurant strategy, here’s what you need to know.

What's a QR Code and How Does it Work?

The quick response code — or QR code — has a history that dates back to 1994. Originally developed to identify car parts in the automotive industry, QR codes are widely used today to quickly access specific information, apps, or websites using a smartphone.

The square-shaped icon is made up of specifically spaced elements. Scanned by the consumer’s smartphone camera, people are able to quickly and efficiently access information without ever opening a browser or typing in a URL address.

Benefits of Using QR Codes

Here are a few more ways implementing QR codes can be beneficial to your business.

  • Menus accessed digitally through QR code helps reduce the spread of germs and viruses. Eliminating the use of physical menus prevents dining enthusiasts from exposure to germs/viruses through the cross contamination that naturally comes with sharing physical menus. It also saves restaurant employees from having to disinfect and/or throw out paper menus. Restaurant guests are able to view food offerings, place orders and even pay the check at the table without interacting with staff members when using a QR code feature for these actions.
  • Digital menus reduce costs of doing business. Whether your restaurant uses a simple laminated sheet of paper or a multi-page booklet, menu printing can get expensive quickly. Opting for digital menus using QR codes can save you big in the long run.
  • Digital menus are easy to update. Got an incredible new dish that features in-season ingredients? An entirely new wine list to start off the New Year? Revising a digital menu is much easier and cheaper when you don’t have to worry about printing entirely new menus each time you make changes.
  • QR code usage increases your sustainability practices. A 2020 study published by MDPI found a growing interest in sustainability among restaurant guests. While this can include adding vegan/vegetarian dishes to your menu or using recyclable containers for to-go orders, simple changes like switching over to QR code-based content — whether it’s to access menus or leave a review — can also increase guests’ desirability to dine in while feeling safe.

Ways to Use QR Codes at Your Restaurant

There are a multitude of ways to incorporate QR codes into your restaurant strategy.

The most obvious method is to implement QR code menus. Easy to access on smartphones and in line with CDC guidelines, digital menus reduce costs for restauranteurs while reducing the spread of viruses.

You can also encourage customers to place food orders via a QR code. Offering contactless ordering makes it efficient for both the customer and the restaurant staff. It gives customers more of an on-demand experience versus having to wait in line at an order counter or get the attention of a waiter to take their order. No guessing or hassle involved. You can even allow your customers to pay for their food with a QR code.

Want to get feedback on your guests’ dining experience? Leaving a review takes time so make the process easier by developing a QR code that instantly directs customers to your review page. Read more about gathering customer feedback to grow your business.

If you’re looking to increase your following on social media, encourage your guests to scan a code and like/check-in to your restaurant on Facebook. It’s quick and easy and if you offer a 10% discount or a free dessert for the task, there's a good chance you’ll have people “liking” and “checking in” all day long.

If you offer Wi-Fi at your restaurant, spare your guests the hassle of manually typing in a password by sharing your credentials via QR code. This method is easy for your guests and protects your password from being exposed.

Additionally, QR codes are a great way to encourage repeat customers. Entice guests to visit you again by offering a QR code coupon for their next visit. You can also use a QR code to direct users to your rewards program.

If you happen to sell packaged foods at your restaurant — like your chef’s special sauces or made-in-house desserts — including a QR code on the food label is an additional way to encourage interaction or curiosity from your customers.

Be creative. The options are endless.

How to Create a QR Code

There are many ways to create a QR code, and the method you choose really depends on the complexity of what you’re trying to achieve.

OnlineLabels.com's free QR code generator allows you to create your own codes. Choose from six content types, enter in your information and print your QR code labels on blank sheets or rolls. But if you’re looking to incorporate your logo into the code or are looking to track and analyze data that shows how many people scanned the code, using a paid generator may be best.

Websites like Flowcode allow business owners to create completely customizable QR codes. With Flowcode, you can send users straight to a link or a PDF menu. They use a proprietary code design that allows for unique code shapes, colors, and logo upload. Generated codes can be placed into common templates like stickers, menus, and signs for easy printing. You'll also get access to real-time analytics so you can track the success of your strategy.

Displaying QR Codes Aesthetically

There are many ways you can consider displaying your QR code(s) for maximum exposure and benefit.

  • Receipts: great to encourage social media engagement or leaving a review.
  • To-go bags: with delivery services like Uber being more popular than ever, placing a QR code label on your to-go bag to encourage customers to follow on social media or join your rewards program is ideal.
  • Postcards or tabletop/order counter stickers: the ideal locale to promote contactless, digital menus and WiFi credentials.
  • Floor banners or windows: great for access to menus or fun content related to your restaurant.
  • In the parking lot: for online ordering/paying and/or notifying the restaurant staff guest has arrived to pick up an order.
  • On business cards or brochures: for instant access to your website, social media or an exclusive coupon.

QR codes have shown their resilience in marketing. With more discovering their usefulness, you can expect to see a rise in popularity over the next few years. Ready to print your QR codes? Shop all of our popular label sizes or create your own QR code.


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