The verdict is in.

Incorporating input from academia, industry, and government, released their guidance on hospitality businesses safely reopening and operating in our new normal.

In that guidance is something surprising, but not altogether unexpected: if a bar or restaurant uses paper menus, those menus must be discarded after a single use.

That makes sense. Restaurant menus were found to be the single most contaminated item on a restaurant’s table. Nearly 16 times more contaminated than the second most germ-infested item, pepper shakers.

So, to ensure a safe dining environment, your business has two choices:

  1. Become a printing press, incur a mountain of unnecessary costs, and waste countless hours making sure physical menus are accurate.
  1. Solve the problem completely by adopting a QR code-based digital menu for your restaurant.

Solving the problem completely sounds like a pretty good choice. So let’s get to it!

What Is a QR Code Menu for Restaurants?

To understand how restaurants and hotels are utilizing QR code menus, it’s helpful to first look at what QR codes are, in general. And what makes them so darn cool.

What Is a QR Code?

QR is short for “quick response.” A QR code is a machine-readable optical label that contains information. It’s a barcode, basically. With a slight difference: it’s two-dimensional. QR codes are made up of black squares arranged in a grid against a white background. And, once scanned, it delivers information just like other barcodes.

That information can be a URL, an image, text, payment information, login information, this list goes on. Virtually any information that can be encoded can be associated with a QR code.

Why Makes QR Codes Special?

A traditional, one-dimensional barcode is meant to be scanned by a narrow beam of light. Usually, that beam of light comes from a specialized scanner. The information is encoded side-to-side.

A two-dimensional QR code can be scanned by a common digital image sensor. Its information is encoded side-to-side and up-and-down. That means it’s easy to turn cell phone cameras into QR code scanners. In fact, virtually all major cell phones now scan QR codes with their regular cameras. You don’t have to build an app then harangue people to download it. It’s just point and scan with a commonly-owned item. It’s the democratization of scanning.

QR Code Menu for Restaurants & Hotels

The power and convenience of QR codes can be leveraged by bars and restaurants easily with a QR menu.

A QR code menu for restaurants or hotels looks just like any other QR code. It can be placed on your website, review websites, windows, keycards, at the host or hostess stand, and on every table. It can even be placed in a confirmation email if a guest books a table or room online. Then guests can scan it using their phone camera and have instant access to your menu.

Rarely in business do the benefits of a particular product so utterly outweigh any cost or effort to deploy it. But it is so with QR menus in restaurants. So let’s look into all the benefits of ditching paper and going with a QR code menu.

QR Code Menu vs. Disposable Paper Menu

The most immediately impactful benefit is that QR code menus are touchless. Today, providing guests with a germ-free dining experience is monumentally important. But switching from paper from QR codes has a whole host of other benefits. Let’s look at all of them.

Restaurant QR Menus Are More Hygienic

The boost in cleanliness from a paper menu to a QR menu for restaurants, bars, and hotels cannot be overstated. In one instance, every single guest that comes through your doors is physically touching the same document. And in the other instance, it’s an entirely contactless experience that aligns with our new normal. It’s how menus will be post-coronavirus.

We touched on it in the introduction, but it bears repeating. Let’s look at just how contaminated a typical paper restaurant menu is.

  • According to a study, paper menus can contain 185,000 germs per centimeter. For reference, a decently-maintained public toilet has about 1,000 germs per square centimeter.
  • Paper menus are consistently found to be the dirtiest thing on a restaurant table, and the second dirtiest thing in restaurants behind highchairs.

The best restaurant cleaning supplies in the business won’t get you out of this one. It’s enough to make yourself ask what we’ve been doing the past 10 or 15 years. Why, as a people with access to affordable, reliable technology that solves this problem, has a large-scale solution not been embraced?

That’s likely because business owners are, justifiably, hesitant to fix what they perceive not to be broken. But today’s menus are broken. We just didn’t have the frame of reference to realize that until now. QR code menus for restaurants are the solution.

Restaurant QR Menus Provide a Better Customer Experience

A Totally Accessible, Mobile Menu

Every customer of yours has a smartphone. So every customer has instant access to your menu wherever they encounter your menu QR code. Once scanned, they can take your menu with them wherever they go. It’s everything that’s good about a permanent static menu combined with everything good about a portable to-go menu.

Think about that convenience. Customers or potential customers can easily view the menu when they’re sitting at home debating what to eat. Or when they’re sitting at your bar or lounge waiting for a table. Or when they’re in the car talking about your business with friends and family. Or when they’re talking with coworkers about this great new restaurant they just went to. At any time, they can whip out there phones and bam, your menu is immediately there. Mobility and accessibility is unmatched. Because it’s on their phone which they already carry around everywhere.

Better Customer Engagement

Two engaging things a restaurant QR menu brings to the table (often literally) are unlimited content and searchability.

A QR menu in a restaurant links to a URL with a published mobile-optimized menu. It’s a website, in other words, and not physical paper. There is no limit to the amount of content you can display. The constraint of menu real estate is immediately resolved.

And that amount of content never becomes unwieldy. That’s because a QR code restaurant menu is searchable. Guests search for and sort the items they’re looking for, making the entire process of navigating the menu simple and fast.

Again, QR code menus for restaurants are the best of both worlds. Customers have access to the entire breadth of your menu, and they can navigate it effortlessly. Not only will customers have more options, it’ll be easier for them to choose. Less time staring at a menu means more time ordering, eating, and enjoying.

Restaurant QR Menus Cut Printing and Paper Costs

A single paper menu, uncoated and in black and white, costs about 50 cents. If you’re following the NRA guidance on restaurant hygiene—which of course you are—it adds up. Even if you’re dealing with simple prix fixe menus.

Let’s say you’re doing 200 covers for lunch and 100 covers for dinner. That’s $150 you’re eating every day. That’s over $1,000 every week. Around $4,500 every month. You get the idea.

A QR menu puts the document on your guests’ smart devices. There are no physical things to maintain and replace. Or pay for.

Restaurant QR Code Menus Are Environmentally Friendly

The fact that every single guest that touches your menu necessitates that menu’s disposal is not good for a restaurant’s carbon footprint. Environmental responsibility may not be your particular passion, but you can’t deny the outsized impact of throwing away menu after menu. Throwing out every paper menu someone touches is a monumental waste of resources. Especially when the solution is in everyone’s pocket.

QR Menus for Restaurants Update Instantly

Menus change a lot. And you may have multiple types of menus. Whether that’s your strategy or you’re running out of ingredients, menus are dynamic. And when they’re made out of paper, you cannot guarantee their accuracy. Trying to do so, in fact, becomes comedy. You nab all the inaccurate menus off the floor and replace them with new ones just to find out something else has changed. Now think of tracking down your table d’hote menus, your a la carte menus, and all other varieties of paper floating around your dining room.

And what they’re looking at is guaranteed to be accurate. Because it’s ridiculously easy and fast for bars, restaurants, and hotels to update digital menus or digital wine lists. As soon it’s updated in one master location, it’s updated for everyone who scans the QR code. No more ordering 86’d items.

Both accessibility and accuracy make QR menus in restaurants a huge win for the customer.

With a QR menu, you’ll be able to instantly add, edit, and delete menu items and their descriptions. When you update it once, you update it everywhere. Inaccurate and out-of-date menus are impossible because every customers’ menu is the master menu. Everyone is looking at the same thing.

Restaurant QR Menu vs. Paper Menu Comparison

Let’s visualize what we’ve talked about with a handy visual aid.

Impact QR Code on Table Disposable Paper Menu
Cleanliness High Low
Ease of updating High Low
Customer experience High Low
Environmental impact Low High
Costs Low High

The usefulness of QR menus in restaurants and bars is astonishing. But they’re also useful in another hospitality setting: hotels.

QR Code Menus for Hotels: Ideal Use Cases

The best thing about using QR codes for menus is their versatility. They can be used for literally any menu. That’s why they’re so useful for hotels. At any given time, a hotel is using a variety of menus. There’s a lot going on in hotels. Here are some examples our clients find particularly useful.

QR Menu for Bars & Restaurants

We’ve gone on at length about the benefits of QR menus for restaurants and bars. Each and every single one of those applies to drinking and dining establishments in hotels.

So, to recap: They’re hygienic, inexpensive to create, and easy to roll out. They’re cost-effective, environmentally friendly, engaging to customers, and able to serve as takeaway menus. And they’re mobile-optimized, simple to search and navigate, able to store unlimited content and update instantly.

Room Service QR Menu

Hotels can easily place QR code menus on nightstands, in directories, on brochures, and even on the back of room keys. A room service QR code menu doesn’t just bring all the benefits we’ve already addressed. It’s also easy to find. Guests don’t have to go searching for it. There is no server handing a hotel guest their room service menu. That’s something they have to find on their own. With conveniently placed QR codes, it couldn’t be easier.

Poolside Service QR Menu

Many hotels have the unique responsibility of poolside service. A QR menu code placed on a shaded poolside lounge or bar is a great solution. Pool-goers don’t have to keep track of and carry around menus. Servers don’t have to gather distributed menus around the poolside every now and again. You don’t have to be in the unenviable position of asking people enjoying water to use paper documents. It just doesn’t make sense.

QR Menu for Spa and Other Amenities

A hotel’s spa menu is yet another list of services that benefit from the QR menu treatment. No more must you clutter up your elegant spa with menus whose appearance degrades as time goes on. Every spa service and description can be published on an optimized, pre-formatted digital menu. What’s especially exciting about this is the ability to sell spa services to guests in other areas of the hotel. Placing your spa services on a QR code menu gives you the ability to place that QR code anywhere. That increases the probability of guests discovering and paying for spa services.

QR menus sure seem great. But, what’s the catch? How difficult are they to create and implement? Not at all.

Rolling Out QR Menus for Restaurants

Creating a QR code can be as easy as copying and pasting a URL and clicking a button. A QR code generator will immediately create a QR code that sends folks to that URL upon scanning. But a lot of businesses choose dedicated QR menu software. That’s because the QR code doesn’t just go to the URL of the menu published. It goes to a URL of a pre-formatted, web- and mobile-optimized, searchable menu.

Using specific QR code menu software is even easier because you don’t have to create the online menu yourself. That takes familiarity with web design and coding. And you don’t have to publish it yourself. That takes familiarity with content management systems and building websites. All you have to do is put your menu information in a spreadsheet, upload it to the QR menu tool, and click a button. Presto, you have a QR code that links to a functional, navigable, streamlined digital menu.

If you’re thinking seriously about QR menus for your restaurant or hotel, you’re not alone. The ability to update all of your menus so quickly encourages strategic menu engineering, too. It will soon come to be expected from a public well versed in technology and well aware of contamination risks.

So, what should you look for in a QR code menu and the software used to generate it?

What to Look for in QR Code for Restaurant Menu

Here’s some guidance about what to look for in a QR code for restaurant menus. When the time comes to choose a solution, you’ll be prepared.

  • Creating and updating your restaurant QR menu should be totally self-service. If you can’t own the menu creation and editing process, then you’ve lost a lot of the flexibility that makes digital menus so convenient.
  • Ideally, you don’t have to download an app. Creating a QR code is not a fundamentally complex process. If you can upload your menu information onto a company’s website, it should be able to generate the QR menu for you.
  • The menu template is pre-optimized. All you have to do is insert your logo and, voilà, you’re done.
  • The process of creating your restaurant QR menu should be as easy as clicking and dragging. You should be able to upload a spreadsheet of your menu into a web-based tool.

How to Make a Restaurant QR Code Menu

Creating a QR menu for your restaurant isn’t difficult. All you do is provide the information you want encoded into the QR code. Then click a button and the QR code is generated. When someone scans the QR code, the information is automatically provided.

Thankfully, Gro Global’s QR code-based digital menu does just that. The rest is taken care of. And you’re left with a beautiful new QR code and a customized digital menu that you can share with the world. In seconds.

Restaurant QR Menu Best Practices

We help a lot of hospitality businesses roll out QR menus. Here’s a few tips we always give them.

Make Sure Your QR Code Has a “Call-to-Action.”

A call to action means some guidance for guests about the next step to take. In this case, that next step is scanning. The mere presence of a QR code may not communicate to some people that it needs to be scanned. The QR code template you use to print your QR menu code on should make it clear to anyone who sees it that it’s gotta be scanned.

Keep Menus Menus

For all the downsides to using a paper menu, it does have one virtue. That virtue is the reason why menus have been around for so long. A paper menu is exactly what it says it is. A menu. A useful tool that helps people accomplish things. When someone picks up a paper menu, they don’t see flashing lights or pop-up ads. They see a list of things to buy. Don’t fall into the trap of using your QR code menus as a multi-prong marketing funhouse. Sure, promote a rewards program or email list, but try not to go crazy with it. Make your QR menus simple. Keep them menus.

Market Your QR Codes

We don’t advise using your menu to aggressively market all sorts of other campaigns. We do advise you take advantage of the portability of QR codes and market the QR code menus themselves. QR codes can be placed virtually anywhere. It’s a huge boon to discoverability and accessibility for every operation using a digital menu. We’ve got a whole post dedicated to QR code marketing.

Optimize QR Code Menus for Mobile

Remember that the people scanning your QR code menus are using mobile devices. The content you deliver to them via your QR code should be geared toward consumption on mobile devices. We cannot tell you how many times we’ve seen a lean, mean QR code take us to a bloated site that’s not optimized for mobile. The text is minuscule. Menus and borders collide into each other and zig-zag all over. What felt like a simple, the delightfully modern task gets flipped upside down. QR code content must be designed for mobile devices.

QR Code Ideas for Restaurants

Now that you have your QR code, it’s time to put it places! It’s one of the most portable pieces of restaurant technology ever. The accessibility of your menu is one of the biggest selling points for QR menus in restaurants and hotels. Here are the four places you should absolutely put your QR code.

QR Codes at the Entrance

Restaurants—both inside and outside of hotels—often have menus hanging up in their windows. That can get a little obnoxious if you have different menus for lunch and dinner. And, after hours, it’s not possible for someone curious about your business to walk away with a menu. With a QR code at your entrance, in a window pointing outside, potential customers can grab your menu as they pass by. And your windows aren’t cluttered by hanging big menus in them forever.

QR Codes at the Bar

As a customer waits for their table, or as they enjoy a drink with no plans (yet) to dine in, present the QR menu code to them. Putting the QR code on the coasters, cocktail menus, or on small, evenly-spaced stands works perfectly. You can even print them out on bar receipts.

QR Codes at the Table

This is where your QR code is happiest. QR codes at the table is the definitive and proper way to replace paper menus for good. That ensures a smooth, hygienic dining experience. You can print your QR code on stickers and artfully place them on the table itself or a nearby wall. Or on a small display meant to specifically house the QR code. Think of it like a menu stand.

QR Codes on Your Menu

The idea is that QR codes in restaurants replace your physical menus, so, ideally, you’re not placing QR codes on a menu. That defeats the purpose a bit. That said, there are some ways to get QR codes involved if you’re not ready to entirely make the switch to touchless menus.

You can save paper and printing costs by shortening your menu and taking the images out. Create a QR code for each image—or whatever images you want to present—and place those QR codes on the menu itself. You’re still providing beautiful, tantalizing images to guests, but you’re doing it in the most concise way possible.

Get Started with a QR Code for Restaurant Menus

QR codes have transformed the way the public can access information. By making QR code restaurant menus easy to create, they’re poised to become a great ally in hospitality’s reemergence. Not only for their cost-cutting and time-saving qualities. But because they communicate to the restaurant-going public that every restaurant that uses one is on the cutting edge of commercial hygiene.

If you’re a bar or restaurant looking to make the leap with your food menu or beverage menu, Gro Global can help. The top hotels and restaurants in the country rely on Gro Global for their digital QR menus. Book a demo and we’ll walk you through just how easy it is to get out ahead of the pack.