QR codes enjoy widespread use
The Center for Disease Control advises to avoid using shared items like menus. Instead, the agency recommends using disposable or digital menus. The agency also suggests using touchless payment options.
Enter the QR code.
First used in the auto industry, QR codes were slightly ahead of their time and disappeared from widespread use until recently.
Initially, consumers had to download an app in order to scan a QR code used by a business. Now the bar codes can be auto-scanned by any camera phone.
That’s made it easier for restaurants to meet safety guidelines in jurisdictions where dine-in has resumed. The barcodes are now ubiquitous — found “ready to be scanned” on dining room tables, bartops, coasters, restaurant websites, paper checks and hostess tables.
Contactless ordering has erupted as a must-have option for restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.
Most chains and independent restaurants have upgraded their digital systems to allow guests to safely order and pay for food without having a physical exchange with employees. The movement has led to a resurgence in QR codes, which are being used to view digital menus and pay for meals with a personal phone.
Uptown Network is one provider finding high demand for its QR-code enabled digital menu system, dubbed BYOM.
The company is known in the industry for supplying restaurants like Capital Grille with digital wine lists and menus using iPads.
About a year ago, the company began developing a system where the menu could be downloaded through a person’s mobile device.
“We started working on it. And we were actually questioning [ourselves] for a while, ‘Is anyone really going to want a menu on their phone?” Jack Serfass, CEO and co-founder of Uptown Network, said.
During the pandemic, the answer became clear. The company’s new BYOM digital menu platform is now being used at more than 100 locations including Wine Bar George (a wine bar at Disney Springs in Orlando); Blackwall Hitch and Blackwall Barn & Lodge locations by Titan Hospitality Group (greater Washington D.C. region); Bull & Bear restaurant (Waldorf Astoria Orlando); and Area Code 55 Brazilian Steakhouse (Miami).
Another upside: Uptown’s system is dynamic, giving restaurant owners the ability to make menu updates in real time because it lives on the cloud. It’s not a PDF download like other online menus.
The QR code can also be added to a restaurant’s website so consumers can check out the menu before coming to the restaurant. Consumers can also share the menu with others, giving restaurants the added benefit of free user-generated marketing.
With single-use disposables on the rise, Serfass said Uptown is also helping restaurants that want sustainable solutions during the pandemic. As of early July, Uptown’s BYOM has kept nearly 723,000 throwaway menus out of landfills, he said.