As restaurants begin to reopen, a great deal of focus has been on what to do about the menu. Before the pandemic, little attention was paid to restaurant menus that were touched over and over again. Now, many companies are rapidly announcing offerings for this new world of menus. Here, we cover some things to think about when considering the right solution for your restaurant.
QR Codes for Restaurant Menus
There’s a good amount of confusion in the industry about QR Codes right now. QR Codes basically are just a way to encode data and in this case it is usually a link. The question isn’t about having a QR Code menu. The important question is what does the QR Code do? Does it take you to a pdf file? Does it launch a website? Does it ask you to download an app? Does it launch an interactive menu without requiring an app? We believe the right design point is the last question. Provide guests an interactive menu on their personal devices without the requirement to download an app.
Many people had “App Fatigue” before this pandemic. There are about 1,000,000 restaurants in the US alone. It’s not reasonable that anyone is going to want to download 1,000,000 apps on his or her personal device. Some of the very large restaurant brands will have good market penetration with their apps, but most restaurants will not. If only 10-20% of your guests have your app, how will you serve the other 80-90%? Guests will not be happy if they feel you’re forcing them to put your app on their phone.
Sanitized Tablets, Throw-Away Menus or Smartphones?
Yes! We believe that most restaurants will have all three. Many guests will use their own devices, but guests will need to be accommodated with paper if they don’t want to use technology. Some use cases (such as beverage books and wine lists) benefit from the larger form factor of a tablet.
The Importance of Tasting Notes
For restaurants with a focus on beverage programs, tasting notes are essential. Both the quantity and quality of tasting notes are important. Therefore, ask any vendor about their source of tasting notes. Do they employ a dedicated team well-trained on curating tasting notes? Or are they downloading them from a random website? Beware of systems that use data created by a public website that permits anyone to add tasting notes. The quality and quantity of tasting notes can be a major factor in the difference between success and failure of your touchless menu strategy. Look for tasting notes that go beyond wine and cover tequilas, cognacs, whiskeys, cigars, bottled water and so on. Ideally, you want a guest to be able to simply check a box and have the tasting notes, an image and any accolades automatically appear.
Most restaurants offer different menus at different times of the day/week. Happy Hours, Sunday Brunches, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Limited Time Offers (LTOs), and so on. Look for a system that can automatically change menus and/or menu sections on different days and times.
86 with No Code Change and without Leaving the Floor
If you run out of something, you do not want to have to recode a website. You also don’t want to run off the floor of the dining room to the back office. Look for a system that lets you 86 easily from your phone.
Easy Website Integration
Now that you have an interactive, real-time menu, wouldn’t it be great to have it on your website? Look for a system that lets you do this quickly and easily. No more out-of-date pdfs that frustrate guests when they come expecting something that you no longer serve. Make sure that if you 86 something it disappears from the website in real-time.
Virality and a Long Tail
What a new opportunity! Think of all the guests that will now leave your restaurant with your menu on their phone! Make sure your system lets them easily share your menu with friends. Also, if they dined in, consider pushing a takeout menu to their phone for when they get home. Hopefully the term “going viral” gets back to meaning what it did before the pandemic.
Brand, Brand, Brand
Finally, pay extra attention to the options that you have for menu design and presentation. Even though it will be on smartphones, can it still look like a menu? Avoid systems that have limited design options such as pick the blue, yellow or red design. Avoid systems that look too tech-y, like an app or website. Even with all the changes, guests still want to engage with your brand as part of their dining experience.
Hopefully, all of this helps you make an informed decision about this important next step for your restaurant. There will be countless “touchless” products coming to market very rapidly. We’re rooting that restaurants come back and are even more of a success than before.