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Set Aside Physical Bar & Restaurant Menus with QR Codes

Update: Ripples has confirmed that QR codes printed on top of beverages by Ripple Makers are functional and can be scanned. In fact, they once partnered with Spotify using QR codes printed on drinks.

People are making their way back to their favorite bars and restaurants, presenting operators with the task of navigating new challenges. One of these challenges is reducing the number of employee and guest touch points. QR codes can help, and it’s not difficult or overly time consuming to create one.

As any operator knows, a menu is one of the most-handled items in a bar or restaurant. Many businesses have several menus, each dedicated to different categories of offerings: cocktails, beer and wine lists, starters and meals, specials and limited-time offerings, and desserts.

Today’s guests are more concerned about sanitization protocols than ever before, which is completely understandable. Many bar and restaurant operators have implemented COVID-19 cleaning protocols intended to keep their teams and guests safe. These protocols also offer employees and guests a sense of comfort while they’re working or dining and drinking.

These cleaning and sanitization protocols include regular cleansing of tables and menus, often tracked and signed off on by managers. While the regular cleaning of tables and bar tops (in markets where people are permitted to sit at the bar again) should already be part of everyday operations, a QR code can eliminate the need to wipe down a menu, freeing up team members to tackle other tasks. Either print and laminate QR codes to affix to tables and bars tops or insert them into table talkers.

If you have a Ripple Maker, experiment with printing QR codes on top of coffees, beers, cocktails and other beverages. You could use a QR code to direct guests to your Yelp listing or social media, encouraging them to leave a positive review or share their experience at your business. (I reached out to Ripple and asked if a QR code printed by their machines can be read by a mobile device. I’ll update this post when I hear back.)

QR code menus have benefits beyond decreasing the amount of items bar or restaurant teams must sanitize. Cleaning products are a consumable and not needing to clean physical menus several times each day can help reduce costs. The same can be said about not having to print single-use menus, along with the fact that such items are wasteful. Other benefits are collectible menus not walking out the door; eliminating a team member task; and showing guests an operation has embraced the convenience of technology. Operators can also post their QR codes to their front doors or windows so passersby can check out their menus, making them a valuable marketing tool.

Operators have various options when it comes to generating a QR code for their menus. There are smartphone apps like Qrafter on iOS that make generating QR codes easy. Upgraded versions of these apps that are more feature rich can be very affordable. Continuing with Qrafter as an example, Qrafter Pro, which offers social media sharing and AirPrint support, is just $3.99.

Of course, there are several online QR code generators. As the interest in generating QR code menus has increased, some of these generators have stepped up to offer businesses features beyond just the unique code. Some services to check out are Flowcode, ForQRCode, QR Code Generator by Egoditor, and Beaconstac’s QR Code Generator. Many of these services can be used, in their basic forms, free of charge or for a nominal fee. Beaconstac’s QR Code Generator, however, offers three levels of features ranging from €5 per month (about $5.60 USD) to €37.50 per month (roughly $42.00 USD), billed annually. As you can see, pricing runs the gamut.

When researching a QR code generator, it’s wise to read reviews online and on app stores to make an informed decision. When you’ve narrowed down your search, dive into the features offered by each service. Look for marketing capabilities, image gallery support, analytics, codes that never expire, unlimited scans, customization options, and reliable customer service. And, obviously, prices you find reasonable.

One more thing to keep in mind is the design of your online menu. Many bars and restaurants across the world, like Trick Dog in San Francisco and Dead Rabbit in New York City, are known for their menu designs. In fact, they’re so soughtafter they’re available for purchase (and many seem to grow legs and wander out the front doors) as highly designed souvenirs and works of art.

Losing the tactile sensation of flipping through a physical menu can be offset by putting thought into online menu design, which underscores the need for a well-designed website that offers a user-friendly experience on mobile and desktop. Make sure your online menu is branded and adheres to your aesthetic. Depending on your budget, hiring a designer can really ensure your menu (and website) is what industry experts and friends of mine like Chef Brian Duffy and Donald Burns say it should be: an extension of your marketing. If I can shamelessly plug professional friends of mine, look into AND Studios for menu and website design. You won’t be disappointed.

Adapting to guest needs is always important. These days, with operators facing uncertainty on a daily basis, adaptation is even more crucial. QR codes aren’t an industry-saving panacea but they can help operators communicate their commitment to health and safety, along with serving as trackable marketing tools.

Image credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

David Klemt View All

I’ve been studying and writing about the hospitality industry since 2006. Like so many people, I started my journey in this business by working as a host, server and bartender. I was introduced to nightlife in Chicago, learning the ins and outs of nightclubs and after-hours hot spots.

After moving to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I both co-owned a valet company and helped promote the club it serviced. That led to me taking on the role of editor for a Las Vegas hospitality industry publication.

A few short years later, I continued along my journey of hospitality industry reporting. I went from contributing to a major industry outlet to taking on the role of editor and content curator.

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