The Covid-19 pandemic has forced even the best-prepared operators to pivot on a near-daily basis. A major driver of the need to adapt quickly (and constantly) has been battling a reduction in traffic and making in-person guests feel safe.
In short order the industry went from taking orders over the phone, taking orders online, or partnering with third-party delivery platforms. At first, preparing delivery and curbside orders via phone and online orders was an emergency maneuver—shutdowns made indoor dining impossible. Now, it’s part of a broader industry survival strategy.
Whether it’s referred to as “contactless,” “touchless” or “no-touch,” removing as many touch points as possible (and reasonable) is crucial. It’s an approach that’s equal parts guest and staff health, safety, and comfort.
Some operations sanitize their standard menus in between guests, some have moved to one-time use paper menus. Others are taking a hybrid approach, offering single-use menus for those who prefer a physical menu and QR code menus for those who are more comfortable handling their own device. The QR method has gained in popularity over the past few months—we suggested it not long ago.
But now a “new” way for guests to peruse menus is earning some buzz. As we’ve become more tech dependent, developments have come faster and faster. QR code menus are already giving way to augmented reality menus. The evolution makes sense.
AR menus provide guests with an actual experience. Instead of just a short description—possibly accompanied by a small product photo—the technology gives guests a 3D view of a menu item. While a great food photographer can provide an operator with mouthwatering photos (more on that in the very near future), an AR menu can be even more powerful.
If leveraged properly, AR can sell an item much like an eye-catching tableside preparation can sell a roomful of people on a particular dish or drink. Reduced traffic has made offering limited menus a key survival tactic. That has made conversion even more important than ever before, and it’s where AR really shines.
Converting a smaller menu to AR is likely more palatable to operators these days, as resources are limited and precious. And converting customers is absolutely crucial. An AR menu can help convert guests who have never before dined at or ordered from a particular restaurant, helping to convince them to set aside the familiar and try something—and someplace—new. Not to bash traditional or online menus, but they can often be inadequate in truly selling an F&B program when many of today’s consumers are concerned about stepping foot inside a restaurant.
One company for operators interested in the next evolution of menu tech should look into KadaQ. Launched in 2016, AR company has been working to perfect its proprietary technology—QReal—to create hyper-realistic food models. KadaQ enhances a brand’s sales effort through visual storytelling. The old adage that a picture tells a thousand words is a cliche but none the less accurate; AR menus help guests visualize their order, pushing them one step closer toward placing an order.
Neither the author nor Hospitality Villains received compensation, monetary or otherwise, from KadaQ or any other entity in exchange for this post.
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.