How QR Codes are Making a Comeback in the Foodservice Industry

How QR Codes are Making a Comeback in the Foodservice Industry

In many foodservice establishments, QR codes have been implemented to allow customers to view menus, scan coupon codes and make payments.

Of the many industries that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, few have been hit harder than the foodservice industry. From labor shortages to lack of revenue, many restaurants were forced to lay off staff, adjust their operations or shut down entirely. But now, a decades-old technology is helping restaurants bounce back: quick response (QR) codes.

While QR codes have been around since the mid-1990s, they didn’t catch on for mainstream use in North America until recently. The onset of the pandemic saw the use of QR codes in foodservice skyrocket out of necessity. In order to operate safety, the foodservice industry largely turned to QR codes to provide contactless delivery and digital menus. 

Restaurants that have chosen to implement QR codes rely on consumers having smartphones with scanning capabilities, as well as their familiarity with the technology. So, many restaurants have held onto physical menus in case consumers would rather use them. But, since most have smartphones, access to menus, prices, instructions or schedules via QR codes is giving everyone a chance to live in a touchless world.

Related: 7shifts: How an Employee Scheduling and Management Software Revolutionized the Restaurant Industry

With widespread reopening and many restaurants returning to pre-pandemic operations, QR codes in the foodservice industry are no longer primarily a safety solution. Rather, restaurants can leverage QR codes to deepen customer loyalty, encourage reviews and improve overall engagement. A few ways the foodservice industry can make use of QR codes include:

  • Allowing customers to access menus, order and pay by scanning a QR code
  • Providing engagement and loyalty opportunities, both inside and outside a restaurant
  • A digital opportunity to ask consumers for feedback

As for foodservice workers, QR codes can help them work more efficiently and limit contact with customers. But there are other reasons for restaurants to use QR codes, including tracking consumer behavior. This includes basic information, such as what food or drink a customer purchased, as well as more complex tracking, like when, where and how often QR codes are being scanned.

While this data can be valuable to restaurants, there are some potential dangers that consumers should look out for. Because QR codes are relatively simple to create and nearly indistinguishable from one another unless closely examined, scammers can create their own and place them in or around restaurants. 

In fact, the potential threat is serious enough that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) provided a scam alert, informing individuals to watch out for fraudulent QR codes. “These scams differ greatly, but they all have one thing in common,” the BBB stated in a release. “Scammers hope you will scan the code right away, without taking a closer look.”

Despite the risk posed by scammers, it appears that QR codes are here to stay in the foodservice industry for the foreseeable future. Since the pandemic is not yet behind us, many businesses that weathered the storm have a steep recovery ahead of them to make up for losses, and QR codes are helping them do that by giving them a way to keep tables filled.

Creating more digital touchpoints with diners is a safe and strategic marketing tactic. Restaurants can unobtrusively advertise their offerings, drive repeat business and ask consumers for feedback, while at the same time, respect diners’ and staffs’ preferences for minimal face-to-face interaction.