QR codes and restaurant menus

Restaurant menus accessible by QR code have been a key change in the dining experience, ushered in by the sanitation theater era of COVID. I’ve been weirdly drawn to how menus have become such a ubiquitous use case for QR code technology. It changes the experience of the involved parties so differently: on one hand, QR codes offer flexibility and agility to someone managing a restaurant who likely has little time or resources. On the other hand, QR code menus suck for the customer, especially because menus are rarely optimized for mobile viewing.

All in all, I think QR code menus are likely here to stay – and that’s probably okay, for most restaurants. But they’re on thin ice.

Considerations from the customer POV

  • Readability is key. Improved in some a11y cases but overwhelmingly takes a hit
    • Lack of responsiveness
    • Linking to a PDF is not helpful. PDFs are not responsive.
  • Impact on dining experience
    • Asking everyone to pull out their phones at a dinner is not ideal.

Considerations from the restaurant POV

  • Agility in changing menu
    • Seeing a rise in Google Docs being used for menus, the agility of which is critical for restaurants that aren’t able to quickly reexport and reupload PDFs or push changes to site
  • Saving resources and likely cost
  • For built-in ordering systems, data in ordering patterns (???)
  • Con: you lose an opportunity to reinforce your brand through a physical menu